“I’m trying to create a sonic space, as it were, to reflect on those things but in a different medium,” he said. “You can project yourself into the sound and you find the emotional resonance with the music with the knowledge that it’s been driven by these images.”
For the ensemble’s Emory performance, Prior said the Orpheus ensemble was interested in highlighting an Atlanta-based composer, and Prior soon found himself discussing a new commission with the group’s management. Once the orchestra arrives in Atlanta, Prior will have a few short rehearsals with the group to iron out any bubbles in the work. This rehearsal collaboration is an important part of his compositional process, he said.
“What’s on the page is the starting point,” he said. “It’s the flat, two-dimensional representation of the music.”
Due to rehearsal and time constraints, Prior said he worked to keep the composition rather simple and straightforward so the musicians could approach the work with ease. And while he thought about Emory’s general audiences — a mix of students, community members and longtime art patrons — he didn’t consciously work to make the music more approachable to classical newbies. As a composer, he said he believes that audiences are sometimes averse to new classical works, but that his job is to wrap unfamiliar musical ideas “with things that are somehow familiar in the tapestry of the music and then extend beyond that,” he said. If done correctly, this alchemy creates classical converts.
Prior said he’s encouraged to live and write music in a city that takes pride in the arts and doesn’t shy away from presenting new classical works.
“There’s so much vibrancy and richness,” he said. “It’s a great place to be — particularly when you have the significant pillars of things like the symphony also embrace and support those efforts. There have been some bumps along the way, but it only seems to be gaining strength and continuing that momentum.”
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
8 p.m. Jan. 20. $10-$60. Emory University Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, 1700 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta. 404-727-5050,