Radiance for Bassoon and Electronics


Radiance for Bassoon, Live Electronics, and Lights depicts moments in scripture in which God’s presence is made manifest.

The first movement, Genesis, refers to Genesis 1:2, in which His Spirit came over the deep. The bassoon moves between it’s lowest Bb, a fundamental note, and mutliphonics while the program refracts the sound into four harmonies, emanating from each speaker. The lights create a sun rise over a sea, with occasional amber bursts as reflections from the waves.

The second movement, Elijah is a meditation on Elijah as he waits by the brook (1 Kings 17). The bassoon moves between three musical materials: a repetitive note (time passing); low, manic outbursts (despair/psychosis); and a high, lyrical line (hope/calling out). The lights and electronics react to each register of the bassoons sound; obscuring, granulizing, and distorting the sound.

This movement moves directly into the third, Prayer. Here is Christ praying on the mountain (Luke 9:28-36). The bassoon alternates between multiphonics which emerge from the lowest and the highest notes of the instrument. This metaphor works on two levels: us/Christ reaching up to the Father and him reaching down to us, and Christ’s literal transformation on the mountain top in Luke 9. The electronics are mapped to the register of the bassoon, partitioning the sound to visually illustrate the dialogue between low/high, Father/Son.

The fourth movement depicts the appearance of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:19). The bassoon plays a fanfare, with each staccato note triggering a building harmony and a jewel color from the lights. This builds in anticipation until the glory of the New Jerusalem is fully revealed in large masses of harmony and unrestrained fanfares.

The piece ends in a reflection on His Glory as revealed Exodus 34:35. The bassoonist, bathed in golden light (as Moses was when he descended from the mountain), moves between multiphonics, tremolos, and frenetic, upwards scales. This builds towards an ecstatic climax before meditating on some final multiphonics.

The electronics were written in Max/MSP and use DMX-512 protocols. Each sound and visual element is derived or controlled by the incoming sound of the bassoon.

Radiance was premiered by Dominic Panunto in Philadelphia at he Live/Wire Opera Festival.