Sila: the Breath of the World

September 25, 2015

A total of 80 student musicians joined forces to present the Midwest premiere of “Sila: The Breath of the World” by John Luther Adams. Featuring performers from the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, the concerts were presented under the musical directorship of Donald Nally, Ben Bolter, and Doug Perkins of eighth blackbird. 

Adams, who received the Bienen School’s 2010 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, spent three days on campus working with students in preparation for the two performances, which launched a yearlong celebration in honor of the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts.  

Written to be performed outdoors without a conductor, the hour-long piece is designed to gradually dissolve into the larger sonic landscape of its specific location. Each of the musicians is a soloist with an individual “map” indicating the exact pitch and the approximate time to play. A smartphone application, developed specifically for this piece, generates the pitches and provides a stopwatch.

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