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Soundwaves Presents a Spiritual New Music Odyssey


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By Jorge Casuso

March 27, 2024 -- Three contemporary works that stretch the boundaries of acoustic music will be performed in the Edye Theater at the Broad Stage next month.

Part of the Soundwaves new music series, the free concert on Saturday, April 6, at 3:30 p.m. is co-produced with the Venice-based Cold Blue Music label, known for its post-minimalist recordings.

The first piece on the program is the LA premiere of “Darkness and Scattered Light” by Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning composer John Luther Adams.

Written for five double basses that consort to create droning passages sometimes resembling electronic music, “Darkness and Scattered Light” was inspired by the landscape and weather of the Great North.

Adams' music, wrote composer and Village Voice music critic Kyle Gann, "perfectly echoes the landscape he loves: impersonal, relentless, larger than human scale, yet gorgeous, a quiet chaos of colors, suffused with light.

"It’s not a climate everyone could live in. But for those who want to bathe their ears in an aural aurora borealis while staying warm inside, it’s a spiritual odyssey well worth taking," Gann wrote.

Released by Cold Blue Music in September 2023 with all five bass parts played by the late Robert Black, the piece will be performed by James Bergman, John Graves, Reginald Jackson, Christopher Roberts and Jeff Schwartz, with Nicholas Deyoe conducting.

The second piece on the program, “Flying,” composed by Roberts, is drawn from his “Trios for Deep Voices” for three double basses and, like Adams' composition, is inspired by nature.

But the piece "is much more active," according to concert organizers, "capturing the sounds and movements Roberts observed while living in the Papua New Guinea jungle in the 1980s."

In the jungle, Roberts said he "took part in drumbeat initiations and listened to the sound of hornbills in flight" and "was overwhelmed."

"I had a dream in which I moved my bow across the strings of the bass in an entirely new way that recreated the drums, and the hornbills’ wings, and the voices of the people whose every song tells a story."

Julian Cowley, writing in The Wire magazine, called it "an experiment in hearing the dynamics of an unfamiliar environment" that is "an elegantly reverberant, harmonically rich and gracefully delineated composition for resonant strings."

The concert concludes with the world premiere of “Tiny Thunder,” by Nicholas Chase, for two players on one piano, performed by Brian Pezzone and Jennifer Logan.

Chase -- who is known for using a laptop, turntables and video in his performances -- began performing his solo piano compositions in 2008.

Soundwaves was created by librarian/musician Jeff Schwartz and composer Daniel Rothman in 2016 to present cutting-edge music at the Santa Monica Public Library.

It has received grants from the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library and the Amphion Foundation.

There is free parking at the Broad Stage, several bus lines stop nearby, and there are bike racks. The Edye is wheelchair accessible. To request additional accommodations call (310) 458-8600.

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