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John Luther Adams's Everything That Rises, commissioned by SFJAZZ and the JACK Quartet, is an ever-in-motion virtuosic just-intonation work built of a series of 16 ascending musical “clouds.” Its pitches are derived from the harmonics of the piece’s subsonic fundamental tone (C0).
The composer writes: “Everything That Rises, my fourth string quartet, grew out of Sila: The Breath of the World—a concert-length choral/orchestral work I composed on a rising series of 16 harmonic clouds. This music traverses that same territory, but in a much more melodic way. Each musician is a soloist, playing throughout. Time floats and the lines spin out, always rising, in acoustically perfect intervals that grow progressively smaller as they spiral upward…until the music dissolves into the soft noise of the bows, sighing.”
“Everything That Rises is art without artifice, and its beauty transports the listener into a timeless place outside of everyday experience, surely one of music’s most exalted goals.” —New York Classical Review
“Everything That Rises finds Mr. Adams exploring dissonance and just-intonation tuning, in the gentlest of ways…. [It] is dominated by variations on an ascending figure that ends in a trill. In staggered fashion over the course of an hour, the members of the JACK brought this motif into successively higher partials of different fundamental notes. As one string instrument lagged behind or shot ahead of the others, the effect was pleasingly druggy: dissonant, but not in an overpowering way…. When the players briefly aligned in the same harmonious cloud, there was a sense of release.…” —The New York Times
“Nature and spirit inform every magical page of Adams’s music, and the premiere performance of Everything That Rises last Friday showed the powerful effect of all his formative influences. For an hour, the rapt audience was immersed in strands of sound rising at intervals growing progressively smaller. It could be the sound of paint drying to a detractor, but composers like John Cage and Morton Feldman also knew the almost painful beauty of slow musical evolution and the silence between the notes. Adams brings to mind, with transcendent concentration, the atmosphere of Feldman’s own Rothko Chapel and even the dying strands of Mahler’s Ninth. Everything That Rises takes us to a very still place within. Mere words cannot describe it, but music can conjure it. Something tells me John Luther Adams’s ‘sounds in the air’ may well be an answer to a famous koan.” —Bay Area Reporter