Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 November 2021
The chapter explores two of Adès’s early works – Living Toys for fourteen players (1993) and America: A Prophecy, for soprano solo and orchestra with optional chorus (1999) – from the perspective of gesture as an 'energetic shaping' of sound (after Robert Hatten). Analyses synthesise small-scale events to wider emergent dramatic and expressive networks. The 'volatile' gestural sequence in Living Toys is a function of the score’s overtly programmatic scheme of seven dream-like scenarios, with a returning 'Hero’s' theme centre-stage in a score rich in agent-like instrumental solos. In America, gesture communicates a historical-mythic sequence, evoking the impending catastrophe of the sixteenth-century military conquest of Mayan civilisation by Spanish conquistadors. History runs its awful course in a sequence recounted verbally by the solo soprano as priestess. A gestural perspective elucidates Adès’s large-scale drama of complex images. Fracturings of musical tempo create an image of Mayan calendrical movement: triadic brass music evokes the moment of encounter, a 'battle' scene.