To be performed outdoors.

  • for horns in multiples of 8
  • 23 min

Programme Note

Across the Distance was commissioned by Glasgow Life, Southbank Centre and East Neuk Festival.

It received its premiered at the East Neuk Festival at the Cambo estate on July 5 2015, led by Alec Frank-Gemmill, and its London premiere at Southbank Centre as part of David Byrne's Meltdown Festival, featuring players from the London Sinfonietta.

Across the Distance is scored for an ensemble of natural horns, or valve horns played in natural style. If valve horns are used, they should be played in the manner of natural horns - that is, by “lipping” the notes, without utilizing the valves. This will produce non-tempered, acoustically perfect intervals grounded in the natural harmonic series. No attempt should be made to “correct” the tuning of these intervals.

There are four parts for horns in F, and four parts for horns in Bb. The minimum ensemble size is eight players, one per part. There may also be more than one player per part, playing in unison.

For larger performances, the piece may also be played with multiple ensembles of eight parts. In this case, each successive ensemble should begin approximately 1:00 to 1:08 after the previous ensemble.

Time in this music is somewhat flexible. Precise coordination of events between parts is not necessary. However, the musicians should use stopwatches to observe the sequence of events and approximate times of entrances, as indicated in the score and parts.

When performed by a single ensemble of eight parts, Across the Distance should last about 22:30. Each additional ensemble of eight will add approximately another minute to the total duration.

This music is conceived for performance outdoors. If it is performed indoors, it should be in a large space. Generally speaking, the larger the performance site is, the larger the ensemble may be.

The music should begin in a central location. Over the course of the performance, the musicians should move out into the landscape. After playing each figure, each musician should walk farther from the center before playing the next figure. If the performance site does not allow the musicians to move, they may be deployed at fixed stations.

In all performance configurations, listeners should be free to move about freely, or to sit in one place and listen as the music moves around them.

John Luther Adams
March 2017


Across the Distance performed at the Royal Festival Hall, London, 2016