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The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies

by John Luther Adams

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Percussionist Steven Schick, an original member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, releases his first full-length CD on Cantaloupe Music in conjunction with his first book, which promises to be the definitive volume about percussion in the 20th-21st Century.

A former percussionist himself, John Luther Adams finds music from the earth and brings it to life in composition. Expect an unadulterated ambient soundscape that takes a journey through different sonic textures and environments, aided by beautiful production and Schick's breathtaking performance.

John Luther Adams on The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies:
I've always envied the hands-on relationship that painters and sculptors have with the materials of their art. The real substance of music always seems just beyond our reach. Still, music is a tactile phenomenon.

Several years ago I composed Strange and Sacred Noise, a cycle for percussion quartet celebrating noise in music and in nature. One of the Noise pieces is scored for four tam-tams, playing waves of different periods that eventually crest together in an enormous tsunami of sound. When I first heard this piece (which was written for and premiered by the wonderful Percussion Group Cincinnati) I was startled. Amid the dense masses of broad-band noise I clearly heard voices, like a choir singing long, wordless tones. I called these "angel voices." And I wanted to hear them alone...

I began this work by composing a new cycle of quartets. Steve Schick came to Alaska and recorded these pieces one part at a time. I assembled the recordings and then began filtering them as I'd previously done with the tam-tams. The result was a series of "auras" derived from the inner resonance of the instruments themselves. As the final step, I composed a series of solo parts to be performed within these sonic fields."

All the instruments in Resonant Bodies are noise instruments. They're also generic. Snare drums, tom-toms, bass drums, cymbals, and tam-tams are mainstays of Western percussion. And although each individual instrument sounds different, in a general sense they all sound alike. So it's the percussionist (with his sticks and his touch) who makes them specific, who gives them their particular names and profiles.

Like the listener, the soloist in these pieces is a solitary figure traversing enveloping landscapes of resonance.


released April 11, 2006



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