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"Of Paradise and Light": The composer and her work

Watch the full performance here. Created by All Star Orchestra.

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  • leaf grey style avatar for user Michœl
    Can anyone better describe what is meant by the 'color' of the music?
    (12 votes)
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    • leaf blue style avatar for user Peterson
      The color of music does not directly relate to visual colors, such as purple, blue, and green; instead, it has to do with sound color, such a the dark, ringing quality of the gong, or the bittersweet, "tart" sound of the oboe. When we deal with musical colors, you will notice that references to taste, small, and sight are often referenced, such as above. Sound is a unique sense, just as all the others are, but we still often bring in the other senses when we try to describe something we hear. When looking at art, we often say a color is "loud" or "silent," just as we say that a timbre of the orchestra is "bright" or "dark." Everything is interrelated in the arts, and music is no exception.
      (23 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Greg Borton
    When the composer is talking about how the music feels, it reminded me of something. My son is a trumpet player and said he will literally see shades of color when he is playing. A sad piece of music turns the sheet music a tint of blue, fast up beat music will cause him to see shades of yellow, red, or orange. Has anyone else experienced this or heard of this?
    (9 votes)
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  • leaf orange style avatar for user Jeff Kelman
    The text on the screen spells the composer as "Augusta Reed Thomas" and then at one point we see the title page of a work of music and the name is spelled "Augusta Read Thomas"...

    Which is correct?
    (3 votes)
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  • male robot hal style avatar for user Tom
    What is an Orchestra with only Violins? How is it "pure heart" without the Woodwinds or Percussions or Brass Instruments?
    (3 votes)
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    • mr pink red style avatar for user Erik Natanael Gustafsson
      Actually, the orchestra started out as only strings in the 16th century, because the string instruments were the most developed ones at the time and you could create the most homogeneous timbres with strings as opposed to flutes, reeds and other early wind instruments. When it comes to "pure heart" though, that's just a matter of taste, although you could still argue that the strings are the most homogeneous instrument combination.
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user epp
    It is very interesting to hear about Augusta Read Thomas' process of composition, what she does when she feels something does not sound right. This makes me wonder, in general: what does it take for a composer to be recognized as a composer? Firstly by themselves and then by others? For their work to be chosen to be played by an orchestra and therefore transferred to the ears of a listening audience? What are the criteria? Taste in music is clearly subjective, having listened to the stories of composers whose work was rejected and later accepted and loved. So how is this decided, that someone is a legitimate composer whose work it is worth "putting out there" for people to listen to? Is there some kind of an organization that decides? And what features are their decisions based on? Thank you in advance to anyone who might be able to provide insight on this.
    (2 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user dollyrauh
      To be called a composer, you must create and produce a body of written music for various ensembles and instruments. To be called a working composer, you must have these pieces played by actual musicians. However, all compositions are not equal, and there are a number of broad things that judges, teachers, and music directors are looking for when they select a composition to be performed, commissioned, or as a winning entry into a competition, etc.: originality of a) melodic, harmonic, and motivic material, b) orchestration and instrumentation, and c) subject matter, as well as clarity, concision, play-ability, and natural flow of the aforementioned qualities. Obviously, a lot of this is subjective, but there is definitely a distinction between bad, good, and great compositions that well-trained ears can perceive. Hope this helped answer your very good question!

      (3 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user R3hall
    When he hear the piece in , is that secundal harmony that we hear?
    (3 votes)
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  • winston baby style avatar for user Eric
    What family is the Violin in? Is it a string instrument? I'm not quite sure. I see a lot of violins in the orchestra.
    (1 vote)
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    • purple pi teal style avatar for user CaylavR
      Yes the violin is in the string family because of the strings used to play the instrument. Other instruments in the string family is: the viola, the cello and the double bass. Most orchestras use violins but there are some orchestras that only use the woodwind family. (that is instruments that makes their sound if you blow into them. Like a flute, clarinet and lots more.)
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user liang liang
    Why did she write it for the San Francisco girl choir?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user C.J. Korzonthowski
    why do violins have a f next to the strings
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

(slow orchestral music) - When I'm first starting a composition, there is not one particular way in which I work. So every composition starts maybe from a different impulse. Of Paradise and Light came about when I received this wonderful letter from Gerry. - When I was asking my friends of long standing to write works for my final season in Seattle, I asked 18 composers and Augusta was one of them and she immediately accepted to write one of these Gund/Symoni commissions and we premiered the piece in September of 2010. (bright orchestral music) - Because Of Paradise and Light is an arrangement of the work I wrote for the San Francisco Girl's Choir, the structure of the piece is in many ways related to the original text, which is text by e e cummings and very beautiful poem that has a particular form with a repeating line. Now of course, when one hears the string orchestra version, they're not gonna be hearing that text, but in some ways it's a song without voices. Of course there are many of those in the history of music. - It's a very short work, but full of things and it just jumps from one idea to another and yet it does have a tremendous ability to feel like a whole work. But she has the great descriptions, she wrote resonant, with more emotion, energized and spry, joyful, suddenly warm, resonant, faster with sunlight in mood and color, inner and calm. In a way, her words are as poetic as e e cummings's words are, I think, as is her music. She writes only for the strings, but with no double basses. And it gives a very different color and a very different sound to the string orchestra. - I love writing for strings. It's been a huge passion of mine for 30 years. And in fact, it's hard for me to write music that doesn't have strings in it. One of things about in Paradise and Light is just the pure beauty of these incredible musicians in this all-star orchestra with incredibly careful bowing and vibrato choices and the way that these harmonies are voiced. The piece in some ways is very simple and elegant. But on the other hand, it builds up to these rich harmonic fields that kind of melt and reemerge and things of this kind. And the way that one plays that is very important on a string. I think another characteristic of the piece is that it's relatively high in register. It's moving up and that's why this image of Of Paradise and Light, that we're moving toward some other, other world, or other place and I think that the technique of playing it is something that the audience would really enjoy because it's very simple and therefore it becomes very hard. There's no makeup in this piece at all. It's just pure heart. (building orchestral music) - Augusta Read Thomas's Of Paradise and Light is a short work and it's interesting the way it's constructed. It's constructed in what I would call gestures. So you have a first gesture, and then there's a stop. There's an actual feramata and then there's a moment of pause. It's not an arbitrary moment of pause. She actually writes that. And there's another gesture. And there's another moment of pause. And then another gesture, and it continues in that way. At the same time, it does feel unified. The language is consistent. The material isn't really repeated. It's just developed constantly. I think part of the reason is because the tempo is pretty much the same throughout. Yes, some a little faster, a little slower. The color of the orchestra is just those two violins, viola, cello, with doublings obviously. There aren't woodwinds, brass, there's no double bass. There's no percussion. It helps us see this work as a unified whole because the color is very much consistent throughout. And she uses this silences in very poignant ways. (music swelling) - I think it's wonderful when the notes feel right. I mean, in other words, when I'm composing, if it doesn't feel right, I stop. If I'm sort of (grumbles) can't get this section right, I just stop because I know that I will just be putting band-aids on something that's not correct. I have to go back to the drawing board, start over, get the flow, get the feel, get the line, sing it, feel it, dance it, and then I know that it's going. (music continues) - Augusta Read Thomas's Of Paradise and Light is a hugely effective piece, very different than most of her music, but I think equally wonderful. (bright music continues) (music swells)