Strange and Sacred Noise
John Luther Adams
Percussion quartet Strange and Sacred Noise by John Luther Adams. An immersive concert experience, audience is liberated from their seats and is given the freedom to roam around the venue. Recordings are all shot on 360 camera to re-create the experience
Water, Wine, Brandy, Brine
Percussion quartet written for 15 wine glasses. Water, Wine, Brandy, Brine explores the various sounds that can be produced from playing crystal glasses as musical instruments, from the bell-like sounds of “toasting” the glasses, to the theremin-like singing produced when the rims are played.
Ah Yes, The Three Genders
“Ah yes, the three genders.” The meme started as a joking response to things like a trio of airport signs labeled “Men,” “Women” and “Telephones,” or an application form whose options are “Male,” “Female” and “Business.” Over time, it was extended to refer to any group of three things. In the case, the three genders are metal, wood and skin — the three materials that pair with the vibraphone in the piece’s three movements. The title is also a playful nod to my and the performers’ queerness. “Metal” (featuring cymbals, bells and chains) consists of three versions of the same tune, in three wildly different styles: haunted music-box lullaby, chill-out jazz, and Very Fake Early Music. “Wood” (featuring woodblocks and shakers) is a perpetuum mobile with a habit of getting stuck. “Skin” (featuring drums and mouth sounds) is the longest and maybe the strangest, with dissonant, sensuous chords that keep getting diverted into blurry polyphony or staggering polyrhythms.
Evergreen is a thirty minute, five movement work for Marimba, Vibraphone and Glockenspiel. I finished writing this piece in December 2020, approaching the longest night of a very long year. Thinking about the experience of isolation and hardship brought on by a global pandemic, I found hope and solace in Cooper’s poem The Shortest Day. Her words reminded me of our ancient relationship to the Solstice. How for many cultures, across many generations, it has been a time of celebration and joy. A time where in the midst of dark days and bitter cold we feel the possibility, indeed the inevitability of light triumphing over darkness. For me, the sense of hope and joy expressed in this story, served as a beautiful reminder of our collective resiliency in the face of great difficulty.
Over the course of five movements, Evergreen anticipates, celebrates, and looks beyond the solstice. Beginning with Fading Light the music builds intensity with ever expanding intervallic patterns, creating a moody space of anticipation and longing. Sleeping Land, a sparse, nocturnal respite, follows with a moment of quiet contemplation. Shortest Day bursts into an explosion of energy and sound, reflecting the wild celebrations of the solstice itself, while Longest Night, expresses an austere, somewhat somber reminder of the darkness that still envelops the winter landscape. Finally, we arrive at the Rosy-Fingered Dawn. It is a new day and a a quiet optimism emerges. Hushed certitude in the coming light gradually blossoms into a more forceful expression of hope and rebirth.
The Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows: Ambedo
Program note: The concept for this piece comes from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a collection of words invented by John Koenig that “aims to fill a hole in the [English] language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.” The title for this piece comes from the definition for “ambedo.”
ambedo n. a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details— raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—which leads to a dawning awareness of the haunting fragility of life, a mood whose only known cure is the vuvuzela.