• John Luther Adams
  • The Light That Fills the World (orchestra version) (2000)

  • Taiga Press (BMI) (World)
  • 2+pic.3.3.2+cbn/[org]/str
  • vibraphone/pf.synth/vn and contrabass instrument
  • 13 min

Programme Note

For much of the year, the world in which I live is a vast, white canvas.

Last winter, reading art critic John Gage's essay "Color As Subject", I was struck by the equivalence between the view out of my window and Mark Rothko's use of white in his paintings. The exquisite colours on the snow and those in Rothko's translucent fields suggested to me broad diatonic washes suffused with slowly-changing chromatic harmonies. Slowly, faintly, I began to hear a new music stripped to its most essential elements: harmony, timbre and texture, suspended in what Morton Feldman called "time undisturbed".

The ideal of the sublime landscape has long been an obsessive metaphor for my work. But the resonance of my recent musical landscapes are more internal, 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 the newer music there are sharply-defined lines - only slowly-changing colours on a timeless white field. All the edges are blurred. Individual sounds are diffused into one unbroken aural horizon. Harmony and colour become one with space and time.

Listening to these "allover" textures, it's difficult to concentrate for long on a single sound. The music wants to move us beyond syntactical meaning, even beyond images, into the experience of listening within an enveloping whole, a transpersonal presence. These seemingly-static fields of sound embrace constant change. But rather than moving on a journey through a musical landscape, the experience of listening is more like sitting in the same place as the wind and weather, the light and shadows slowly change. The longer we stay in one place, the more we notice change.

The Light That Fills the World was written in late winter and early spring when - following the long darkness of winter - the world is still white and filled with new light. If the unrelenting texture of this music embodies stasis, I hope its prevalent tone evokes the ecstatic.

The title of the piece is borrowed from an Inuit song which sings of the close relationship between beauty and terror, risk and revelation.

John Luther Adams




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