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Interview with Gabriel Stossel

Gabriel Stossel, a 2020 graduate of New Albany High School, is a musician and composer. This fall, he will begin his studies at The Cleveland Institute of Music to pursue a degree in music composition.

Q: When did your interest in music begin?

A: It is kind of difficult to pinpoint exactly when my interest in music began; however, I would have to say that it began at around the age of ten when my father gave me a recording of  Ravel and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. After listening to this piece my immediate thought was “this sounds amazing — I would love to write something like this.” At the time I knew nothing at all about music. I didn’t know how to play piano, I didn’t know how to write music, heck I didn’t even know how to read music.  My father had an electric piano that he allowed me to use. I printed out a chart that displayed all of the notes, their corresponding keys on the piano, and their names.  

It was quite a challenge, but I eventually wrote a piece of music (albeit a very bad one). I continued to write (primarily for the piano), and my father gave me a few piano lessons. It took a decent amount of time, but I eventually became quite fluent at reading and writing music. In sixth grade I decided to join my middle school’s concert band and I learned how to play the clarinet.  I continued writing music for piano and even started to branch out into other instruments. By eighth grade I decided to arrange a piece of music for my middle school concert band. It was another very difficult task, but it was very rewarding. By the end of eighth grade, I knew for certain that I wanted to have a career in music composition. 

Q: Do you prefer to compose music in any specific form (sonata, concerto, symphony, etc.)?

A: In the past, I would have preferred to write in a specific form, but nowadays, I think of form in terms of an overarching shape to the piece. I don’t really write in a form such as sonata, prelude, symphony, etc., but I write a piece of music where the form provides structure to the overall idea of the piece. For me, the idea of a piece is one of the first concepts that come to mind; afterwards, I create my own structure that helps define and support the overarching idea of the piece. 

Q: Is there any particular composer (or composers) that is your favorite or influences you the most?

A: I really do have so many favorite composers; it is so difficult to narrow it down to just a few though. I really like the music of Thomas Adès, Kaija Saariaho, and Toru Takemitsu. I also really enjoy progressive rock and big band Jazz in general, but this is only scratching the surface.  

Q: What, if anything, inspires your music?

A: Usually art, in general I have found that art has been of great inspiration for me when writing music. My music is also influenced by literature and sometimes philosophical ideas.   

Q: What does the process of writing a piece look like for you? 

A: Generally speaking, when I start writing, I often have to find a specific idea or subject to write my music about. Typically the subject of a piece is often something that I have an affinity towards. After finding out the topic of the piece, I generally spend some time planning how I want the piece to sound: what instruments to use, what pitches to use, what shape to use, etc.  After spending some time planning, I start the writing process. During this process I usually spend half of my time writing and the other half of my time editing and revising the piece. That being said, the revision and editing process usually lasts much longer than the actual writing process itself. After I have finished writing the piece, I go on to typing/engraving the piece on the computer. This is the typical writing process for me as of now; that being said, the writing process for me is slightly different for every piece, and I am trying to work on methods to improve upon my process. 

Q: What’s next for you?
A: I am going to the Cleveland Institute of Music! I will attend the Cleveland Institute of Music for undergraduate BM studies in music composition starting the fall of 2020.

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