Faculty Spotlight: Nick Omiccioli - Metal Collisions

Dr. Nick Omiccioli is currently an Assistant Professor in the Composition department at YST Conservatory. This Tuesday (13 February) he will be presenting his Forum Series ‘Faster, Louder: When Heavy Metal And Classical Music Collide’ at the Steven Baxter Recital Studio at 5.30pm. We sit down with Dr. Nick to find out more about what makes him tick.

1. You describe yourself as “metal guitarist living in a composer’s body.” What sort of influence does metal have on your composition style and methods?

I wanted to pursue music after I heard a distorted electric guitar for the first time. I thought to myself, “I want to be able to make that sound!” For me, a lot of what I take away from metal has do with energy, aggressiveness, and re-imagining the sound of the electric guitar using “classical” instruments.

2. What are some of your favourite metal bands? Which classical composer do you feel is the most “metal?” Why?

Metallica is my all-time favourite metal band—it’s the reason I started playing guitar. Lately I’ve been digging the Ne Obliviscaris. It’s an extreme metal band from Australia with a diverse range of influences like progressive rock, jazz, classical, flamenco, and avant-garde that contribute to its sound. In addition to a drummer, bassist, and two guitarists, its lineup includes one harsh vocalist and one clean vocalist who also plays violin.

I think Stravinsky and Bartók wrote some of the most “metal” classical pieces. Regarding the Rite of Spring—how many other classical pieces caused a riot at their premiere? Their music has this primitive and brutal rhythmic energy yet at the same time is sophisticated and well-crafted.

3.  You teach composition to all students (including non-composition majors). Could you tell us more about that?

Ms. Adeline Wong, Dr. Chen Zhangyi, and I teach composition to all of the students in the conservatory during their first- and second-year theory modules. Our curriculum is structured around composition, analysis, and performance, and we use composition as a way for students to synthesize the musical concepts and materials covered in class.

Become familiar with as much music as you can and have an open mind. It’s easy to dismiss something that you may not like upon first listen.
— Dr. Nick Omiccioli, Assistant Professor, Composition

4. What advice do you have for any aspiring composers?

Become familiar with as much music as you can and have an open mind. It's easy to dismiss something that you may not like upon first listen. I also encourage composers to keep everything they write, whether it is a complete piece, a sketch, or a scribble—you never know when you may need it!

5. Tell us about one of your works that you like the most and of which you’re most proud.

I’m very proud of push/pull—the piece I’m sharing in my lecture. This piece is important to me because it brings together some of my favorite things about contemporary music and metal. It was also a “break out” piece for me because it has been performed so many times. I’m honored that a piece I like has received so much attention—it makes me feel like I’m doing something right.

6. Could you share your favorite quote from the movie 'This is Spinal Tap' with us? 

I used my favorite quote from the film during the first semester I taught at YST. We were analyzing a short Debussy prelude in class that had an extended passage in D minor. Referencing a quote by Nigel Tufnel­­—Spinal Tap’s lead guitarist—I asked my students, “did you know that D minor is the saddest of all keys and that when people hear it they weep instantly?” Much to my surprise, I was met with blank stares and complete silence. I asked the students if any of them had ever seen This is Spinal Tap, and again: stares and silence. I told the students to go watch the movie. When I asked the students to turn in their scores, I saw that many of them had scribbled “D minor is the saddest of all keys” and “watch Spinal Tap” in the margins of their papers!

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Dr. Nick will be presenting his Forum Series 'Faster, Louder: When Heavy Metal And Classical Music Collide' this Tuesday, 13 February, 5.30pm at the Steven Baxter Recital Studio. Admission is free.