Sila: The Breath of the World
John Luther Adams’ music has always struck an interesting balance between the austerity of minimalism and the grandeur and sublimity of the Romantics. Named after an Inuit word connoting everything from air to spirit to weather, Sila: The Breath of the World joins Adams’ other late-period works in combining multiple ensembles—string quartet, choir, percussion, and woodwinds—into a sound both ethereal and enormous, steady but endlessly changing. (Adams himself points out that the piece is basically a series of musical events performed without conductor, with the duration of event being at the discretion of the player—as good a compositional recipe for a cloud as any.) As always, the wonder of the music is offset by the persistent melancholy of knowing that, like Adams’ oceans and deserts, the wind might not sound like this for long.