Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw is teaming up with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorus again, for a new work inspired by an artifact of greeting: the ‘Golden Record’ that Carl Sagan assembled to send out to the far reaches of space with the NASA Voyager probes of the 1970s. The piece, for soloists, orchestra, and chorus, is called The Listeners, with texts that range from Tennyson to Lucille Clifton. There are also works by Handel on the program.
There’s more information about the three remaining performances at the PBO website.
They had been talking about this piece for several years, but it came into more focus a year or two ago, she says. “I had this idea that I wanted it to be about how we look out at the universe, and how we think about the music that we make, and why we record things.” On stage for the concert will be a record player, which will play a bit of the actual audio sent out to parts unknown. “It’s a kooky, and wonderful and heartwarming story, and I thought, ‘what if that kind of concept is the basis of the piece?’… There’s a moment where he has greetings in 55 different languages from the earth, which is a really beautiful beginning to the record… I really like using vintage recording objects, I think it actually works really well with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, which of course is all about vintage and older instruments, and the sounds and the qualities, and the interesting limitations and gifts that they give.” She says when writing the piece, she thought of the composer whose music will also be on the program. “I’m often thinking of Handel when I’m writing for them, because they play so much Handel, and they do it so beautifully. And he’s someone who constructed large oratorios and multiple parts, but always has a kind of lilt and a really beautiful sense of harmony.” The ten-part work will have texts by Tennyson and Whitman, as well as contemporary poets Lucille Clifton and Yesenia Montilla. As Shaw describes it, “different ways of both thinking about the beyond, and also looking and reflecting back on earth.”