SONiC Composer Spotlight – Andy Akiho

Described as “mold-breaking,” “alert and alive,” “dramatic,” and “vital” by The New York Times, Andy Akiho is an eclectic composer and performer of contemporary classical music. Last year Andy won ACO’s 2014 Annual Underwood Emerging Composers Commission for his piece Tarnished Mirrors. For his commission he has composed a revised and expanded version of the piece, which will receive its premiere tonight, 8pm, at ACO: New York Stories, SONiC Festival’s free concert at the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place, presented by WNYC New Sounds Live.

Andy was kind enough to answer a few questions for the SoundAdvice blog.

Composer and steel drum player Andy Akiho

American Composers Orchestra: For your commission, you have revised and expanded Tarnish Mirrors for its premiere at ACO: New York Stories. Can you tell us a little bit about how the piece has changed since its original reading?
Andy Akiho: I expanded the piece into two continuous movements. A lot of the music from the original first movement is the same, but the orchestration has changed. Now there is a very prominent celesta part in conversation with the harp and percussion throughout the work, and the steel pan has been taken out of the original percussion part.

ACO: You are an accomplished steel drum player as well as a composer, and have written many pieces for the instrument. Have you found that this has influenced your approach to writing for orchestra at all? If so in what ways?
AA: The steel pan is my piano for composing. I often come up with my melodic and harmonic ideas using the steel pan because it is the instrument I know best (I cannot play the piano). However, recently I have written away from the instrument more frequently to challenge myself and bring more variety to my compositions.

ACO: Aside from New York Stories of course, which SONiC Festival concert are you most looking forward to?
AA: Unfortunately, I am missing the shows starting on the 17th because I am flying to Beijing that day. If I were in town, I would definitely catch all of the SONiC concerts because they are all so diverse, and I would like to hear what many of my friends are performing and composing. I will be in town for the opening night on the 15th, and I’ll be sure to catch the Music from the Copland House show: I am looking forward to hearing new chamber pieces by Reena, Steve, Viet, Michael, and Gity. I am also excited that the SONiC Festival is presenting shows at National Sawdust!

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