• 3perc
  • 9 min

Programme Note

I began Always Very Soft in the spring of 1973 and completed it more than three decades later.

Originally the piece was scored for percussion trio and de-tuned cello. I conducted that version in my final semester at the California Institute of the Arts. In time, I came to regard it as my last student work and withdrew it from my active catalogue.

Fast forward thirty-some-odd years to the spring of 2007.

For quite some time, I'd had in mind to compose a perpetual acceleration canon - music that seems always to be getting faster, but somehow never really does. As I pondered this I remembered that piece from long ago. So I dug out the old score and looked it over.

From my new perspective, it seemed to me that my younger self had been attempting to composer a continuum of discontinuities - weaving disparate timbres and velocities into a subtly articulated whole.

This new version of Always Very Soft contains not a single note from the original version. But I hope it conveys a more coherent and essential distillation of that early musical thought.

The entire piece is conceived as a single sonority - a seamless continuum of constantly-changing pitch, timbre and velocity.

Player 1 plays six graduated Metal instruments
Player 2 plays six graduated Glass instruments
Player 3 plays six graduated Membrane or Wood instruments

Instruments should be chosen for maximum resonance and continuity of sound.
All instruments should have similar decay times.

Attacks should be light, and as uniform as possible. All instruments should be played with the same implements - wooden skewers, light sticks, brushes, or with the fingers.

As the titles suggests, dynamics should be very quiet throughout. However, the instruments may be amplified to enhance the richness and complexity of the sound.

John Luther Adams