• John Luther Adams
  • The Immeasurable Space of Tones (2001)

  • Taiga Press (BMI) (World)
  • vibraphonepf.synthvn and contrabass instrument
  • 30 min

Programme Note

Number 5, 1950 was Mark Rothko's last painting before the breakthrough into his mature format. In it the luminous colour fields of a classic Rothko are are inscribed across the middle with three delicate lines.

Describing this painting and its pivotal position in Rothko's work, Brian O'Doherty observes: "After this the lines disappear completely."

In recent years gesture and figuration have disappeared from my music. What used to be background has emerged to become a musical world composed entirely of floating colour fields.

In this new world I've changed media, moving from the orchestra to smaller combinations of acoustical instruments and electronically-processed sounds. I still think in orchestral terms, but this hybrid medium allows me to create orchestral textures for more practical and readily available ensembles.

Initially I imagined this as a kind of monolithic music - an entire piece as one rich and complex sound. Then I came to hear it as homophonic or heterophonic. And now - in this musical world that I thought was completely free of lines - I've come to hear a polyphony of harmonic clouds.

Maybe the lines never disappear completely. Maybe Christian Wolff was right when he quipped: "No matter what we do, sooner or later it all sounds melodic."

John Luther Adams

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