Daniel Asia's "Black Light"

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Friday, October 13, 2017

On today's date in 1991, Dennis Russell Davies conducted a Carnegie Hall concert by the American Composers' Orchestra that included the premiere performance of a new orchestral work entitled "Black Light."

Its composer was Daniel Asia, a Seattle native who has emerged as one of the most productive contemporary composers of orchestral works. Asia has written four symphonies to date, and a number of concertos and shorter orchestral works.

The final page of the score for Asia's "Black Light" is inscribed, "October 15, 1990—In Memoriam Leonard Bernstein." Bernstein had died the previous day, as Asia was just finishing his new score, and a year later, almost to the day, Asia's "Black Light" was premiered in New York.

Bernstein was a composer that Asia openly acknowledges as a big influence in his own work. But it would be wrong to suggest that "Black Light" was conceived as an elegy for Bernstein. Asia has been associated with the University of Arizona in Tucson, and says the closing section of "Black Light" is "suggestive of the fierceness of the appearance of the sun, particularly in the Southwest, in all its glory at that first instant of daybreak."