Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowning
John Luther Adams
About this work:
Composed 1991 - 1995.
Quantum physics has recently confirmed what shamans and mystics, poets and musicians have long known: the universe is more like music than like matter. It may well be that our most fundamental relationship to the great mysteries is one of listening. Through sustained, concentrated attention to the fullness of the present moment, we listen for the breath of being, the voice of God.
Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing is a work of musical contemplation, an attempt to consecrate a small time and space for extraordinary listening. The work is titled after The Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th Century mystical Christian text which has much in common with the teachings of contemplative traditions throughout the world, be they Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sufi, Native American or other. The essence of the contemplative experience is voluntary surrender, purposeful immersion in the fullness of a presence far larger than ourselves.
The Cloud of Unknowing teaches that we can achieve communion with God only through the Grace of divine Love. To prepare ourselves to receive this gift, we must enter a state of quiet stillness, suspended between heaven and earth. Above -- between us and God -- lies a mysterious "cloud of unknowing", which our understanding can never penetrate. Between us and the world, we must create a "cloud of forgetting", leaving conscious thought and desire below. In this timeless place of forgetting and unknowing, we may begin to hear that for which we are listening. T.S. Eliot said it this way:
"We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity for a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation..."
From an essay by John Luther Adams
Year composed: 1995
Ensemble type: Orchestra:Chamber Orchestra
Instrumentation: 2 Flute, 2 Clarinet, 2 Horn in F, 1 Trumpet, 1 Bass Trombone, 2 Percussion (General), 1 Piano, 1 Celesta, 2 Violin, 1 Viola, 1 Cello, 1 Double bass
Instrumentation notes: 2fl(I,II=picc), 2cl(II=dbcl)