All The Wrong Notes to premiere at Hear Now Festival

I just received the news that my piano piece All The Wrong Notes has been picked up for a premiere at this year’s Hear Now Music Festival in LA in May. The festival runs May 2 – 4 on the westside, and my friend Richard Valitutto will be playing it. Some friends are also on the program, and some people who I’ve really looked up to for a long time. In short, I’m mighty ecstatic about this.

Hear Now is currently running a kickstarter campaign to fund this year’s festival. If you’re able to support it, it’s over at

A little about the piece: when I was an undergraduate I wrote a piano piece called Densities. It used all sorts of math to predict what sorts of mutations a cool little set of notes would go through. I spent months doing calculations, and then months copying down the notes that those calculations resulted in. It ended up sounding like a bunch of random, pointillist nonsense. My teacher at the time, Lei Liang, suggested that I improvise a bit over it, to highlight the more interesting parts. I did that. It made it more interesting, but not too much more interesting. I suppose I learned something about trusting your ear from that.

Flash forward to 2012: I’d just started my PhD at UCSB and become close friends with Leslie Cain, also a new student, who was working on her masters in piano performance. She invited me to hang out in her practice room one afternoon, and I hadn’t actually heard her play yet. She played a Debussy prelude (maybe number three or four?) and I was awed. I literally sat on the floor with my mouth hanging open while she played it, and immediately knew that I wanted to work with her.

I’d written a lot for piano, but nothing specifically intended to show off the virtuosic abilities of the soloist. I remembered that Densities had some pretty cool stuff in it that I had transformed into mush via all that math, and thought of this as an opportunity to give the material I’d originally written way back when a chance to rock as hard as it could. That was the starting point for All The Wrong Notes. After that, it was gut instinct, meetings with my teacher Joel Feigin and Leslie, and a bit of advice from a killer workshop/reading session with Jeremy Denk. Unfortunately Leslie hasn’t had a chance to program it yet (piano degree programs seem to make you play a lot of Liszt), but she gave her blessing to having Richard play it at the festival.

I kinda can’t wait. But back to my Brahms orchestration, which is getting premiered by Chris Rountree and the UCSB Chamber Orchestra on March 10 at Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall. Spring is looking hot!


All material copyright Nick Norton unless otherwise noted.