Hamilton: O'ROURKE

Program Note

Andrew Hamilton (b.1977, Dublin, Ireland)
O’ROURKE (2013)

About ten, I just started writing music. It was a natural thing – just spontaneous, it was never a decision – it’s play. You know, all children draw, so it’s as natural as drawing. I’m the son of a Methodist minister, so I was brought up with lots of hymns all the time. 

My mother says I was always singing…

I had very strong-willed teachers. My main teacher was Kevin Volans. I learned from him that you had to edit, and I learned from him not to worry about style. And fearlessness. From [Dutch composer and pianist] Louis Andriessen, I think [I learned] attention to detail. He said, ‘If you’re going to write music that’s not so complex, you have to present it the right way, make sure it’s clear.’ I do remember coming out of every lesson in Amsterdam with Andriessen, closing the door behind me, and my first thought was always: I know nothing. I always thought that I knew nothing.

In my mid twenties I became obsessed with Jasper Johns. This probably sums up what I am trying to do in music: ‘One hopes for something resembling truth, some sense of life, even of grace, to flicker, at least, in the work.’ I suppose I was influenced a lot by how, in the visual arts, they take limited means and then push them – so I suppose I’m taking stuff that has existed before but pushing it too far. 

I read this quote, that [Jasper Johns] likes ‘things that the mind already knows’ and for me that sums up why I use tonality because we all know it so we can begin from the same place and then you can work on the other parameters. So, it gives me the room to push the other parameters.

I have to entertain myself. If my pieces are going well, I’m usually having a good laugh! If I make myself laugh, I’m hopefully going to make at least one person happy.

—Andrew Hamilton to Benjamin Tassie for Beyond Surface