Given his last name and the fact that he's a Los Angeles-based classical-music composer, Adam Schoenberg has been asked a certain question more times than he cares to remember: Is he related to the late, great 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg?
"No, I'm not," said the 32-year-old Schoenberg with a rueful smile, as if sorry to disappoint. Seated on a couch in his L.A. home during a recent interview, he explained that he hails from rural Massachusetts and that he's a relatively new Angeleno, having moved here a few years ago with his wife.
But Schoenberg said that his family tree isn't completely devoid of musical genius — he is distantly related to the Gershwin clan by marriage.
On Tuesday, Schoenberg's "Bounce" will be presented at the Hollywood Bowl. The 10-minute piece, co-commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, originated as a ballet, but Tuesday's concert will feature just the orchestral version. (As it happens, the performance also will feature music by George Gershwin.)
A Juilliard graduate, Schoenberg has worked closely with conductor Robert Spano and the so-called Atlanta School of composers — a cohort of new-music writers who collaborate frequently with the Atlanta Symphony. Schoenberg's "American Symphony" will be presented in Atlanta in October.
His piece "Finding Rothko," a chamber orchestra piece inspired by the works of
This summer has been a busy one for Schoenberg. His wife, Janine, a playwright and screenwriter, recently gave birth to their first child, a son named Luca. ("Bounce" is inspired by their son.) This semester, he begins a full-time teaching position at
The composer spoke about his new piece and his career so far. Here are excerpts from the conversation.
How would you describe "Bounce"?
A friend of mine said it sounds like Radiohead meets Aaron Copland. I think that's pretty accurate.
Is there anything unusual about the piece?
It uses an instrument called an aluphone. It's a new percussion instrument that comes from Denmark. [It features a series of bowls in a marimba-like formation.] I think it's the first time that it's been used in an orchestral composition.
How difficult is it to make a living as a young composer in L.A.?
Last year, I made a living off of my compositions. But with a family, I need more income. The teaching position at UCLA definitely helps.
You've written scores for some independent movies. Does Hollywood interest you?
I would love to write a film score and one orchestral piece a year. But what's important for me now is composing for orchestras.
You wrote an academic thesis on film composer
He's someone who's been influential on my own music. I was able to come out here and watch him work on "
What's your favorite Thomas Newman score?
Were you a musical kid growing up?
I pretty much kept to myself as a kid, and the piano was something I could do on my own. But music wasn't something I considered as a career until I got to college [at Oberlin].
What do you do when you're not composing?
I'm a big sports fans. I'm always watching
Would you describe yourself as a fast composer?
No, I'm a slow writer. Improvising is big for me. I'll sit at my piano [a 1917 Steinway baby grand] and just improvise. Then I'll write it down by hand. I feel comfortable composing that way, but I'll also use software.
Is it easy to compose with a newborn in the house?
My studio used to be in what is now the nursery. But now I can compose at work. I'm usually the most productive between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Doesn't that wake the baby?
He wakes up every 30 minutes, so it's not a problem.