This weekend, the Houston Symphony will perform Canadian composer and conductor Samy Moussa’s Nocturne. Read on to learn more about Samy’s musical style and inspiration behind this dark and atmospheric work.
Composer and conductor
Houston Symphony: Does your background in conducting impact your compositional style? If so, how?
Samy Moussa: I am often asked how the practice of these two disciplines inform each other. One can expect that being a conductor brings some practical knowledge to the composer. However, it is the other way around for me. Being a composer, I build sounds and invent music with my own fantasy. The same mind is at work when studying another composer’s work. In other words, interpretation is also an act of composition.
HS: Tell us about the inspiration behind Nocturne.
SM: The ideas behind this work are purely musical. I was interested in creating a piece where the centre of gravity would be pitched in the lower registers. It allowed the few moments of brightness to be — hopefully — more extraordinary.
HS: Nocturne features a variety of extended techniques, could you explain a few that the audience should listen for?
SM: There are very few "extended orchestration techniques" in this work. The last two minutes use a combination of sounds creating a ghostly atmosphere — spettrale in the score. The recipe is a selection of harmonics from the violins and the double basses, a bowed cymbal and Glockenspiel, very quiet trumpet tremolos with the “wah-wah” mute and the use of harmonic tremolos from the flutes which are achieved by alternating two different fingerings for the same note). It all happens simultaneously. I would not try to listen for any of those isolated sounds particularly, but to listen to the combination, the music.
Hear Samy Moussa’s “Nocturne” November 26–27 on the program of Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty”. Get in-hall or livestream tickets.