American Composers Orchestra: What was the inspiration for your composition? How would you describe your composition process?
Nicholas Omiccioli: My original goal was to write a piece inspired by my early musical roots playing guitar in heavy metal bands. As the piece developed, the literal translation of what I was going for turned more abstract. While I chose to forgo adding a drum kit and metal-style riffs, the tempo of the piece is still extremely fast and has an aggressive edge. Alternatively, moments of repose and atmospheric-like textures made their way into the work, offering more of a relaxed feel.
In a nutshell, my compositional process begins with improvisation, score study, and a considerable amount of time thinking before I write any music. Most of the time, I know what I want so my improvisations are guided to fine-tuning the raw material. After arriving at a handful of motives, melodies, chords, pitch content, and a formal outline, I jot ideas down and work out more substantial sections. While I try to always start at the beginning of a piece, it is not always the case. I plan extensively about where I want to go with the material and set up a number of processes to help accomplish those goals. By this time, I have probably discovered something new about the piece, or I change a parameter—such as a motive, theme, or pitch content—and typically start the entire process over again. This step takes the longest to figure out because I find myself at a fork in the road with just about everything I write. What path do I want to take? Do I have enough time and/or technique to take this path or should I go with what I know works? Once I have decided on a direction, the music essentially writes itself. After I notate the piece, I print it and re-notate it all again. This is when I fine-tune and hopefully correct all of my mistakes.
For burning, rather than deciding on which path to take, I took both of them.
ACO: Since the selection of your work for the Berkeley Symphony EarShot Under Construction New Music Readings, how have you further developed your piece in preparation for the readings?
NO: I chose to write a new piece for the Berkeley Symphony. All the material is fresh and has not been recycled from other works. The two-and-a-half months I had to arrive at a draft was spent frantically writing as much material as I could. Because the tempo of my piece is insanely fast, there are a ridiculous number of notes. This reading, therefore, will be the deciding factor in how the work develops over the next few months in preparing for the May run-through.
ACO: What do you hope to get out of this experience of having your piece read by the Berkeley Symphony and in working with the mentor-composers?
NO: For me, having the chance to hear a work in progress live is an incredible advantage when writing a new piece. I hope that this opportunity for me to experiment outside of my comfort zone will help me grow as a composer and affect future decisions I make. These can include taking more—or even less—risks and having a better grasp on what works and what does not. The feedback from the mentor-composers, as well as comments from the other composition participants, musicians, and conductor will have a significant impact on how I make final preparations
ACO: What are you most looking forward to in participating in these New Music Readings?
NO: I’m looking forward to the entire overall experience! I’m excited to get to know Joana Carneiro and the musicians of the Berkeley Symphony. It is incredible that they’ve offered their time to help out so many young composers in developing pieces over the years, and I’m humbled to be a part of it. I’m also looking forward to meeting the other composers and hearing their music, as well as working with mentor-composers Robert Beaser and Edmund Campion. It also goes without saying that I can’t wait to hear these two excerpts from my piece, which have all but taken over my life since October!
ACO: What would you like to say to other composers who may be interested in applying to future New Music Readings?
NO: As I tell all of my students, apply, apply, apply! This program promises to be a great experience for developing a new orchestral work, especially if you have not had much experience writing for orchestra or the opportunity.