EarShot Columbus Symphony: Composer Spotlight – Patrick O’Malley

Los Angeles-based composer Patrick O’Malley (b. 1989) writes music which explores the “musical interplay between emotion, color, energy, and landscape.” His work has been performed and recognized by numerous acclaimed organizations, most recently the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Next On Grand National Composers Intensive with wild Up, the Boston New Music Initiative, and Fulcrum Point New Music Project, among others. His piece Even in Paradise was selected for the American Composers Orchestra’s EarShot – Columbus Symphony New Music Readings, and will be performed in Columbus Symphony’s Happy Hour Concerts Series, Thursday, October 29, 2015 at the Ohio Theater.

Patrick answered some questions about the workshops and his piece for SoundAdvice.

Composer Patrick O’Malley

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to hearing Even in Paradise had been selected for the EarShot – Columbus Symphony New Music Readings? 
Patrick O’Malley: Quite excited, and really looking forward to spending some time in the midwest again after living in Los Angeles for a couple of years (I’m originally from Indiana). Even in Paradise was definitely one of those pieces that I ended up obsessing over more than other projects, so I am very glad that it is receiving the attention. Can’t wait to meet everybody and get to work.

ACO: Your bio says “O’Malley considers the listener’s imagination as much as every other musical element.” How does Even in Paradise consider the listener’s imagination?
PO: I often (though not always) associate music with some sort of abstract visual imagery – when I listen and when I compose. This is part of the listening experience that an audience member goes through, and is directly connected to his or her imagination. With regards to Even in Paradise, I am trying to create both a landscape and a sort of drama for the listener. What each person individually imagines I cannot say, as the piece does not contain a specific program to tell the audience exactly what to think about. The piece was written to create a sense of place and action. The contrasting sections of hazy harmony versus clear harmony, challenging moments versus moments of release etc., all work to set a stage, so to speak, for the audience’s imagination and emotions to explore.

ACO: What do you hope to learn or improve upon at the EarShot – Columbus Symphony New Music Readings? Is there anything in particular you feel needs improvement in Even in Paradise?
PO: I made a lot of small revisions to the piece after the premier; mostly dynamics and dealing with the layers of orchestration. Almost every section of the piece contains foreground, middle ground, and background, and if I don’t balance those things correctly, it just sounds like a mess. Those changes proved valuable in a performance of the piece about a month ago, and I hope that (after a couple more changes) with Columbus I’ll finally get everything I was aiming for. And of course it goes without saying that I am looking forward to meeting my colleagues and mentors, and whatever insights they might bring.

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