Timo Andres on composition

timo_mw_2013_1On Saturday 25 February 2017 Britten Sinfonia perform the world premiere of a new work entitled Steady Hand by Timo Andres in a concert celebrating John Adams at 70. In this blog Timo answers some questions about himself and composition. Don’t forget you can support Timo’s new commission (and get your name in the score) via the Musically Gifted scheme.

What’s your earliest musical memory?
I distinctly remember being fascinated by our neighbors’ piano, when I was probably three. I’d sit down and try out every single key going from top to bottom, and then back up.

What has inspired you most recently?
The other day I was listening to a record by Aaron Diehl, a jazz pianist friend. He and his trio recorded a version of the Forlane from Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin which I think is pretty brilliant—it’s an unusually expansive treatment, so by necessity, the formal meaning of each section is rethought. A hyper-stylized collection of miniature dances becomes this sprawling epic with a real arc to it. It’s made me think we should all be way more adventurous in our interpretations of standard repertoire.

What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
Say “yes” to everything, but always ask for at least a little money.

What would you like to be recognised for?
Other than my music, which I don’t suppose I have much control over, other than to keep making it—for being a good citizen of the musical world and the non-musical world, and for using my privilege to help people who haven’t had the kind of advantages I did.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I don’t believe in the concept of (musical) guilty pleasures. The whole thing just falls apart when you examine it. There’s music I like and music I don’t like; that I should feel “guilty” about some of the music I like presupposes that it’s somehow unworthy of my affection—but who, exactly, is making that call, and why does their judgement take precedence over mine?

If you turned your iPod on now, what would be playing?
Lisa Hannigan’s album At Swim. I’m working on a couple of orchestral arrangements of songs from it and have become slightly obsessed in the process.

The last concert you saw or performed in?
An all-Kaija Saariaho concert at Juilliard yesterday. New York’s been saturated with her music this fall, which has been nice, because I’d been shamefully unfamiliar with it. It’s quite interesting for me to hear because it’s put together so differently from my own—texture and timbre are her primary materials, and these are things I tend to think about last. It’s been forcing me to reevaluate my priorities, which is a good thing to do every once in awhile.

Which musical instrument do you wish you could play, and why?
The viola, because I would really like to sustain a note for once, and I have the long arms and fingers for it. I think I would be a pretty good viola pinch-hitter (if not pitch-hitter). N.B In baseball, a pinch hitter is a substitute batter. Batters can be substituted at any time while the ball is dead (not in active play); the manager may use any player who has not yet entered the game as a substitute.

If you hadn’t been a musician what might have happened, or not happened, in your life and career?
I don’t like to think—I have very few other skills, and I don’t do well with authority. I’m almost certainly unable to hold down a traditional job, and grateful that I’ve never had to try.

Career highlight?
Quite honestly, this video of Justin Trudeau correctly pronouncing my name: https://twitter.com/timoandres/status/803593072680566785

To find out more about supporting Timo’s new work via Musically Gifted click here

For full details of the concert featuring Timo’s new work click here