New Release: Andrew Norman’s “Sustain,” Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Sustain, a haunting orchestral soundscape by American composer Andrew Norman (b. 1979), was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the opening of its centennial season. A concert recording, released earlier this year, documents the piece’s October, 2018 world premiere. Sustain was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Music. The recording, which features the LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel, is up for a Grammy in the categories of “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” and “Best Orchestral Performance.”

Sustain plays tricks on our perception of time and proportion. It unfolds in a series of sonic waves, gradually rising, cresting, and receding. Colorful voices emerge and dissipate like an unending stream of passersby on an infinite sidewalk. There is a sense of the paradoxical lonely isolation some people experience in a crowded city. Structurally, Sustain is cyclic, developing “in the form of a contracting spiral,” with musical events repeating, each time exponentially faster. This gives us a sense that we are drifting through a vast expanse. Clusters of sound create a continuous kaleidoscope of shifting color, beginning with a ghostly dialogue between two pianos, with one tuned down a quarter tone.

In his program notes, Norman imagines the audience that might assemble in Walt Disney Concert Hall a hundred years from now for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 200th anniversary. His thoughts move to the fragility of the natural world. Compelling as these concepts may be, you should listen to Sustain as a purely musical drama. It is on these grounds alone that this newly written piece may one day enter the enduring musical canon.

Recordings

  • Norman: Sustain, Gustavo Dudamel, Los Angeles Philharmonic laphil.com

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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