Andrew McManus

EarShot New York Philharmonic Biennial new Music Readings

photo credit: Chelsea Ross

The music of Andrew McManus (b. 1985) mixes strange sounds and irregular rhythms – some beautiful, others grating and bizarre – to find new ways of exploring spirituality, surrealism and theatrical drama. In May 2014 his opera Killing the Goat will be premiered by eighth blackbird, the Pacifica Quartet and members of the Contempo Chamber Players at the University of Chicago.

Based on the novel La Fiesta del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat) by Mario Vargas Llosa. In 2013 Ancient Vigils, a New York Youth Symphony First Music Commission, was premiered at Carnegie Hall in New York City. This piano quintet is a restive, distorted tapestry of complex bell sonorities, Renaissance dance rhythms, faded religious imagery and viol consorts.

Andrew’s  previous works include Identity(2008), which was premiered at the 2008 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, and The Concerto of Deliverance (2010), which was read by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and premiered by the University of Oklahoma Symphony. He is also a creator of electronic music. His playback work Mesospherics (2011-2013), recently featured at the University of South Florida New Music Festival, weaves together a diverse collection of sounds that range from beautiful, vivid and scintillating to rough, unwieldy and cacophonous.

As a violist, he also is passionate about composing for strings. His string quartet The Sacred and the Profane has been performed by the Spektral Quartet in Chicago, and received its European premiere at the highSCORE festival in Pavia, Italy. Other works have been performed at the Wellesley Composers Conference, the Bowdoin International Music Festival and the Atlantic Music Festival. A native of Massachusetts, he is currently a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, where he studies with Augusta Read Thomas, Marta Ptaszynska, Shulamit Ran and Howard Sandroff. He also holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Yale University. His other honors include a BMI Student Composer Award and honorable mentions from ASCAP. For more, please visit

The word “strobe” conjures up quite a few images and concepts for me. These include jarring pulses of bright light, the stop-motion we might observe when watching someone or something move under a strobe light, and electronic dance music (or “EDM”). But while Strobe references all of these things – with sharp, pointed, scattershot rhythmic textures, erratic shrieks of brilliance and the occasional thumping kick drum, it also explores some fleeting images that don’t necessarily go together, like photographs that disappear before we can fully grasp them. The piece’s central section features soaring but wistful oboe and horn melodies, followed by a swing-jazz-like interjection with muted trumpets, snare drum and piano. But this suddenly vanishes into a darkly sonorous string chorale. While the acute brilliance of the early part of the piece eventually returns, this shadowy tinge persists in the background, especially at the end, when a shattering major chord in the winds and brass leaves behind wispy, glowing sonic artifacts that quickly vanish.