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Making a sound investment

Program allows audience, investors, involvement in a piece's genesis.

April 12, 2013|By Lynne Heffley | By Lynne Heffley
  • Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra composer-in-residence Andrew Norman, at Pierre's Fine Pianos in Los Angeles on Wednesday, February 27, 2013. Earlier, he expained his recent composition to a small audience at the piano store, an piece he hasn't ever heard played by an orchestra.
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra composer-in-residence… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

Andrew Norman, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's newest composer-in-residence, was speaking to a small audience seated on folding chairs one February evening at Pierre's Fine Pianos in Los Angeles.

"Close your eyes and count 22 seconds silently, then raise your hands as you finish," Norman said.

The audience complied.

"I love silence and how we perceive it when there's nothing to mark it," Norman said, when only a few audience members raised their hands squarely on the 22-second mark.

Silences, it turns out, are integral to Norman's new LACO-commissioned work, "Music in Circles III," a piece about "gradual transformations," that will premiere on Saturday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and next Sunday at UCLA's Royce Hall as part of LACO's eclectic exploration of concerto writing. The program will also feature Handel's Concerto Grosso in A major, Op. 6, No. 11, the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major, and Variaciones concertantes, a 1953 composition by Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera.

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At that informal after-hours presentation in February, Norman, 33, whose works have won national and international accolades, was previewing his latest composition for members of the public who had funded the new work's creation to the tune of $300 each through LACO's Sound Investment program. In a series of similar salon presentations, these investors had been following the creation of Norman's piece from its idea stage.

During the preview of the work, four LACO musicians — two violins, one viola and a cello — played excerpts of the new piece. Norman asked the audience to hear how one note was handed off to another, creating a "popcorn effect." At one point he urged the musicians to create "a sort of Donald Duck noise" with bows and strings.

"It reminds me of Merce Cunningham," observed Sound Investment member Susan Lovell of Topanga, referring to the late avant-garde dancer-choreographer's work. Norman responded that there was an element of choreography in his piece, because it had been influenced by how the musicians moved.

The evening's engaging back-and-forth demonstrated the personal connection that is a cornerstone of the Sound Investment program.

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