Samuel Adams, Light Readings (2016) | World premiere of a MusicNOW commission

Duration: 28 minutes
Instrumentation: 25 voices and eight instruments
Copyright: Samuel Adams

I) good morning, sunshine
II) with regard to the sun…
III) o, eyes
IV) when one looks to the body of the sun…
V) light me, hide me
VI) with regard to an individual…
VII) safety
VIII) error of sight…
IX) in this weather
X) morning light…
XI) good morning, sunshine

The composer writes:
Light Readings is scored for 25 singers and eight instruments. The form is in eleven parts. The odd-numbered movements are based on the five Rückert poems that Gustav Mahler set in his song cycle Kindertotenlieder. The even-numbered movements serve as interludes, each set to a passage from Hasan Ibn al-Haytham’s Book of Optics, an 11th-century treatise on visual perception and the physics of light.

‘The texts that correspond to Kindertotenlieder are my own. Some are quarried fragments from Rückert’s poems, some are distilled rewritings of them, and some are found objects germane to their contents. The texts that correspond to Book of Optics draw from A.I. Sabra’s 1992 English translation of Ibn al-Haytham’s treatise.

“The instrumental ensemble consists primarily of sustaining low-register instruments and resonant pitched percussion. The piano is equipped with a transducer speaker, which creates artificial sine wave resonance. The odd-numbered movements are musically varied, allusive and involve all singers. The even-numbered movements are constructed of similar musical materials and are sung by a SATB [soprano, alto, tenor and bass] vocal subset.

“I began sketching Light Readings toward the end of 2015 and completed the score in May 2016. During this period, I split my time between St. Louis and Chicago. My deepest gratitude to Donald Nally, the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble and the members of CSO for the first performance of this work. Light Readings is dedicated to my mother, Deborah O’Grady.”

About the composer:
Samuel Adams (b. 1985, San Francisco) is a composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music. His inventively orchestrated and atmospheric works draw from traditional forms, noise and digital culture. His work has been hailed as “mesmerizing” and “music of a composer with a personal voice and keen imagination” by the New York Times and “wondrously alluring” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Adams has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, San Francisco Symphony, New World Symphony, Emanuel Ax, and St. Lawrence String Quartet. In 2015, Adams was named a Mead composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. During his tenure with the CSO, Adams will create new works for the orchestra and co-curate the CSO’s critically acclaimed MusicNOW series with  Elizabeth Ogonek, fellow Mead composer-in-residence.

Recent highlights include collaborations with pianist Sarah Cahill, David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony, and violinist Anthony Marwood, for whom Adams wrote a violin concerto. In fall 2014, his Drift and Providence, a work co-commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony and New World Symphony, was featured as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s national tour. Future collaborators include Emanuel Ax, Spektral Quartet, members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Adams was recently awarded a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship (Umbria, Italy) and will be an artist-in-residence during summer 2017.

A committed educator, Adams frequently engages in projects with young musicians. In 2014, he was in residence with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America and composed a work that was premiered under the baton of David Robertson. This summer, Adams will be in residence with National Orchestral Institute and will work with its fellows to create a recording of Drift and Providence, which will be released on Naxos. Adams also regularly works with the students of the Crowden School in Berkeley, Calif., both as a conductor and composition instructor.

Adams grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he studied composition and electro-acoustic music at Stanford University while also performing as a jazz bassist in San Francisco. Before working in New York City between 2010 and 2014, Adams received a master’s degree in composition from the Yale School of Music. He currently lives and works in Chicago.