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New York, NY—Veils and Vesper (Premiere of the performance version)

October 16, 2021 - October 24, 2021


Experience an immersive sound installation within the Winter Garden palm trees as part of Brookfield Place‘s annual music series, New Sounds Live, curated by WNYC.

The installation titled, Veils and Vesper, is a composition of synthetic sounds by John Luther Adams that is formed by the interactions of a mathematical algorithm and prime numbers to create a sensuous, ever-changing soundscape.

The installation will be accompanied by live music performances on October 21 and 22. Stay tuned for more details!


Veils and Vesper is my most rigorously mathematical work. It’s also one of the most unabashedly sensuous. Over the past fifteen years it’s been installed all over the world — in museums and galleries, concert halls, atriums, churches, and a monastery. But this installation in the Winter Garden is the most complete and extended realization of the work.

This is also the premiere of the performance version. From the beginning, I imagined musicians winding their way through this sonic labyrinth, playing and singing in tune with the acoustically perfect intervals of the electronic sounds.

There are three Veils and one Vesper. All are exactly 6 hours in length and are designed to be heard either successively or concurrently in any combination. At the Winter Garden, the installation will run 18 hours a day, for 9 days in a cycle that allows a listener who is present at the same time on successive days to have a completely different experience.

On Thursday evening, a quartet of singers, will perform within Vesper. And on Friday evening, the JACK Quartet and bassist Robert Black will perform within the Veils.

Veils and Vesper is woven from long strands of pink noise rising and falling, passing through “harmonic prisms” of filters tuned to prime number harmonics 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29 and 31— at speeds related to one another by the same numbers as the tunings.

The resulting fields of sound fill the air with many tones sounding at any moment. But it’s often difficult to distinguish one tone from another. They tend to meld together into rich, ambiguous sonorities in which the higher tones sound like harmonics of the lower tones. The timbres are clear and slightly breathy, like human voices mixed with bowed glass or metal.

The Veils encompass 10-octave range and a total of 90 polyphonic voices. (Falling Veil contains 35 voices, Crossing Veil contains 30 voices, and Rising Veil contains 25 voices.) Vesper encompasses a 4-octave range and 18 polyphonic voices.

You, the listener, are invited to create your own individual “mix” of this piece. You may choose to move around. Or you may decide to root yourself in a fixed listening point, basking in the coloration of a single sonic field.

As you listen, you might ask yourself: Can I distinguish the sonic field of one Veil from the others? How many distinct voices can I hear at once? You might try to follow a single voice, one long melodic thread, from the top to the bottom, or the bottom to the top of its trajectory. Or you could just surrender and lose yourself in the sea of sound.

— John Luther Adams


October 16, 2021
October 24, 2021
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Winter Garden at Brookfield Place
230 Vesey Street
New York, NY 10281 United States
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