Savoring his time in the L.A. sun


Timothy Andres is one busy Yale School of Music graduate student. It’s not that he’s engrossed in class rehearsals as the days lead up to graduation. That would be a vacation.

This 24-year-old is getting ready for the premiere of his chamber orchestra composition Tuesday night by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of John Adams.

Andres arrived in Los Angeles on Friday to begin rehearsals at Walt Disney Concert Hall for the 12-minute piece, “Nightjar,” commissioned for the L.A. Philharmonic as part of the Green Umbrella series. He’ll also be performing on piano his work “How Can I Live in Your World of Ideas?”


“If you had asked me what my absolute dream commission would be, I probably would have said something along those lines,” said Andres, who goes by “Timo.” “I mean it’s Los Angeles. They’re pretty much where it’s at in terms of good music. I have every confidence that the L.A. Phil will tear my piece up! And who doesn’t love the L.A. sun?”

But it was Connecticut at twilight that served as the muse for “Nightjar.” The chirping, scratching and haunting aura of a country setting is imbued with extra meaning at night, Andres said. Sounds are amplified, smells strengthened.

“I remember when I was a kid and we first moved to Connecticut, it was really surprising to hear all these noises,” said Andres, who was born in Palo Alto. “I didn’t know what it was. Now when I hear them, I hear a sort of interesting cadence relationship in them; different animals chirping at different speeds. Each chirp is very rhythmic. Each one has a tempo. They tend to sort of get in and out of phase with each other. That’s sort of how this piece opens.”

Andres also has been asked to compose works for the ACME String Quartet and New York Youth Symphony and an octet for members of the New World Symphony. No small tasks.

The rhythm of music has pulsed through his body since birth, Andres says, jokingly. When he was 7, his father, a computer specialist, bought him a teach-yourself-piano computer program. But the program was no match for his attuned fingers. He mastered the program in three weeks.

The attraction to music would only intensify. It started innocently enough. Beethoven. Mozart. By high school, at Juilliard’s Pre-College Division, while other teens were listening to Britney Spears, Korn or Snoop Dogg, Andres was listening to early- to mid-20th century composers: Sergei Prokofiev. Charles Ives.

And a bit of his musical forebears is reflected in his own pieces.

“I write music that I, myself, would want to listen to,” Andres said. “The pieces that I don’t like, I don’t tell anyone about. I keep them in a folder that’s buried deep in my computer’s hard drive.”

Being a performer, Andres said, complements the writing process -- a necessary relationship in his view.

“They really sort of inform each other,” he said. “Being a composer is no good on its own. You need this sort of other person or other skill to be able to give life to the music. I feel like the separation of those things is just this really weird disconnect that exists in the classical music world. But I feel as of late we’re sort of seeing that reversing. A lot more of my peers and people of my generation are doing both.”

Adams -- whom Andres admits he is “obsessed” with -- admires this generation of modern composers, which led him to e-mail Andres about taking part in the Green Umbrella series.

“I’m very encouraged and excited by the whole generation,” Adams said. “Timo is part of a group of writers in their 20s, early 30s, who are bringing new life to the scene: gifted composers who are also virtuoso performers.”

Adams isn’t alone in his praise of Andres. The Boston Globe called his performance of Ives’ “Concord” Sonata “daring and authoritative.” And his piece for ACME was deemed “fascinating” by the New York Times.

As his graduation looms, Andres keeps naivete at bay. He plans to move to New York City, and he’s fully aware that writing and performing gigs won’t always fill his schedule. Not to worry. He’s been “commissioned” for other jobs. When his fingers aren’t gliding across piano keys or filling in notes on music sheets, they are holding a computer mouse. He designs Web pages for other musicians.

But for now, the jet-setting continues. After Tuesday’s performance, he’ll fly to Baltimore for another performance before returning to New Haven, Conn., for that little thing called graduation.

“It’s a little crazy right now,” Andres said. “But I’m not complaining.”

He’s found his rhythm.



Green Umbrella: Composer’s Choice

What: John Adams conducts; Timothy Andres and Payton MacDonald

Where: Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Price: $40.25 to $56.50

Contact: (323) 850-2000 or