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Click here to listen to Tim McHenry, producer at the Rubin Museum of Art, describe the commission and details behind Towards Silence.
Tavener's Towards Silence
Photo credit: Rubin Museum of Art
Brainwave: February 15 - April 23, 2009On April 23, John Tavener’s new work, Towards Silence, for four string quartets and large Tibetan bowl, receives its World premiere at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City.
Conceived after an interview between Sir John and violinist, Paul Robertson in the Summer of 2007, the new work is intended specifically for a "resonant building" and explores the relationship between consciousness and creativity. Inspired by reading René Guénon’s Man and his becoming according to Vedanta, Towards Silence can be seen as a meditation both on the different states of dying and on the four states of Atma, or consciousness: the Waking State; the Dream State; Deep State and Turiya, or that which is beyond existence.
The Rubin Museum provides an ideal setting to experience Tavener’s meditative work. The museum’s galleries – the former home of the Barney’s department store – are focused around an art deco, polished iron, spiral staircase that soars up six flights through the central tower of the building. Originally designed to show off women’s clothes and lingerie, the building now houses one of the country’s most extensive collections of Himalayan and Buddhist art. Using the staircase as the focal point, with each of the four string quartets on different levels of the museum, the audience (who will themselves be on varying floors) will experience the music not in the traditional horizontal plane, but vertically, as the sound rises and falls through the central vortex.John Tavener has two
other premieres in the US
Tu ne sais pas
Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia
Katherine Pracht, mezzo-soprano
Lalishri, for violin and strings
Kansas City Symphony
Michael Stern, conductor
Nicola Benedetti, violin
Tim McHenry, the producer at the Rubin Museum and founder of the Brainwave Series on which Towards Silence premieres, was interested from the very beginning to find music that, “explores the relevence and the impact of meditation and music on the mind.” During McHenry’s research on potential works, he contacted Robertson, who has, McHenry explains, “immersed himself in the cross-hairs of spirituality and music.” It was during these conversations that Robertson and McHenry decided to commission Tavener. Remarkably, Sir John had already expressed interest in writing such a work during his summer 2007 interview with Robertson, as McHenry describes, "four groups of musicians, that the audience wouldn’t necessarily see, performing music that would have spiritual resonance and reflect the four stages of consciousness as a body dies, referring to the Vedanta, a spiritual tradition explained in the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads."
“The seed had long been sewn in Sir John’s mind,” McHenry reflects, “but it just needed a catalyst. This premiere will be a very startling, unsettling, unorthodox, but wonderful experience.”
Towards Silence was commisioned by the Rubin Museum of Art and Paul Robertson’s foundation, the Music, Mind, Body Trust.
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