|The Light That Fills the World CB0010|
These three works exist amid an undeniable esthetic spirit of the timesthe embracing of pre-compositional principles and structural processes in the service of a highly personal artistic statement. However, John Luther Adams' recent work tends to transcend his compositional devicesit is simply potent, compelling music that is timeless in its sublimity. This is quietly expressive music in which process never intrudes on the music's "sounding," but churns away in the background, while the foreground shimmers with a simple yet great joy in the very making of sounds. It is a music that may be readily appreciated on both intellectual and sensual levels.
Glancing quickly at the inner-workings beneath the music's kaleidoscopically changing surface-textures:
The Light That Fills the World (1998/2001), which was commissioned by the Paul Dresher Ensemble, develops via ever-expanding musical intervals in each of its instrumental parts, forming something of an arch, pivoting around the tritone, and at the same time a continuous rampthe smaller intervals steadily giving way to the larger. The rhythmic subdivisions of the bars reflect the tessitura of each part's pitches in a broad harmonic spectrum (a la some of Henry Cowell's theories)with higher notes moving with smaller subdivisions of the barproviding a natural polyrhythmic motion.
The Farthest Place (2001) develops in a way that is consistent with the architecture of The Light That Fills the World, but here the harmonic world is pentatonic rather than diatonic.
The Immeasurable Space of Tones (1999/2001), the largest and most complex of the three pieces, might be considered five joined-at-the-hip movements, each of which has an interval expansion and contraction life of its own, yet also falls within a larger overall scheme of interval growth.
The composer has written about his recent music:
"The ideal of the sublime landscape has long been an obsessive metaphor for my work. But my recent musical landscapes are more introverted, a little less obviously connected with the external world. If in the past, the melodic elements of the music have somehow spoken of my own subjective presence in the landscape, in this newer music there are no lines leftonly slowly changing light on a timeless field. All the edges are blurred. All the sounds meld into one unbroken aural horizon. Harmony and color become one with space and time.
"In a sense, the colors of this music are independent of instrumental timbre. The notes themselvesthe combinations of intervals, their registers, the duration of the sounds and the density of the texturescreate a kind of additive synthesis that evokes the colors.
"If the works on this recording constitute a breakthrough in my music, it was a long time coming. From the earliest works in my catalog I now hear an inevitable evolution to this new sound world. Over the course of 25 years, line and figuration gradually disappear. What began as background has emerged to become a musical world composed entirely of floating color fields.
"With this new music came new mediaI moved from the orchestra to smaller mixed ensembles of electronic and acoustic instruments. These ensembles allow me to create expansive orchestral textures in a more practical and accessible medium.
"Initially I imagined this as a kind of monophonic (or monolithic) musican entire piece as one rich and complex sound. Then I came to hear it as homophonic or heterophonic. And now, after composing four works in this world that I thought was completely free of lines, Ive come to hear it as a sort of polyphony of harmonic clouds."
"Adams's music can be superficially described as the intersection of two diverse influences: Feldman and Cowell . . . his scores bear the ubiquitous marks of Cowell's multitempoed rhythmic structures . . . The Feldman influence manifests itself as a delight in delicately balanced sonorities used as recurring images . . . The variety of dreamy textures Adams achieves with a few simple materials is lovely." Kyle Gann, American Music in the 20th Century
Amy Knoles is a percussionist and composer who has performed with the California E.A.R. Unit, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Basso Bongo, John Cage, Frank Zappa, Morton Subotnick, Steve Reich, Tod Machover, Flea, The Paul Dresher Ensemble, Quincy Jones, Ensemble Modern, The Bang On A Can All Stars, and many others ensembles. She has performed at concerts and festivals throughout the world, including the Helsinki Festival, the Spoleto Festival, the Sommer Theater Festival (Hamburg), the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Cyber Arts Festival, the Aspen Dance Festival, and the Ojai Festival. She has recorded for Sony Classics, Barking Pumpkin, Voyager CD-ROM, New Albion, Nonesuch, New World, O.O. Discs, CBS, RCA, Relativity, Echograph, and Crystal Records. She may also be heard on Marty Walker's Cold Blue CDs Dancing on Water and Adams/Cox/Fink/Fox. Knoles
"An unbroken, slowly shifting, many-hued sound texture. Frequently energized by internal ripples and coruscations . . . major sevenths, ninths and higher combinations sounding as massive harmonic suspensions and conveying, metaphorically, a sense of enormous, uninhabited open space in which the only event is the slow and constant play of changing light upon an immense sky and a glacial landscape." Intl Record Review
"The sound of this music is that of overlapping planes of sound, almost as though upper and lower overtones of some immense background fundamental pitch (or pitches) were whistling by. . . . it gives the listener a sense of amplitude and space that is heartening. It both relaxes and invigorates. . . . this is music from someone who knows who he is and what he wants. . . . I appreciate Adamss devotion to his art and generosity of spirit. The musicians (most of them from the elite California EAR Unit) perform with similar devotion. Robert Carl, Fanfare magazine
"The three pieces on this CD ... are each very similar, perhaps like three views of the same icy landscape ... Time seems frozen ... In this long walk in the snow, each boot step takes more time, and sound itself is suspended in the cold air. The sound and performance on this CD is exquisite." Richard Friedman, Shuffle Boil
"This is blindingly beautiful, a fullness that sustains the spirit in peace and quiet energy . . . sumptuously performed . . . The overall atmosphere is hushed and expectant . . . But there is danger, grandeur, mystery, and power, too: a searing Great White sensuality that cannot be ignored." Mark Alburger, 21st-Century Music magazine
"The icy cover gives some indication of the shimmering crystal music inside. How six musicians make such a dense, hovering, magical sound is beyond me. This is 'contemporary classical' if you need somewhere to file it, but it has clear links to minimalism, drone, electronics, ragas, and whole lot more. . . . This is careful, mesmerising music. Rupert Loydell, Tangents (U.K.)
"Three clouds, three impalpable puffs of vapor . . . The music is beautiful, the title is beautiful . . . we are faced with the latest miracle of new music . . . the magic incense of delightful sonority, picking up the lights coming from a world invisible to the other senses. . . . weaving a complex fabric . . . from those blessed regions that feed the soul and the brain so well." Deep Listenings (Italy)
"This album explores the hidden regions between Ambient and minimalism. . . . an atmospheric texture. . . dominated by harmonies with a certain heavenly air." Amazing Sounds
"The world is signified here by an ethereal quality, literally teeming with shimmering polyrhythms." I Heard a Noise webzine (Romania)
"It's dreamy music that has a great sense of landscapes." Vital Weekly (The Netherlands)
an enormous geography of sound." ei magazine
"Three compositions by Adams that confirm his marvelous, chilly sense of northern space. 'The Farthest Place' is a lush, brightly elegant, somewhat Steve Reichian piece that puts the listener firmly in the arctic, the keyboardists and Knoles providing a luminous bed of rhythms. A bright discovery. The title work is less sumptuous than this because its mysterious and withholds something. But its just as enjoyable and near-zero. 'Immeasurable Space of Tones' is somewhere between the first and second pieces, again filling the listener with a sense of great space, cold and wonder. In fact all three tracks seem like parts of a larger piece. Their titles dont exaggerate, and they would, like many Cold Blue releases, appeal to fans of holy minimalism, even though I havent seen any info that specifically indicates that any of the labels composers are mystics. Richard Grooms, The Improvisor
"I've been running around town grabbing every copy I can find to send as gifts to friends in the Lower 48. . . . he's come a long way toward evoking the feel of Alaska in sound as well or better than most wilderness writers or photographers do in print or on film. His recent work defies categorization. . . . This is music of healing, best heard alone with plenty of time and no distractions. It lacks the cloying, sugary mindlessness of much that's marketed as new age or meditative music. It's more brainy and secure than that, though the sense of being outside one's body, an unconscious observer, pervades each alluring configuration. Above all, it shimmers and sparkles like sun on diamond snow on a subzero day, which is why I'm shipping the CD to friends. "This is what it's like to be here," I tell them. By which I don't mean mosquitoes or rush-hour traffic in the dark or black ice after a williwaw, but being deep in the Chugach alone on a clear, windless day, or watching endless flakes fall outside your kitchen window on a morning when you have nothing important to pull you away from enjoying the view." Anchorage Daily News
" rapturous piano a lush wash a multi-level sound bed an ambient art fixture and a pretty one." Exposé
"This [The Light That Fills the World] is from 2002, but I discovered it this year  and I listen to it constantly. It's immensely, transcendently beautiful. Also really fascinatingly and subtly structured so that it has the effect of being a sprawling, drifty ambient record yet with this thorough sense of movement and purpose. thetorturegarden.blogspot.com