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  • Writer's pictureladiesvoices

LA Phil Sound Stage: 2nd season, 4th episode

The fourth concert of the LA Phil second season of Sound Stage was centered on a piece from 1982 by John Adams, *Grand Pianola Music.* The concert started with a conversation between Dudamel and Adams. Adams said the piece was the “craziest, wackiest” piece he’s written. It was inspired by a dream: in the dream he was driving on the highway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Two limousines pulled up beside him, one on either side, and they miraculously turned into grand pianos.

The piece is scored for winds, percussion, two pianos, and three female singers (amplified). No strings. I love Adams and this is a perfect example of his early style: full of rhythmic vitality, an unusually static sense of harmony, a beautiful use of orchestration to vary the texture, music that stimulates the brain and (a phrase I’m using a lot lately) ravishes the ear. But let me tell you, that slow burn of undulating harmony, don’t be fooled by it! Big changes to come.

This concert did something very unusual for the Sound Stage series - - about five minutes into the first movement, the video switched from a film of the musicians to a film of trees in the forest. Were they redwoods? This switch didn’t bother me, it was just a surprise. We had a few minutes of that and then went back to the Hollywood Bowl and the performance. They made the switch when the singers came in, and it was fun to see them singing, each in their own little COVID Lucite booth. It was fun watching them conduct themselves, to keep track of the rhythm. In an unobtrusive way, of course. Why the hell not. The film went back and forth a few times, between footage of the performance and pre-recorded nature videos. It was lovely, a nice change of pace.

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