• John Luther Adams
  • Dark Waves (two piano version) (2007)

  • Taiga Press (BMI) (World)
  • 2pf/electronics
  • 2pic.2.2+cbcl.2+cbn/2.2.2+btbn.1/2perc/pf.cel/str/electronics
  • 12 min

Programme Note

The original version of Dark Waves is scored for symphony orchestra with electronic sounds. This version (for two amplified pianos and a recorded “aura” of electronic sounds) is in some respects an altogether different piece.

The pianos should be as closely matched in sound as possible. Both instruments should be amplified and mixed with the aura to create a unified sea of sound.

The aura is exactly 12:00 in duration. Running time is shown in the score, at 24-second intervals. The pianos begin and end with the aura, and both aura and pian-os play throughout.

A high-quality stereo sound system is essential. Because of the strong low-frequency content, a subwoofer speaker is required. Earpieces are necessary for the pianists to hear the click track, and monitor speakers are also recommended.

Piano 1 should be situated house left/stage right. Piano 2 should be situated house right/stage left. The pianos and the loudspeakers should be far enough apart to create a strong left/right stereo image, but close enough to create a strong central image as well. The speakers should be situated close enough to the pi-anos to blur the distinctions between the aura and the live (un-amplified) piano sound.

The dynamic range of Dark Waves is very wide. A successful performance requires well-defined gradations from the threshold of audibility to full fortissimo. Careful attention to the quiet end of the dynamic spectrum is especially important. The peak of the central crescendo (6:00) should be very loud, but not harsh.

In addition to this score, large format parts are available for performance.

As I composed this music I pondered the ominous events of our times: terrorism and war, intensifying torms and wildfires, the melting of the polar ice and the rising of the seas. Yet even in the presence of our deepening fears, we find ourselves immersed in the mysterious beauty of this world. Amid the turbulent waves we may still find the light, the wisdom and the courage we need to pass through this darkness of our own making.

John Luther Adams

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