Acclaimed by the New York Times as “an alluring, mystical new work” when it premiered outdoors at the city’s Lincoln Center in July 2014, John Luther Adams‘ large-scale Sila: the Breath of the World is so carefully orchestrated that the recording itself pushes the limits of how to capture multiple ensembles of musicians in one setting. Thanks to modern technology and the magic of multi-tracking (with producers Doug Perkins and Nathaniel Reichman at the controls), Sila maintains the composer’s vision as a grand invitation to the listener “to stop and listen more deeply.”
Featuring The Crossing choir, JACK Quartet and musicians and percussionists from the University of Michigan, this recording of Sila took years to coordinate (due in part to pandemic-related lockdowns and travel precautions), but eventually took place over the course of several days in March 2021.
Much like Inuksuit (2009), widely known as Adams’ large outdoor ensemble piece for percussion, no two performances of Sila are ever really the same, because each musician is allowed the freedom to play or sing a unique part at his or her own pace. On a macro level, Sila can also be described as an intelligent entity all its own — a living, breathing organism that takes on the collective intent of its performers, and its composer, to transcend the forces of nature and become, in a sense, a “breath of the world.”