The five ensembles perform individually or together in any combination.

  • winds (, brass (, voices (, 16 percussion, strings (
  • 1 hr 5 min

Programme Note

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. But it’s also something more. Sila is intelligence. It’s consciousness. It’s our awareness of the world around us, and the world’s awareness of us. In this time when we humans are so dramatically changing the earth, Sila: The Breath of the World is an invitation to stop and listen more deeply.

Sila is scored for five ensembles of 16 musicians - woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings, and voices - who may perform the music in any combination, successively or simultaneously, outdoors, or in a large indoor space. The musicians are dispersed widely, surrounding the listeners, who are free to move around and discover their own individual listening points.

Sila comes out of the earth and rises to the sky, floating upward through sixteen harmonic clouds, grounded on the first sixteen harmonics of a low B-flat. All the other tones in the music fall “between the cracks” of the piano keyboard - off the grid of twelve-tone equal temperament.

Like the harmonies, the flow of musical time in Sila is also off the grid. There is no conductor. Each musician is a soloist, who plays or sings a unique part at her or his own pace. The sequence of musical events is composed, but the length of each event is flexible. The music breathes.

A performance of Sila lasts about an hour. There is no clearly demarcated ending, as the music gradually dissolves back into the breath of the world.

— John Luther Adams 


Sila: The Breath of the World
Sila: The Breath of the World at Lincoln Center, New York, 2014
Sila: The Breath of the World at Balboa Park, San Diego, 2015



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