Lisa Wong, associate professor of music at Wooster and director of choruses at The Cleveland Orchestra, was recently featured in season two of the Orchestra’s On a Personal Note podcast to discuss “On the Transmigration of Souls,” John Adams’ Pulitzer prize winning work commissioned by the New York Philharmonic in the year following the 9/11 attacks.
“Even now, 20 years after 9/11, there still is this emotional response from this piece,” Wong explains in her Where Words Fail, Music Speaks episode. “And even though I consider this piece to be very personal there is something even more powerful about experiencing something so personal and so intimate with a large group of people, whether that’s a large group of audience members, a large group of musicians on stage, there’s something very moving and very powerful about that.”
Wong shares how Adams, with his integration of sounds of the city and spoken voices reciting names of missing individuals and relevant biographical information pulled from pages of The New York Times, transports listeners to the reality of the tragedy and uses it as a healing force.
“It has to be such a daunting task to write a piece with such a tragic event as its genesis,” she said reflecting on Adams. Something equally as difficult for the musicians and audience members, according to Wong.
“It makes me think about where I was at that time and what I was doing in the days and the weeks immediately following and I think that that’s got to be personal probably for every listener.”
Click here to listen to “On the Transmigration of Souls” and Wong’s full analysis, including a special shout out to her “extraordinarily bright and thoughtful” students at The College of Wooster.