Are you inspired by other art forms? If so, which ones?
I take inspiration in an indirect way from everything, not just the arts. Even as I’m writing this I’m looking at the mosaic table at the coffee shop I’m at and the hills across the street, listening to the conversations around me and the traffic going by. Absolutely anything, or absolutely nothing, can be a specific inspiration for the music I write, but that music ultimately comes from me, and who I am is shaped by everything I experience, all the time.
That sounds nearly absurdly metaphysical, so here’s a more practical answer: yes, and especially painting and film. When I’ve got to deal with proportion and balance in a piece, I think about paintings that have struck me and how they’re constructed. And the qualities I appreciate in film I also appreciate in music…not only that something is well-crafted and deep and complex, but also that it grabs your attention on the surface. The best films are the ones that are simultaneously deep and meaningful and wildly entertaining, and I think the same can be said of the best music.
Do you use a computer for your work? When did you start?
Yes, but how much depends on the work. If I’m writing something electronic then I use it for everything. For acoustic instruments I’ll usually just use it for making the score and parts. With rock music I’ll use it for some arranging too. I’ve been doing it that way about as long as I can remember.
Do you still use paper? What for?
Yes, lots. I sketch on paper, sometimes shapes and lines without pitches. When I use pitch sets I’ll figure out all the ways to transform them on paper. Usually when I begin to come up with some music I’ll write it on paper first, and write a few different versions of it down. That way I can compare them just by looking at them, or see how they can fit together. A lot of them time when I’m writing on an instrument, like my guitar or piano, it’s easier to just have a piece of paper there than to go back and forth to the screen.
Does working on a computer affect the way you compose?
Well it makes my scores legible! Sometimes I’ll get new ideas while listening to the playback of a MIDI realization, so I suppose it does, but I don’t see working on it as integral to my composing, or it having a really drastic effect. Unless, of course, I’m writing electronic music or working with loops.
Are you concerned with a possible loss of craftsmanship because of technology?
Not really, actually. There will always be people who head to conservatories and practice twelve hours a day to get amazing technical facility, and there will always be people who throw notes around and cross their fingers. Perhaps we’ll begin to see a new kind of craftsmanship in the form of technological literacy and efficiency. And there’s definitely a lot of craftsmanship and artistry to sound design and working with effects. Especially guitar pedals!
For my money, though, good music is good music, and beyond intellectual curiosity and a hope to add to my own abilities, I don’t particularly care how it’s made.
Nick Norton is a 24 year old composer and guitarist from Los Angeles. He grew up playing in punk bands but loves to write concert music of all types. http://www.nickwritesmusic.com