Caballito Negro & friends will present John Luther Adams’ beautiful, nine-movement work songbirdsongs, at Portland State University. The second of three performances scheduled for the 2018-19 season, we are excited to present the following amazing musicians to perform with us:
- Sophia Tegart, piccolo, ocarina – Washington State University
- Chris Whyte, percussion – Portland Percussion Group, Portland State University, Western Oregon University
- Paul Burdick, percussion – Graduate Student, Portland State University
John Luther Adams says about the work, “These small songs are echoes of rare moments and places where the voices of birds have been clear and I have been quiet enough to hear. Now and then this magic finds me wandering (like one of Harry Partch’s Lost Musicians) in search of my own voice.
If I have abdicated the position of Composer (with a capital “C”) it is because, like ee cummings: “I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten-thousand stars how not to dance.” After all, what do we really create but answers to Creation?
This music is not literal transcription. It is translation. Not imitation, but evocation. My concern is not with precise details of pitch and meter, for too much precision can deafen us to such things as birds and music. I listen for other, less tangible nuances. These melodies and rhythms, then, are not so much constructed artifacts as they are spontaneous affirmations.
No one has yet explained why the free songs of birds are so simply beautiful. And what do they say? What are their meanings? We may never know. But beyond the realm of ideas and emotions, language and sense, we just may hear something of their essence. From there, as Annie Dillard suggests, we can begin “learning the strange syllables, one by one.”