Adam Schoenberg


February 24th, 2017

Named one of the top ten most performed living composers, Adam Schoenberg called in from LA to share his stories of composition and style, a man the New York Times calls full of “mystery and sensuality”.

SCHOENBERG: My father is a world class piano improviser and also scored several pieces for PBS documentaries and even wrote on Sesame Street back in the day. So the art of improvisation is imbedded in my DNA, and there are so many different methods to composing. Improvisation allows me to generate materials from the subconscious, at that point I can become the composer. I’ve always had this ability to come up with ideas quickly.

He grew up listening Beethoven, Bernstein, Mahler, and once he got into high school, his influences in popular music grew, that still transpire into his music.

SCHOENBERG: “Once I got into high school and had a car, I would drive and I had all of the Tribe Called Quest albums, Outkast, a lot of hip hop. I loved Pat McPheany and Radiohead, Jamiraqoit. A lot of popular music has been embedded into my system as well in addition to classical. When you study compostion, of course, you start analyze more deeply and listen to the standard rep more music of our time”

He studied at Julliard under John Corigliano when he started to write some of his greatest orchestral works.

SCHOENBERG: ”When I went on the study with John for my doctorate, he was really defines himself more as being an architect and looking at the bigger picture, the structure, the form of a piece. Then he’ll dive in more deeply at what is going on orchestrationally and compositionally.

His 2006 work for Chamber Orchestra titled, “Finding Rothko” was developed over some of the greatest teaching moment with Corigliano.

SCHOENBERG:” I wrote one student piece before “Finding Rothko” and I really just felt insecure about my ability to orch. I didn’t’ really thrust myself. John didn’t want to interfere with the beginning stages of the process. He is an architect, he’d map out the orchestration in an abstract manner, in a very raw form. From that point going forward I worked on the piece for several months. When the piece was nearly finished I told him, “I need your help because I don’t’ know if this is going to work”, and I went on to have the greatest four-day lesson of my life.”

All the titles in Finding Rothko come from the paintings. What you are hearing in “Wine”, the last movement of what Schoenberg considers the most beautiful pieces he has written.

SCHOENBERG: “They definitely serve as a muse and provide initial inspiration. And really they do generate some type of narrative for me. In terms of “finding rothtko” I’d had just discovered Mark Rothko for the first time and seeing the luminosity and the vibrancy of these incredibtly bold colorsup close and in person on these massive canvases was a rally moveing experience for me and always felt and heard a sense of motion in those painting that I could translate into a more musical manner.”

Schoenberg inspirations don’t just come from art, but the current world we live in. His American Symphony was inspired by the 2008 election of President Obama.

SCHOENBERG: “In 2008, we all know Obama was elected, and that was a very pivotal election for me and my generation. It was the first election of my adult life that I very much felt very a part of. Yes, I was personally voting from Obama, but to me it’s not a political work. I think whoever you were voting for at that time we can all collectively agree we all wanted change. When that was happening I was out canvasing and was much more politically active. Obama wins and three nights later I heard Copland’s “Third Symphony“and I had studied it at Julliard, But I had never seen it live. I think Copland was very much aware of the turmoil tin the world As an artist I think it’s our civic duty to make the world a better place and for me and most compo the best way we can \do that through some type of contribution is through music.”

American composer, Adam Schoenberg. His music has been performed by the biggest symphonies, all over the county, and tonight you can hear a recording of Michael Stern and the Kansas City Symphony performing “American Symphony” on KVNO’s Modern Classics. For more information on the composer, and his upcoming premier of his second symphony, “Migration” you can visit,

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