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  • perc/pf/electronics
  • 33 min

Programme Note

I came of age playing rock and roll. And although I left that musical world long ago, the truth is I've never really felt completely at home in the classical music world. I'm especially uncomfortable with much of the so-called "crossover" music of recent years, in which classical musicians attempt to expand that tradition (and demonstrate their "street cred") through appropriation of elements from pop music.

In spite of this skepticism, Four Thousand Holes is my own effort to re-appropriate and reclaim for myself something of my own musical past. For the first time since my days as a rocker, I've chosen to restrict myself to major and minor triads - those most basic elements of Western music (both pop and classical). But I've tried to assimilate them fully into my own musical world. Approaching these simple chords as found objects, I've superimposed them in multiple streams of tempo, to create darker harmonies and lush fields of sound.

In recent years I've been fortunate to form a close musical partnership with Stephen Drury. Steve's extraordinary gifts inspired me to explore expansive forms and textures (similar to those of my orchestral music) with only one or two performers. In essence, Four Thousand Holes is a concerto. To begin I composed the score for the electronic tracks. Steve recorded all of the individual chords that occur in the score. I took those recordings, time-stretched them, reversed their envelopes, and knit the reversed sounds together with their original decays. The resulting waves of sound I layered into ten independent tracks to create the virtual "orchestra". Next I composed the piano part, articulating the peaks of all the electronic tracks simultaneously - a feat of coordination that demands considerable virtuosity from the pianist. Finally I composed another multi-layered part for metallic percussion sounds that I think of as sparks emanating from the piano.

In Four Thousand Holes, strong musical currents fall and rise, again and again, as points and lines are juxtaposed with heavy, hammered chords. The mix of the "live" and electronic sounds blurs the distinction between musical figure and ground. As in much of my recent music, I conceive of the entire piece as a single complex sonority that evolves slowly. As we settle into the sound, we begin to hear longer lines, counterpoint, and maybe even the occasional trace of a tune.

John Luther Adams



Score sample