Spatial Sound

Dark Waves

John Adams, Secret Cinema, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Paul Oomen

On November 16th, 4DSOUND hosted at the main stage of Blown Away, a one day festival in the port of Rotterdam, where Secret Cinema together with Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Paul Oomen, created a new accompanying spatial sound score with the orchestral work Dark Waves by composer John Adams.

Dark Waves is a 2007 musical composition in one movement by the American composer John Luther Adams. It was commissioned by Musica Nova for the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, who premiered the composition in 2007. The piece is dedicated to the Alaskan conductor Gordon Wright, who died a few days before the world premiere.

Dark Waves was the first time Adams mixed electronics with a symphony orchestra, about which he wrote in the program note, "I began with an impossible orchestra - large choirs of virtual instruments, with no musicians, no articulation and no breathing - sculpting layer upon layer into expansive waves of sound. Then I added the human element. The musicians of the real orchestra impart depth and texture, shimmer and substance to the electronic sounds. They give the music life. Their instruments speak in different ways. They change bow directions. They breathe. They play at different speeds. They ride the waves."

Adams constructed these musical "waves" on perfect fifths, using tempo relationships of 3, 5, and 7. He wrote, "At the central moment, these waves crest together in a tsunami of sound encompassing all twelve chromatic tones and the full range of the orchestra." The composer concluded, "As I composed Dark Waves I pondered the ominous events of our times: terrorism and war, intensifying storms and wildfires, the melting of the polar ice and the rising of the seas. Yet even in the presence of our deepening fears, we find ourselves immersed in the mysterious beauty of this world. Amid the turbulent waves we may still find the light, the wisdom and the courage we need to pass through this darkness of our own making."