Tallis Scholars perform ‘sun-centered’ at Carnegie Hall

April 8, 2024

“Tallis Scholars: the rock stars of Renaissance vocal music!”
The New York Times

On Monday April 8 — appropriately, the 2024 Solar EclipseThe Tallis Scholars give the New York premiere of David Lang’s sun-centered at Carnegie Hall/Zankel Hall. Commissioned for the Tallis Scholars by Cal Performances, Carnegie Hall Corporation, Hopkins Center, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Stanford Live, Virginia Tech and Concertgebouw Bruges (Belgium), the work is a meditation on humanity’s predilection for disbelief.

David Lang explains in detail:

A simple question reimagines the universe. The person who asks it is imprisoned, just for asking it. This particular person is Galileo, but it could be any number of others, whose pursuit of knowledge leads them beyond the boundaries of their time and place.

I wrote my piece sun-centered at the request of Peter Phillips, the founder and conductor of the renowned ensemble The Tallis Scholars. Peter asked me specifically to write a piece that could coexist on a program with Antoine Brumel’s monumental Missa “Et ecce terræ motus” – a mass for 12 voices that gets its name from being based on a scrap of chant whose text means ‘and the earth moved.’ This scrap of text immediately reminded me of Galileo’s trial for the blasphemy of proving the earth revolves around the sun, which seemed to contradict the Bible. After his conviction he is supposed to have muttered under his breath E pur si muove – ‘and yet it moves.’ Most likely, Galileo never actually said this! But the connection between the two texts got me thinking, about the movement of the earth, about the pricelessness of human knowledge, and about the perils of rejecting it.

Why is it that we are so resistant to new ideas that challenge the ones we already know? On one level this is a philosophical question, and two of the texts I set in sun-centered come from my rewriting of basic philosophy texts by Plato and byFrancis Bacon. But of course it is also a political question – we base our society on ideas and values we think we share with each other. If we aren’t able to grow together, in what we know and what we believe, it becomes impossible for us to build anything new. Or perhaps even to build anything together, at all.

sun-centered is dedicated to the memory of Louis Andriessen, with whom I spent many hours and many years discussing philosophy and politics, and everything else.