VIDEO: Thomas Loewenheim conducted a performance of “Waterless Music” during a concert by the FOOSA Orchestra at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in June 2015.
The Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra will perform “Waterless Music,” an orchestral composition written by Dr. Benjamin Boone that features poetry by the late Philip Levine, during its season premiere performance on Sunday, Oct. 9. The program is water-themed, and also includes “Moldau” by Bedrich Smetana and “La Mer” by Claude Debussy.
This will be the first time the piece will be performed by an entity unaffiliated with the University.
Boone said this about his composition of the piece, which was commissioned by the Youth Orchestras of Fresno:
When I was commissioned to write a piece about water I first thought of its essence and its physical qualities: its various forms and peculiarities like its expansion and buoyancy when it freezes, or the way it evaporates, forms clouds, falls to earth and flows over surfaces. But in California in 2015, one cannot consider water without considering the lack of water we are experiencing. Water is everything. We are water, and we depend on water to sustain all life. Fields that used to be green and full of life are now brown. Small communities have watched their only wells dry up. Lakes are at their lowest levels in decades. Millions of trees in the Sierra are dying. Air quality is deteriorating.
As I contemplated how to put all of this into music, the Fresno area community experienced the loss of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine. It was also a personal loss. I, along with several other musicians, had been collaborating with Philip on a CD project – a modern integration of music and poetry tentatively called “The Jazz of Word.” So after Philip’s death, in remembrance of him and to the work we had done together, I went back and listened to the tracks we had recorded. Somewhat unexpectedly, I noted that Philip frequently used water, rain, and dryness as metaphors. I began writing these down and categories began to emerge. I then excerpted the audio of these spoken phrases and created a montage – a narrative that goes from the beginning of earth’s existence, to water, to rain, to dark clouds, to a violent storm, to environmental collapse, to fallow land and infertility and finally to a complete lack of water. Once I finished the recorded narration track, I composed the orchestral music around it.
KVPR‘s Ezra David Romero included “Waterless Music” in a segment he did called “The Drought Sessions: A Mixtape for a Drying California.”