Commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra
for orchestra [3(I=afl.II=bfl.III=picc).3(III=ca).3(II=bcl.III=bcl).3 – 18.104.22.168 – perc(3) - timp – hp – cel – strings min. 22.214.171.124.6]
Christopher Mayo's The Llano Curve relates to a road in California, which inspired Mayo to emulate its natural contours in long, trailing musical phrases. Mayo's attention to instrumental detail was notable, producing a glittering edge of harps, celeste and percussion.
— Rian Evans, The Guardian (October 30, 2012)
The Llano Curve was commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra and first conducted by Susanna Mälkki.
The Pearblossom Highway is a stretch of California State Route 138, made famous by a series of photo collages by the artist David Hockney. It stretches 29 miles through the towns of Vincent, Palmdale, Littlerock, Pearblossom and Llano, where it takes a slow gradual turn known as the “Llano Curve”. This work's connection to this small corner of the Mojave desert comes not from the Hockney collages, but rather a series of photographs by the San Francisco based photographer Troy Paiva. Paiva specializes in night photography, using extremely long exposures - up to eight minutes - to capture the available light of the moon, stars or passing traffic and bathe his subjects in an otherworldly glow. His subject matter is almost always the modern ghost towns of California: abandoned houses, cars, shops, service stations and factories left to be swallowed up by the shifting sands of the desert with the faint glow of Los Angeles still visible on the horizon.
While the subject matter of these photographs was the main source of inspiration for The Llano Curve, the techniques and characteristics of night photography also provided a jumping off point for many of the techniques used in the work. One of the most interesting aspects of long exposure night photography is the behaviour of stars in a clear sky. If the exposures are long enough, the position of the stars will have changed while the shutter was open, drawing an arc of light through the photo. This expression of passing time in a static image was a key source of inspiration for this work, and the piece opens with an exploration of these ideas.
February 8, 2008 - Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra, Susanna Mälkki, conductor, Royal Academy of Music, London, UK
October 26, 2012 - BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Andrew Gourlay, conductor, Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, UK
2012, BBC Radio 3