Thanks to a video maven from Bart's Books, here's what the final movement of composer John Luther Adams' Strange and Silent Music looked like this morning at Besant Hill in Upper Ojai.
During the entrancing performance, which began on the drums, moved to the east for a soft thudding playing of the gongs, to the south, to the west for xylophones, and then back to the drums, the composer Adams walked around and listened from various spots on the low hill where the performers, from a percussion group based at UC San Diego called red fish blue fish.
According to the program notes, this piece grows out of "the overwhelming violence of nature…a violence at once both terrifying and comforting, transpersonal and purifying." That description evokes cacophony and danger, which the piece itself only hinted at, with soft drums rolls set against sharp snare banging, and the sounds flowing out into the fog as the sun came up.
After the performance I told Adams I thought the piece was wonderful.
"I'm not sure I like it," he said. "But this piece doesn't care if I like it or not."
I asked him about the gongs, and he said he didn't have a good word for that sound a gong makes as it is hit softly, and brassily expands without pealing, but he said the piece was about resonance. Resonate it did, throughout the upper valley.