Compiled by Jared Miller
Invisible Distance for cello and orchestra (2014-15)
- In the slow time of stars
- Within darkness
Inspired by events that occurred during the writing of this concerto, Invisible Distance is a meditation on the theme of isolation – physical, social or emotional. In the tradition of a Romantic concerto, the soloist serves as a protagonist, though rather than approaching the orchestra as a complementary or conflicting element, I instead sought to create a sense of musical distance between the soloist and the ensemble.
The cello begins alone in the opening movement, “Spheres”. Gradually, orchestral colours and harmonies emerge from and develop the cello’s material, though the soloist and orchestra progressively diverge into separate musical planes throughout the increasingly turbulent movement. The second movement, “In the slow time of stars”, features a wistful melody on the cello, while the orchestra remains distant with soft, high shimmering chords. This is a gentle movement, meant to capture the stillness and vastness of a black night sky. The third movement, entitled “Within darkness”, begins with quiet tension and skittish, angular fragments in the cello. Rhythmically erratic gestures in the cello become increasingly aggressive and explosive, igniting the orchestra and building to a climactic peak.
Invisible Distance was commissioned by the Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra with funding provided by the Canada Council for the Arts.
In A Flash (2002)
In A Flash was commissioned in 2002 by The Vancouver Symphony. It was Bramwell Tovey’s first season as their conductor, Tania Miller was assistant conductor, and Rodney Sharman was their composer-in-residence and was responsible for commissioning me (thank you, Rodney!). I have very fond memories of writing this piece. Amazingly, I was living on a houseboat in Amsterdam for 3 months, and, in studying for this piece, I would go to hear Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra once or twice a week. I was able to get the same seats every concert. First row of the chorus seats, just 5 feet behind the tympanist! It was great. Not only were the the most ecconomical seats in the hall, you felt like you were right in the orchestra. I and perhaps 7 others occupied those seats. No idea why no one else sat there.
Tonight we play an arrangement of half of that piece; the rhythmic and rambunctious 2nd Movement. A large part of my background is performing jazz, pop and world music, so this use of energetic, momentum-based composing is a not uncommon feature. – JK
Mojave Dreaming (2014)
- Heat Haze
- Dust Devils
I. Heat Haze
Distant sounds and sights emerge unfocused
The heated air causes objects in the distance to shimmer and blur
The sun gradually reaches its zenith, illuminating a parched landscape
Serpents, lizards, critters bask in heat of the sun.
A fiddler can be heard, playing figures.
The wind begins to blow
Joshua trees rock side to side
The wind picks up dust in greater and greater quantities
The dust forms into a cloud
The fiddler still plays
The haboob moves on
III. Dust Devils
The wind turns and dust devils appear here and there
Hot air rushes up the vortex
Cooled by the surrounding air the dust devils quickly dissipate.
Lament of the Wind (2016)
This piece was inspired by a very moving experience I had visiting Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem several years ago. At the end of the museum’s exhibits that tell the tragic story of the Holocaust, there exists a memorial called “The Hall of Names,” which commemorates every Jew who died in the Holocaust with photographs, brief biographies and pages of testimony. Following this is an outdoor balcony that overlooks the city of Jerusalem. The day that I visited Yad Vashem was unseasonably windy and when I stepped outside onto this balcony, I could hear the wind’s wild whistling and rustling sounds. In the context of just having observed the emotionally moving Hall of Names, I couldn’t help but hear the lamenting cries and whispers of those who were lost in the sounds of the wind. This piece aims to capture the wind’s non-‐pitched whispering quality and its sighing lamenting nature, as well as the pathos that I felt as I visited this powerful memorial. –JM
John Luther Adams
Become River (2012-2013)
Become River was commissioned by Steven Schick and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in 2014. In Luther Adams’ words:
Steven Schick and I were having dinner together. I was just beginning work on a large-scale piece for the Seattle Symphony. So when Steve asked me if I might be interested in composing a new piece for The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, I must have hesitated.
Deftly, Steve asked me to tell him a little about the Seattle piece. I went on at length about the music I’d begun to imagine, finally concluding:“It’s called Become Ocean. The title comes from a poem that John Cage wrote in honor of Lou Harrison.” Cage observed that the breadth and variety of Harrison’s music make it “resemble a river in delta.” He concluded that:
LiStening to it
“So you’re already composing a symphonic ocean,” Steve said. “Maybe for a smaller orchestra you could go ahead and compose that river in delta.”Steve had me, and I knew it. Within a week I’d begun work on Become River.
From a single high descending line, this music gradually expands into a delta of melodic streams flowing toward the depths.I now imagine this river and its related ocean, as part of a larger series of pieces encompassing desert, mountain, tundra, and perhaps other landscapes and waterscapes.