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(slow orchestral music) - When I'm first starting a composition, there is not one particular way in which I work. So every composition starts maybe from a different impulse. Of Paradise and Light came about when I received this wonderful letter from Gerry. - When I was asking my friends of long standing to write works for my final season in Seattle, I asked 18 composers and Augusta was one of them and she immediately accepted to write one of these Gund/Symoni commissions and we premiered the piece in September of 2010. (bright orchestral music) - Because Of Paradise and Light is an arrangement of the work I wrote for the San Francisco Girl's Choir, the structure of the piece is in many ways related to the original text, which is text by e e cummings and very beautiful poem that has a particular form with a repeating line. Now of course, when one hears the string orchestra version, they're not gonna be hearing that text, but in some ways it's a song without voices. Of course there are many of those in the history of music. - It's a very short work, but full of things and it just jumps from one idea to another and yet it does have a tremendous ability to feel like a whole work. But she has the great descriptions, she wrote resonant, with more emotion, energized and spry, joyful, suddenly warm, resonant, faster with sunlight in mood and color, inner and calm. In a way, her words are as poetic as e e cummings's words are, I think, as is her music. She writes only for the strings, but with no double basses. And it gives a very different color and a very different sound to the string orchestra. - I love writing for strings. It's been a huge passion of mine for 30 years. And in fact, it's hard for me to write music that doesn't have strings in it. One of things about in Paradise and Light is just the pure beauty of these incredible musicians in this all-star orchestra with incredibly careful bowing and vibrato choices and the way that these harmonies are voiced. The piece in some ways is very simple and elegant. But on the other hand, it builds up to these rich harmonic fields that kind of melt and reemerge and things of this kind. And the way that one plays that is very important on a string. I think another characteristic of the piece is that it's relatively high in register. It's moving up and that's why this image of Of Paradise and Light, that we're moving toward some other, other world, or other place and I think that the technique of playing it is something that the audience would really enjoy because it's very simple and therefore it becomes very hard. There's no makeup in this piece at all. It's just pure heart. (building orchestral music) - Augusta Read Thomas's Of Paradise and Light is a short work and it's interesting the way it's constructed. It's constructed in what I would call gestures. So you have a first gesture, and then there's a stop. There's an actual feramata and then there's a moment of pause. It's not an arbitrary moment of pause. She actually writes that. And there's another gesture. And there's another moment of pause. And then another gesture, and it continues in that way. At the same time, it does feel unified. The language is consistent. The material isn't really repeated. It's just developed constantly. I think part of the reason is because the tempo is pretty much the same throughout. Yes, some a little faster, a little slower. The color of the orchestra is just those two violins, viola, cello, with doublings obviously. There aren't woodwinds, brass, there's no double bass. There's no percussion. It helps us see this work as a unified whole because the color is very much consistent throughout. And she uses this silences in very poignant ways. (music swelling) - I think it's wonderful when the notes feel right. I mean, in other words, when I'm composing, if it doesn't feel right, I stop. If I'm sort of (grumbles) can't get this section right, I just stop because I know that I will just be putting band-aids on something that's not correct. I have to go back to the drawing board, start over, get the flow, get the feel, get the line, sing it, feel it, dance it, and then I know that it's going. (music continues) - Augusta Read Thomas's Of Paradise and Light is a hugely effective piece, very different than most of her music, but I think equally wonderful. (bright music continues) (music swells)