narong prangcharoen tackles 10 questions

a press release from the oregon symphony states they are presenting works by 9 living composers throughout the 2010/11 classical season.  some folks in the classical beaver investigative journalism bureau felt the need to verify this claim – their work is not yet complete, but at least their first interview is in.  hope you enjoy the cb’s first evah interview with a real live composer: 30-something thai phenom narong prangcharoen.  thanks narong!

the oregon symphony is kicking off its regular season with your work – please tell us about it!

PHENOMENON was inspired by mysterious and unexplainable natural phenomena, especially the Naga Fireballs which occur annually at the end of Buddhist Lent in the area of the Mekong River, stretching over 20 kilometers between Pak-Ngeum district and Phonephisai district in Thailand.  The piece starts with the chaotic texture of people traveling to the river to observe.  After that, it describes the fireballs appearing at the bottom of the river, rising above the water, floating into the sky, and then disappearing without falling back to the earth.

how long have you been composing classical music?

I started to compose my first piece in 1998.  That is when I started to learn composition with my first teacher, Narongrit Dhamabutra.

what’s so great about experiencing classical music live?

You will never experience the great sound anywhere else except the concert hall.  The freshness of sound and interactive performers – those are just a few to mention about the experience when you go to listen to the music live.

do you play any instruments?

I used to play piano.  I just don’t have time to practice anymore.  I started everything very late – my first piano lesson was when I was 21.  BUT all of my teachers said that I learned so quickly.  I did play a lot of Debussy, Ives, Copland and other composers.  They really inspired me to write music later on.

how do you feel when you hear one of your works performed?

I don’t really get nervous by the audience because you can’t please all of the audience.  You gave them the best of you.  They may like or dislike it.  So you can’t help that.  I’m always nervous with how well the performers can present my music.  If I know it will be bad then it is a painful concert for me.  I have to sit through and listen to how they tear my piece down.  If I know it will be a good concert then I’m so relaxed and enjoy listening to the music.  I don’t worry about the concert with the Oregon Symphony at all.  I would like to show up to hear that piece live.  It will be a great treat for me.

if you weren’t a musician, what profession would you choose?

I would be a chef… I love cooking.  Cooking and writing music is almost the same.  You start from scratch and build something out of it.  I always cook like I compose and always keep my secrets about the taste.  I don’t just use one ingredient to achieve good taste.  You will hear a lot of different things… as well as spicy Thai food in my music 🙂

if i were to buy you a drink, what would you order?

In Bangkok, I have a friend that is a great mixologist.  One time he did his signature cucumber martini for me.  I was blown away.  I didn’t really expect that you can make a martini from cucumber.  He is very good.

what composer really rocks your world?

I like many composers starting from old classical music like Bach and Beethoven and on and on.  I love my mentor in music a lot: Chen Yi.  I think she has so much energy in her music – very well organized and thoughtful.  I would say she is one of my models. 

are you stoked by any non-classical music?

I get my energy from many different kinds of music.  All music is great.  I can’t listen to classical music when I workout – I tend to analyze it so I can’t count my reps.  I listen to pop music when I do workout… music that is simple with a strong energy and beat that will keep me moving.  It is good to learn about pop culture so I can adapt it into my music.

what sets carlos kalmar apart from other conductors?

Carlos is really GREAT with my music.  He is so energetic.  He knows the music so well.  I almost didn’t have to say a word when I worked with him last time.  The orchestra has almost an endless energy under his direction.  Each conductor has their own style.  When Mikhail Pletnev conducted this piece, he made the soft section so beautiful – it was the best I have ever heard.  With Carlos, I would say he made the last section more exciting than any conductor I have ever worked with.  The music sounds really fresh and live when I hear his performance.

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