Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls
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On the Transmigration of Souls
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This is the first recording of Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls (which won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in music), by the orchestra and conductor that commissioned and premiered it. Adams grips from the start, with a slow buildup of taped mundane city sounds, the obsessively repeated word "missing" superimposed on them. The taped texts are drawn from fragments found on missing person posters, newspaper memorials, and the names of victims of the 9/11 attack. Sometimes the taped voices dominate; at others, the chorus intones the texts; the orchestra an ever-present commentator, its impressionistic harmonies fulfilling Adams description of creating a "memory space" where each listener can find a personal response to the events. The orchestra erupts in an overwhelming climax after the words "I wanted to dig him out," managing, in a brief passage, to encompass anger, deep grief, and the enormity of the tragedy. Then it subsides into a long, slow decrescendo overlaid by the quiet recitation of names, as if the souls of the title hover over us. Adams has created music for his time and place that fulfills music's ability to move us. --Dan Davis
The first and still finest work to emerge from the horrors of 9/11, John Adams' 25-minute ''memory space'' interweaves music, choral waves, ambient New York street sounds and the words of victims and family members into a hypnotic, heart-breaking yet transcendent meditation on loss. -- Miami Herald, Lawrence Johnson, July 1st, 2007
Top customer reviews
Once again, however, the piece is not meant to imply despair, but a grief that gives way to hope, as the title implies--souls migrating, perhaps from this earth to a better place.
i only had the former case to go on. i heard influences, some i like, some i didn't. and i prepared a somber mood, and after a few listenings, i got it, the transmigration bit. then i put the cd away, and went back to it later. i listened to it as background music, as incidental music, and i kept coming back to it, and i sat down and listened to it again. it's not compelling music. though it's more than a noble attempt. it's a cd i'm glad i purchased, and it's a compostion i make part of my conversation.
What about the music? There are clear traces of many earlier Adams works, going back to Harmonium, but the harmonic reach (and evocative power) of the music has benefited from Adams's more recent orchestral work (e.g., the quasi-symphony "Naive and Sentimental Music," with a subtle tip of the hat to "El Dorado"). While many reviewers (and possibly Adams himself) see "El Nino" as the self-evident precursor to "Transmigration," I fail to see a strong relationship (if only because "Nino" is episodic, while "Transmigration" is more of a monolithic arch). Adams slips between harmonies by having voices (human and orchestral) enter and leave the fabric in a manner reminiscent of Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande," albeit couched in Adams's distinctive idiom. The results are stunning, and most assuredly moving. Adams had the right palette to bring to the table to personalize the victims of 9/11 so very vividly. If you are an Adams fan (as I am), don't buy this because you're a completionist: buy it because it is outstanding. Kudos to Maazel for bringing this overwhelmingly powerful work to vivid life.