Albeit in a strange slow-motion effect, we are carried away by this monumental homage to the physical AND metaphysical power of the world, as represented by the American John Luther Adams (not to be confused with the post-minimalist John Adams). Grandly, but slowly, Adams’ orchestra breathes in and breathes out, vibrates, illuminates, molts and transforms, as if it were the voice of the entire Earth, like a single living organism.
For almost an hour, we are overwhelmed by a sound worthy of a slow-motion tsunami. The symbolism is all the stronger because recorded during the pandemic, the ensemble was divided into five basic constituents: strings, winds, brass, percussion and a choir. No one subgroup could hear the other for obvious reasons. What’s more, the score is constructed in such a way that each musician in each group is invited to play a part of the score at their convenience. No two performances will ever be the same. Sila: The Breath of the World thus becomes a fabulous metaphor against isolation and in favour of human resilience. Dozens of artists each created a collective work of performance, sound and music. In the collective, individuality can exist.
Sixteen ‘harmonic clouds’ based on the first sixteen harmonics of a low B flat form the basis of the work. Only sustained notes, in crescendos-decrescendos that skillfully intertwine. Through the ever-changing clouds, glittering flashes of light appear and let their rays linger, undulating and dancing in their turn.
“Sila” comes from the Inuktitut language and means ‘the wind and the weather, the forces of nature, but also, more metaphysically, our awareness of the world and the world’s awareness of us’. The meaning is holistic and aims at a transcendent Totality, perfectly connected to what is heard.
This is a masterpiece that must be seen and heard on stage one day. Fascinating, haunting, bewitching, seductive, overwhelming.