When Time Stands Still

SoNA debuts Adam Schoenberg’s ‘Slo-mo’

"My music comes straight from the heart -- striving to be beautiful and inspiring and simultaneously challenging and rewarding." -- Adam Schoenberg

Adam Schoenberg is a fascinating amalgamation of his interests.


Masterworks I: Momentum

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $30-$52

INFO — 443-5600


SoNA at

Crystal Bridges

Join the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas for an intimate concert and conversation about classical music and American art with SoNA Music Director Paul Haas and Crystal Bridges Director of Curatorial Affairs Margi Conrads at 8 p.m. today at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Cost is $50 by calling 657-2335.

As a boy, he played sports -- soccer, primarily, but also baseball and tennis; played around on the piano -- no surprise because his father is a composer; and didn't consciously choose Ohio's Oberlin College because it has one of the country's premier music schools. But in the middle of his first semester, he applied to switch to Oberlin Conservatory. His goal, set during that time, is to create a composition for orchestra and score a film every year.

And even juggling a teaching job at Occidental College in Los Angeles and two sons ages 31/2 and 20 months, "I still have not let go of that," he says.

Audiences in Northwest Arkansas can hear the premiere of a piece for orchestra Saturday when Paul Haas conducts the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas in Schoenberg's "Slo-mo." The composition started life as the middle movement of a composition for string quartet. Haas heard it and asked Schoenberg to arrange it for string orchestra.

The title, says Schoenberg, "really came from the iPhone where you have the slo-mo video recording feature. I thought, 'Well, that would be really interesting to stop time.' You can't, of course, stop a piece of music: It begins, and it ends. But I wanted to convey a sense of everything standing still, momentarily -- a slow, beautiful world people can escape to for a moment." Asked if that desire had anything to do with sleepless nights as a new dad, Schoenberg laughs. "A lot of my music has been inspired by my two kids, but not this one!"

What did inspire him is years of studying the art of orchestration. Although he plays only the piano, Schoenberg says he has intimate knowledge of each instrument's range and abilities.

"I tell my students rather than studying a book, study the actual existing music scores of the greatest composers and composers they've never heard of," he says. "Those are your best bible."

For him, those composers include Henri Dutilleux, a French composer active mainly in the second half of the 20th century. His work followed in the tradition of Maurice Ravel, another Schoenberg favorite, as are Marc-André Dalbavie, another French composer, and Igor Stravinsky, a Russian composer born at the turn of the 20th century.

But Schoenberg is also influenced by popular music -- Radiohead, Jamiroquai, Outkast, Pat Metheny, Stevie Wonder and Pharrell, whom he calls one of the great composers of this age.

"Eclectic, right?" he says, laughing again.

Music critics call the result "invigorating" and "full of mystery and sensuality." Schoenberg was recently named one of the Top 10 most performed living classical composers by orchestras in the United States and has heard his work performed at venues as diverse as the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center and the Hollywood Bowl. His original compositions have been commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Aspen Music Festival and School.

Haas is excited about all of Saturday's performance.

"This sparkling concert begins with a modern masterpiece: John Adams' 'Short Ride in a Fast Machine,' which is the orchestral equivalent to putting the pedal to the metal," he says. "After this high-octane burst, the rest of the concert gradually ramps up the tempo starting from the sublime slows of 'Slo-mo.' Always playfully alternating dynamics and colors, the thrust of this concert is pure speed, culminating when the final dance of Ravel's 'Daphnis and Chloe' concludes in a blaze of light."

NAN What's Up on 01/27/2017