Interview with composer Adam Schoenberg

Nov 21, 2013

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949, of Mark Rothko, an example of a piece by the artist which Adam Schoenberg used as inspiration for "Finding Rothko."
Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949, of Mark Rothko, an example of a piece by the artist which Adam Schoenberg used as inspiration for "Finding Rothko."
Credit wikipaintings.org

This weekend, the Amarillo Symphony performs "Finding Rothko," an orchestra work by composer Adam Schoenberg.  The relatively contemporary piece, written in 2006, will be performed next to works like Ralph Vaughn Williams' "The Lark Ascending" and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" at the symphony's concert titled "Pictures in Music."

Adam Schoenberg joined me from his home in Los Angeles.  I asked him about the inspiration and process behind composing "Finding Rothko."

"Finding Rothko" is music inspired by paintings. It's a contemporary piece based on contemporary art. Mark Rothko was 20th century abstract expressionist, known for his "multiform" paintings from the 1940's onward, paintings consisting of rectangular, blurred blocks of color.

I interviewed Adam Schoenberg and asked him about the inspiration and process behind composing "Finding Rothko."

Schoenberg talks about finding the Rothko paintings when he visited the modern art museums of New York during graduate school at Julliard. He says the paintings evoked a "visceral reaction," feelings he drew upon to compose a four-movement piece, focusing on one of Rothko's works for each movement.

The dominant color in each of the Rothko paintings provide the title to each movement-- Orange, Yellow, Red, and Wine.

Shoenberg is a modern composer, using hours of improvisation on piano to develop musical ideas and employing production software such as Logic to layer his music in a way which the composers of antiquity could not have imagined.

Hear the broadcast version of my interview with Adam Schoenberg above, or listen to the full conversation below.

The Amarillo Symphony performs Pictures in Music, Friday and Saturday, November 22nd and 23rd, at 8pm at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts in Amarillo.