Sunday, September 11, 2016

John Adams' "On the Transmigration of Souls"

Cover of the Nonesuch Records CD
I'm listening to this well-known John Adams piece on this 15th anniversary of 9/11. The piece, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003, is a 25-minute composition for orchestral, chorus, children's choir, and a pre-recorded tape of mundane phrases of people who were looking for their loved ones on that day. (1)

Wikipedia quotes an interview with Adams: "I want to avoid words like 'requiem' or 'memorial' when describing this piece because they too easily suggest conventions that this piece doesn't share. If pressed, I'd probably call the piece a 'memory space.' It's a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions. The link to a particular historical event – in this case to 9/11 – is there if you want to contemplate it. But I hope that the piece will summon human experience that goes beyond this particular event.... Transmigration means 'the movement from one place to another' or 'the transition from one state of being to another.' But in this case I meant it to imply the movement of the soul from one state to another. And I don’t just mean the transition from living to dead, but also the change that takes place within the souls of those that stay behind, of those who suffer pain and loss and then themselves come away from that experience."(2)

Here is the piece, conducted by Lorin Maazel:




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