JOHN LUTHER ADAMS (b.1953): Sila: The Breath of the World. University of Michigan Department of Chamber Music musicians; University of Michigan Percussion Ensemble; The Crossing; JACK Quartet; Donald Nally.
Catalogue Number: 11Y033
Description: This monumental piece, unlike some of the works of Adams' that we’ve offered recently, for smaller forces or electronically transformed field recordings (impressive and varied as those are), returns to the vastness of landscape of the extraordinary "Become" trilogy (River, Ocean, and Desert - 07V012, 10Q010). Sila: The Breath of the World was written around the same time as Become Ocean, and the processes at work in the piece are similar to those of the trilogy - a huge orchestra, swelling masses of sound, consonant, slow-moving chords, often surrounded by an aura of dissonance. Here, the means to the end are somewhat different, as is the overall dramaturgy of the work. Sila is scored for five groups of sixteen musicians each; percussion, brass, woodwinds, strings, voices - which in live performance are positioned around the performance space, surrounding the audience and providing a literally immersive experience. The material is precisely composed, and in fact is precisely notated in sixteen harmonic clouds, grounded on the first sixteen harmonics of a low B-flat, with additional pitches derived from these and thus microtonally adrift from equal temperament. A good deal of freedom is given to the musicians, who can adopt their own tempi and entries within a prescribed framework; as the composer says: "The sequence of musical events is composed, but the length of each event is flexible. The music breathes." e. The sequence of musical events is composed, but the length of each event is flexible. The music breathes." Adams explains: "In Inuit tradition the spirit that animates all things is Sila, the breath of the world. Sila is the wind and the weather, the forces of nature." In musical terms, this is represented by the inexorable ebb and flow, the slow undulations, the textural changes of huge, fluid masses of sound, beginning with a magmatic eruption of gargantuan subterranean energy, and, with each successive pitch-cloud becoming more luminous and ethereal, finally seeming to move beyond the limits of hearing and fading out in pitchless breath sounds. Musicians of the University of Michigan Department of Chamber Music; University of Michigan Percussion Ensemble; The Crossing; JACK Quartet.