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John Luther Adams

The Immeasurable Space of Tones
Taiga Press (BMI)
Works for 2-6 Players
30 Minutes

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Programme Note
John Luther Adams The Immeasurable Space of Tones
Number 5, 1950 was Mark Rothko's last painting before the breakthrough into his mature format. In it the luminous colour fields of a classic Rothko are are inscribed across the middle with three delicate lines.

Describing this painting and its pivotal position in Rothko's work, Brian O'Doherty observes: "After this the lines disappear completely."

In recent years gesture and figuration have disappeared from my music. What used to be background has emerged to become a musical world composed entirely of floating colour fields.

In this new world I've changed media, moving from the orchestra to smaller combinations of acoustical instruments and electronically-processed sounds. I still think in orchestral terms, but this hybrid medium allows me to create orchestral textures for more practical and readily available ensembles.

Initially I imagined this as a kind of monolithic music - an entire piece as one rich and complex sound. Then I came to hear it as homophonic or heterophonic. And now - in this musical world that I thought was completely free of lines - I've come to hear a polyphony of harmonic clouds.

Maybe the lines never disappear completely. Maybe Christian Wolff was right when he quipped: "No matter what we do, sooner or later it all sounds melodic."

John Luther Adams

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  • Soloist(s)
    Marty Walker, Amy Knoles, Robin Lorentz, Bryan Pezzone, Nathanial Reichman, Barry Newton
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