Try (2011)

by Andrew Norman

I never get things right on the first try. I am a trial-and-error composer, an incurable reviser. And this is a problem when it comes to high profile commissions from world-class ensembles in spectacular concert halls, because in these rare cases one gets exactly one try to get it right, and one really, really wants to get it right. Disney Hall and the LA Philharmonic have meant so much to me over the years that the overwhelming desire to write for them the perfect piece was enough to stop me dead in my creative tracks. It took me many months to realize the obvious: my piece was never going to be perfect no matter how hard I tried, and perfection was not even the right target on which to set my sights. The best thing I could do to honor the adventurous spirit of the Philharmonic and Disney Hall was to try as many new things as I could, to embrace the risk and failure and serendipitous discovery implicit in the word “try.” The piece I ended up writing is a lot like me. It’s messy, and fragmented, and it certainly doesn’t get things right on the first try. It does things over and over, trying them out in as many different ways as it can. It circles back on itself again and again in search of any idea that will stick, that will lead it forward to something new. And, at long last, after ten minutes of increasingly frantic trying, it finds one small, unlikely bit of musical material it likes enough to repeat and polish and hone until it finally (fingers crossed) gets it right.

Try was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and premiered in Disney Hall in May 2011, conducted by John Adams.

Scored for 15 players (1111.111.2.pno.2111). Duration 14 minutes.