Interview: Composer Noah Luna

Noah Luna

Noah Luna

When I met Noah Luna, several years ago, he was a college student at CSUEB. He was working at a local music store at the time so I ran into him quite often. By the time he was a masters student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he won some composition competitions, started Beauty in Cacophony Press, and wrote a short flute and guitar piece for me. When I was ready to embark on a series of commissioning projects, he was on top of my list.

Thank you Noah, for participating in my first composer-collaborator interview:

M: How and when did you decide to become a composer?

Noah Luna: I decided to be a composer at the ripe old age of 16. I was in love with the game Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, particularly the music. I thought to myself: “Whose job is it to write the music to a video game? I wanna be that guy…” After finding out that there is SO much more than that out there, I fell in love with studying and writing music of all genres. Any job that allows me to write concert music, rock, jazz, and hip-hop, and still pay my bills was a dream come true.

M: Where did you get the idea or inspiration for Entrometido?

Noah Luna: Entrometido was a unique scenario. I heard cellist Jerry Liu practicing a piece he wrote which included cello percussion and I was flabbergasted. I had to write something that included those sounds alongside more traditional playing. I decided to write a piece that explored the two instruments as two separate and timberally diverse instruments, but the thing they had in common was this thunky percussive quality they could achieve when not played traditionally. I didn’t want it to be gimmicky – I wanted it to just show that the instruments were capable of so much more than they are given credit for. And, that that could be the basis for a programatic coupling: two instruments, under-appreciated, finding each other despite all their differences, and making beautiful music.

M: One of the many things that impress me about your work is how quickly you are able to complete your compositions. It seems to me that you completed Entrometido in less than one month. Is there a secret to your process? Do you have special brain food or routine that helps you write so quickly?

Noah Luna: My teacher, Rafael Hernandez, taught me the value of streamlined compositional technique, as well as the importance of meeting deadlines. He gave me the idea for the Sumi-e Competition that my company sponsored a few years back: a 24 hour composition competition. It got composers to just get to business and crank out their best stuff in a day. You know, get over themselves and just make great music. I loved that. But, the idea became so much more to me with regard to my technique overall: just get over myself, get out of the way of the music, and let it come. Once you get out of the way, music comes much more naturally, and much more quickly. Commissioning parties, and the ensembles they contract, are very appreciative of a composer that can meet deadlines. That’s a big part of why I have been commissioned repeatedly and that all the ensembles I work with are likely to do so again. Not enough composers are aware of how much deadlines matter.

Brainfood? Mexican food – I live by the stuff. Oh, and a good craft beer to wash it down. Ask anyone I know and they will tell you that I swear by Brother Thelonious by North Coast Brewery. Inspiration in a glass…

M: You are writing a piece for the Berkeley Symphony for their Under Construction Composers Program right now. What is it like to work with such a great organization, composer Gabriela Lena Frank and music director Joana Carneiro?

Noah Luna: Berkeley Symphony, Gabriela, and that whole program are a dream come true. No exaggeration: Gabriela is one of the most helpful, nurturing, and brilliant composers I have ever known. PLUS, the Berkeley Symphony musicians are top-notch in every regard. I cannot imagine a better program for a young composer to be a part of. I plan to get a lot out of this program and use it to make as big a splash as I can in the New Orchestral Music community.

M: When can we hear your piece performed by the Berkeley Symphony?

Noah Luna: April 29th. Visit http://www.berkeleysymphony.org/ for more information.

M: You have a baby named Violet and I hear that you have “morning music time with Violet and daddy” every morning. What kind of music do you listen to together? Does Violet have a favorite composer, other than her daddy?

Noah Luna: Morning Music Time is the highlight of my day, every day, no question. She loves old vocal standards: Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein, etc. That’s the music I love as well. But, I’m not just projecting (I swear!) When she hears a trumpet or a saxophone tooting out the opening bars to “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” or “I Should Care” she freaks out and starts giggling uncontrollably. As for classical music she likes, she digs the big Romantics: Rachmaninoff, Wagner, Brahms. I think she just likes anything loud so she can Ooh and Aah and squeal along and not have it drown out the music.