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Tom Norris: Taking Classical Music to the Edge

img  Tobias

What did your colleagues at the LSO say when you told them you'd like to take a sabbatical to write songs?
My friends at the LSO have always been very supportive and enthusiastic about my extra curricular activities! In fact, a couple of years ago, we got a band together while we were on tour in Daytona Beach to do a gig as part of the Florida International Festival. They called it LSO Flipside.


Why, then, did it take so long to publish the material?

Well, I think my song writing has evolved over the years, and the album shows this. There are many different styles and influences which have taken time to come through, and the process of writing and recording an album takes time too. Being so busy with the LSO meant that I was having to take the odd day here and there between patches of work to travel to Austria for recording, sometimes for only a couple of days at a time. Essentially, everything was recorded in a studio in Austria apart from the string section, which we recorded in London. The album took 3 years to record!


„Vienna“, with its high-energy string arrangement, sounds as though it was a lot of fun to record. What do you remember about the sessions?
I remember conducting! We needed to rehearse in the studio before the recording takes, and I had to get the strings sounding tight and with the energy that I had in mind. Not that that was a problem, as I had brilliant musicians, some of whom were my friends in the LSO! Mixing the string parts into the texture of the rest of the song was a lot of fun.


Did you also take care of the electronic textures on the album yourself?
I recorded all my own samples for the electronic textures- I used plucked notes on the violin and guitar, and fed them into a sampler which triggered them in rhythmic patterns- and then passed it all through a filter.


Are there even more genres you'd like to take on in the future?

I'm keen to explore further in terms of what I've done so far. Some things work better than others, and I'd like my next album to present a more honed and refined style. I'd also like to record the next album more in a 'live' way, with my band.


Quite a lot of classical musicians are finding it hard to combine the duties of an interpreter, improviser and songsmith. Since these disciplines don't seem to conflict on „Edge of the World“, does that mean that you've never seen all that big a difference between them in the first place?
The musicians who have always inspired me, whether they be instrumental performers, conductors, jazz improvisers or composers, seem to have the freedom to play all these roles. But I think they are distinct in that a different part of the brain is involved when improvising, for example,  from reading notes on a page, and interpreting them into sound and musical phrases.


How does the experience of performing these songs or playing with „Living Room in London“ compare to a night with the LSO?

Being part of the LSO is absolutely thrilling in a concert. The atmosphere is highly charged, none more so than when Valery Gergiev or Sir Colin Davis is conducting. It's a real buzz. And audiences who come to the Barbican, or to concert halls all over the world, have a real appreciation for the orchestra. It's an amazing experience. To compare it with singing with my band... here, the connection with the audience is somehow more tangible, and there is an intimacy which is a different experience altogether. Living Room in London, with it's delicate textures, and more of a chamber music ambiance, is particularly suited to smaller venues and also features more direct interplay between us, as the musicians, and the audience.


When will we see you as an opener to a regular LSO gig?

It's my dream to bring my life in the LSO and my life as a singer songwriter together. Could I imagine the LSO string section backing me in a concert in LSO St. Luke's?... Maybe someday!

Homepage: Tom Norris
Homepage: LSO

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