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Altered states

William Rowson

VSO Symphony at the Annex: Sweet Air

Named for David Lang's mesmerizing Sweet Air, which refers to the peculiar yet pleasant effects of laughing gas, this concert brings together music that mimics, was created in, or perhaps even causes an altered state of mind.

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Date and time

May 20 2017, 7:30 p.m.


Annex, 823 Seymour Street near Robson



Email contact

604.876.3434 VSO

Event details

David Lang’s Sweet Air refers to the laughing gas that was administered to his frightened young son while at the dentist’s office. Lang’s music creates a hypnotically pleasurable, yet ever-so-slightly uneasy environment.

VSO Composer in Association Marcus Goddard and VSO Composer in Residence Jocelyn Morlock each contribute works that are influenced by the most profound changes of mental and physical states – the journey between life and death. Goddard’s touchingly beautiful Voices Rising is inspired by the classic Dylan Thomas poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night." Morlock’s intense, disquieting Icarus, landing is an examination of changing mental states as an illness winds its way to an inexorable close.

In Dreamer, Keith Hamel works with spectral analyses of the words of murdered pacifists Dr. Martin Luther King and John Lennon, and looks at the dreams they had of peace, tolerance and equality. Despite, or perhaps because of the increase in intolerance, injustice, and hate, he urges us to dream of and strive for a better world. Finally, insomniac composer Andy Akiho’s work began with a nocturnal stroll on which he encountered “an intriguing tree…” He was fond enough of said tree to nap beneath it, and in his peculiar, somnolent state to become inspired by it, waking in the dead of night to jot down much of the musical material he’d use to write Speaking Tree.