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Andrew McManus

Chicago, IL   

Andrew McManus’ (b. 1985) orchestral work Strobe, premiered in June 2014 by the New York Philharmonic, was called “riveting” and “breathless…surging…hazy…sometimes all at once” by the New York Times. The imagery in his recent works ranges from Wagner’s “Magic Fire Music” and Dominican merengue to the electrical behavior of rat neurons and Renaissance dance rhythms. He is currently Limited Term Assistant Professor of Composition at the University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

In 2014 he began Neurosonics, a long-term collaboration with University of Chicago neuroscientist, that creates electronic soundscapes using data from experiments used in the study of epilepsy. The project’s second work, pathways, bursting [neurosonics 2] for string quartet and electronics, places the Spektral Quartet amidst a sea of occasionally violent artificial sounds. impulse response [neurosonics 4], for saxophone and electronics, crafts three-dimensional sounds that model impulse responses, with the saxophone as a lyrical and virtuosic foil to the chaos they create. dendrites [neurosonics 3b], for electronics, is a reserved and subtle meditation on mildly anxious sounds derived from the experiment data.

Embers, fused to ash, for Alarm Will Sound, amalgamates Wagner’s “Magic Fire Music” with other fire-based imagery and timbres. Killing the Goat (2014) is an opera based on Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel La Fiesta del Chivo for eighth blackbird, the Pacifica Quartet and the Contempo Chamber Players at the University of Chicago. It was performed at Fort Worth Opera’s Frontiers program in May 2016. Ancient Vigils (2013), a New York Youth Symphony First Music Commission premiered at Carnegie Hall, is a distorted tapestry of bell sounds and viol consorts. 

He is a 2018 recipient of an Aaron Copland House Residency Award, as well as a residency with the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. Other ensembles and festivals that have featured his work include the Aspen Music Festival, SPLICE Institute, New York Youth Symphony, Wellesley Composers Conference, and the Minnesota Orchestra. A native of Massachusetts, he holds a PhD from the University of Chicago, where he studied with Marta Ptaszynska, Shulamit Ran, Augusta Read Thomas and Howard Sandroff. 

pathways, bursting [neurosonics 2] for string quartet+electronics

Spektral Quartet:
Clara Lyon, Maeve Feinberg, Doyle Armbrust, Russell Rolen
Andrew McManus, electronics
Constellation Chicago
May 12, 2017

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embers, fused to ash (2015)

At the end of Die Walküre, Wagner represents the fire surrounding a sleeping Brünnhilde with a beautiful flurry of orchestral activity: a sea of sweeping, impossibly fast violins under pointed woodwind and harp gestures. “embers, fused to ash” alludes to this “Magic Fire Music” in twisted ways. But its chaotic, noisy energy slowly extinguishes, relaxing into a bluesy lyricism, then further fades into a cold but tender chorale. The end hovers on the edge of silence: wispy strings struggle to rise from the ashes.

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Strobe (2013) for orchestra

Cliff Colnot, cond. Recorded at the University of Chicago, November 2013.
Premiered by the New York Philharmonic, Matthias Pintscher, cond. June 2014.

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