23rd Annual Underwood New Music Readings: Composer Spotlight – Andy Akiho

SoundAdvice sits down with Andy Akiho, one of the composers selected to participate in ACO’s 23rd Annual Underwood New Music Readings on June 6 and 7, part of this year’s inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL celebration.  His piece, Tarnished Mirrors, is intended to inspire the audience to create their own art.
Photo by Melody Eötvös

American Composers Orchestra: What was the inspiration for your piece that will be read by ACO at the Underwood New Music Readings?  How has that been incorporated into the work?

Andy Akiho: My inspiration was the possibility of having an orchestral work read by an awesome orchestra and conductor. I wanted to write my first orchestral piece with full instrumentation (woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings, etc.). I’ve written a steel pan concerto for myself, and I’ve written works for large ensembles, but I’ve never had the experience of being able to listen to an orchestral work from the audience. It is my dream to have compositions and performances for large forces with infinite timbral colors, so I wanted to give it my best shot to write my first full orchestra piece without a soloist.

ACO: What were your first thoughts when you were chosen to participate in these Readings, which are part of the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL?
AA:  I was extremely happy when I got the phone call! My first thoughts were precisely, “Woohoo” and “Yay!”

ACO: Since you were selected, have you further developed your piece? How have you been preparing yourself and your work for the Readings?

AA: Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to revise my piece (I’ve written three new pieces since April). For this reading, I wanted to spend a lot of time with my copyist getting the score and parts to look great. We got great suggestions from Bill Holab – thanks! Now, I feel more confident that everything will look better for the musicians and conductor (page turns, notational clarity, etc). However, I know that I will want to revise the actual music after these readings with the inspiring advice from my mentors, colleagues and performers.

ACO: During the Readings your work will be workshopped with George Manahan, mentor composers, and ACO musicians. What do you hope to gain from this experience?

AA: I know that I will learn a tremendous amount from this experience because I will be positively influenced by the incredible musicians who are participating. I have always learned the most from workshops, residencies, and personal experiences with performers, conductors, and fellow composer colleagues. I am looking forward to positive inspiration from this experience to apply to my future compositions.

ACO: Is there anything you’d like the the audience to know about your piece in advance? Anything you hope they take away from hearing it?

AA: The piece is titled Tarnished Mirrors, and it is about… (I want the listener(s) to decide). My ultimate goal would be for the audience to be inspired to create art after hearing the premieres on the concert: write, paint, draw, compose, choreograph, cook, improvise, invent, and/or dream (but, without sleep – life’s too short for that).

Tarnished Mirrors is currently in one short movement. I want to eventually make this into a three-movement work, where the end of this movement will be expanded into it’s own 2nd movement, followed by a rhythmically intense finale.

Photo Credit: Nicole Jeong

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