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Length: c. 25 minutes

About this Piece

As much as music can be about a place, Eden Interstates is music about California. The three movements sketch an emotional cartography between images of my native state that carry both personal significance and poetic suggestions of its false premises and shortcomings: of sublime and catastrophic feats of engineering, of mining (once gold, now data), of I-5 (methane-blasted and perilously suspended over collapsing aquifers), of, as Wallace Stegner put it, turning “valleys into gardens and rivers into plumbing systems”—of the very idea that California is a series of misfired visions, an invented place gotten wrong time and time again, from Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s mis-imagining the state in the early 16th century as an island just on the other side of paradise, through Tom Joad’s ill-fated mis-imagining the state as a surefire economic Eden, all the way up to Silicon Valley’s mis-imagining the state as a tech utopia where algorithms dictate the minutiae of our lives.

For music dealing with an idea as grandiose as California, I thought it made sense to put the organ front and center. Beyond its infinite sonic palette and its ability to both whisper and swallow an orchestra whole, the organ also signifies (to me, at least) a kind of metaphysical reaching, its very history being rooted in the desire to bridge flesh and spirit—a sound that seems appropriate for a place with dreams beyond its grasp.
The unusual ensemble of instruments—brass, percussion, pianos, electric guitars, and a microtonal synthesizer—is meant to both counterbalance the monumentality of the organ and host a panoply of musical elements I associate with my home state: AM radio static, the sound of echoing timber, drippy surf-rock guitar reverb, foghorns…

I recently moved to Seattle—perhaps I’m feeling nostalgic.

Eden Interstates is dedicated with affection to James McVinnie. My sincere thanks to the LA Phil for the opportunity to write this work. —Samuel Adams