Lightmass (world premiere, LA Phil commission)
Mario Diaz de Leon
Mario Diaz de Leon is a composer of extreme instrumental music, combining a devotion to Stockhausen-style modernism with a love of noise, drone, and black metal. His works have been described as “21st-century chamber music that couples crystalline clarity with the disorienting turbulence of a sonic vortex” (Wire Magazine).
His debut album as composer, Enter Houses Of, was released in 2009 on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, and praised by The New York Times for its “hallucinatory intensity.” A second album, entitled The Soul is the Arena, was released in 2015 on the Denovali label. Both recordings were performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), with whom he has collaborated extensively since 2006.
His works have recently been presented at Chicago Symphony Center, Hakuju Hall (Tokyo), Venice Biennale, Lucerne Festival, Musica Nova Helsinki, National Gallery of Art (DC), and Roulette (Brooklyn). In 2016, he was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to write this new work for brass and electronics.
As a solo performer, he is active under the name Oneirogen (o-NI-ro-jen), an experimental project known for its merging of ethereal synths, brutal distortion, and noise influences. Since 2012, Oneirogen has toured internationally and released three full length LPs and two EPs on the Denovali label. He is also the vocalist and guitarist of the death/black metal band Luminous Vault.
Born in Minnesota in 1979, he grew up playing guitar in hardcore punk and metal bands before attending the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied electronic music and composition. He has lived in New York City since 2004, and received his doctorate in music composition from Columbia University in 2013.
The composer has provided the following note:
light (illumination, ignition, weight)
mass (body, totality, ritual, weight)
The three movements of Lightmass evoke living architectures and urban spaces – outward manifestations of inner experience, a living building as a divine body. The first movement can be equated with a gothic cathedral (St. John the Divine, NYC), with music evoking an organ prelude, ecstatic plainchant, stained glass windows, and different kinds of shimmering light. The contrasting second movement evokes imposing modern and art deco architecture, ancient pyramids, aerodynamic curves, the metallic steel of skyscrapers, a fanatical sense of power, and the contemplative awe of expansive urban landscapes.
The third movement is transformational, and begins with chant-like sounds evoking playful dancing light, and the radiant heaviness of stone. Following this introduction, a repetitive and ritualistic chant-like passage is gradually transformed into a space where different types of musical material co-exist with one another. A fluid confluence of green park spaces, deep breathing, the inner radiance of hard matter, light and shadows of evening, and the depths of mother earth herself.