Meet the Cone Composers: Patrick O’Malley
Patrick O’Malley is a composer of orchestral, chamber and film music. He is inspired by mysterious dichotomies in nature and art, composing music that often embraces abstract worlds and emotions rather than concrete images. When writing a new piece, O’Malley considers the listener’s imagination as much as every other musical element—an admittedly and enjoyably subjective endeavor. His works have been performed across the United States and also in Europe.
Q: What experiences have shaped your path as a composer?
A: Music has always acted for me as a gateway into my own imagination. The images and emotions I experience when listening to music really inspire me to write something that can have that same effect on other people. I began in music with piano lessons, but eventually discovered that composing unlocked a far more vibrant and fulfilling world of expression for me then practicing and performing ever did. I’ve devoted almost all my efforts to writing since then. Any type of music that can directly engage with that mysterious sense of imagination and emotions, whether it is a classical piece, a film score or a prog rock album, etc., has probably influenced my work in some way. Living in a musically vibrant city like Los Angeles has helped me to discover which ideas of mine are most salient and what I have to contribute to contemporary music that feels unique.
Q: how would you describe your music to a listener?
A: I most often write either for chamber ensembles, orchestra or films. My pieces vary wildly from one to another in terms of inspiration—I’ve written about nature, paintings, cities, the sky, other people’s music, etc.—but one word that links each piece together is “balance.” My pieces are often inspired by dichotomies—I tend to have a difficult time writing a piece with only one idea. I find that I need at least two to “compose between” in order for anything interesting to happen. I’m a big fan of music that is anchored in a familiar place but travels to strange and new sounds during its journey. Whatever subject it is that I’m writing about, I believe that as long as it moves me creatively, the chances that someone in the audience will also be moved by it is very high.
Q: What inspired your Cone Institute work?
A: I refer to Rest and Restless as an “emotional landscape.” It’s a piece that presents two sorts of moods: one angsty and dark, the other more hopeful and lyrical. The music sways between these two worlds until they eventually collide and the orchestra explodes with sound. It’s inspired not just by my own emotions, but also by a feeling of looking at grey clouds that are somehow simultaneously peaceful yet turbulent. There is no “story” behind the piece, but I like the idea of the audience approaching this work like a slow movement of a symphony, where they can map their own emotional experiences onto the music without me telling them what to think.
Q: What do you hope to gain from the Cone Institute?
A: This will be the first time that Rest and Restless has been fully rehearsed and performed by a professional orchestra. I’m very happy with the piece as is, but having a week with the NJSO is sure to iron out any remaining kinks in the notation or parts, and it will hopefully be the best that the music has ever sounded.
Q: A left-field question: if you were a baseball player, what would you choose for your walk-up music?
A: Forty-three minutes and 33 seconds into Mike Oldfield’s Amarok, or something equally as joyous and obscure.
Connect with O’Malley
Don’t miss the world premiere of Rest and Restless with the NJSO on July 20 at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton!
Meet the 2019 Cone Composers
» Patrick O’Malley