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Wadada Leo Smith: A Vital Life Force

Lyn Horton By

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The Pacifica Panel

The Pacifica panel shown in this article illustrates how Smith's panels appear. It was originally drawn in its inspirational moment in 2005. Between 2006 and 2007, Smith spent researching the detailed information he was to include in the final form of the panel. The panel seems to be divided into two parts, the upper and the lower, but the upper and lower parts are indivisible in regards to how they inform the musicians about the music: "the performers move from upper to lower or lower to upper when performing Pacifica."

The upper section specifies how the lower bracketed section is to be played in terms of cycles. The ornamented line or "sonic string," that flies off the upper section denotes "other material to be used in the creating the music. For example, there are eight known objects connected to the sonic string. Four are from Egyptian hieroglyphs; the Udjat-eye, the Human-eye, the Heart and boat that carry the soul to the next world. Two stars, the one in the sky and a Star Fish, the new Silver Moon and the Sun, plus the sonic string are used to create the music." In other words, how this symbolic information affects the players influences how they play the music.

The lower section consists of drawings symbolizing waves in a spectrum of colors, from red to black. To the right of the color of each wave image is written a measurement in meters from "0 M" to "200 M." These measurements, Smith says, describe "the depth that light penetrates into the ocean. It reaches down 200-plus meters, and below that depth is darkness. The water surface reflects about fifteen to twenty percent of the in-coming light. Those depths, colors and size of waves are what the musicians use in their exploration to create the music."

The piece, "Pacifica," can be heard on the first disc of Spiritual Dimensions (Cuneiform, 2009), in a performance by his Golden Quartet. This is the only recording of that score.

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