It’s not every day you hear the sounds of the Sonoran Desert all the way up north in Seattle—but that’s exactly what Emerald City Music has planned for their season opener this weekend.
The vogue new chamber series kicks off its second season with the world premiere of a new chamber piece by John Luther Adams titled “there is no one, not even the wind…” Inspired by the stillness and light of the American Southwest, the piece is an immersive desert soundscape scored for two flutes, strings, piano, and a whole lot of percussion (expect to hear glockenspiels, marimbas, vibraphones, and a bass drum or two).
The piece takes its title from a poem by the great Mexican poet Octavio Paz titled Piedra Nativa (Native Stone). He writes, “No hay nadie ni siquiera tú mismo.” (“There is no one, not even yourself.”) Adams takes this line one step further, removing even the wind itself.
“John Luther Adams’ work often resembles minimalism in the sense that it says as much as possible with as little as possible,” said violinist and Artistic Director Kristin Lee, who co-founded Emerald City Music with Andrew Goldstein in 2015. “It’s very ethereal, very atmospheric—often inaudible since it is so soft.”
John Luther Adams became a household name in the classical music community after the Seattle Symphony’s world premiere of Become Ocean in 2013. The 45-minute masterwork went on to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, putting Seattle on the new music map.
“The Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful part of the country, in my opinion,” said Lee, who is performing in this weekend’s premiere. “We have the beautiful water and mountains, and the city, the sound of the people. It’s really the meeting point and the melting pot where nature and the city meets. It’s the perfect place for John Luther Adams’ music.”
Adams’ music also in many ways epitomizes Emerald City Music’s eclectic programming, which highlights new and experimental works alongside jewels of the traditional classical canon. Adams’ music famously transcends all manner of categorization, blurring the boundaries between classical, ambient, jazz, experimental, and other genres.
“John Luther Adams is one of the first, biggest examples of the post-genre world that we’re navigating,” said co-founder and Executive Director Andrew Goldstein. “The connection that his music has defies classical music, defies jazz, defies all these genres and just goes straight to touching the listener.”
Following Emerald City Music’s debut (which is made possible in part by 4Culture), the piece will tour the U.S. for performances by each of its co-commissioners: the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Camerata Pacifica, the Redlands Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Music Northwest.
For this weekend’s Seattle and Olympia concerts, the world premiere is framed by performances of Andrew Norman’s vibrantly colored “Light Screens” and Steve Reich’s canonic, notoriously virtuosic “Nagoya Marimbas.” Also included is a violin and piano rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s iconic “America” from West Side Story, tying in with a larger overarching season theme celebrating Bernstein’s centennial. And for the traditionalists: Dvorák’s sparkling Piano Quartet in E-flat Major.
“The way that Kristin [Lee] does her programming is so much about connecting to people and letting music touch you beyond just the barriers of what classical music is,” Goldstein said. “She really allows the genre to live outside of itself a little bit.”
Emerald City Music’s performances of “there is no one, not even the wind…” are this Friday, September 15 at 8pm at 415 Westlake Ave in Seattle and Saturday, September 16 at 7:30pm at the Washington Center in Olympia. For tickets and additional information, please click here.