Composers Datebook®

Daniel Asia's 'Black Light'

Composer's Datebook - October 13, 2023


At Carnegie Hall on today’s date in 1991, Dennis Russell Davies conducted the American Composers’ Orchestra in the premiere performance of a new orchestral work, 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 several 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 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.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Daniel Asia (b. 1953) Black Light - New Zealand Symphony; James Sedares, cond. Koch 7372

On This Day


  • 1864 - Russian composer Alexander Grechaninov, in Moscow (Gregorian date: Oct. 25);

  • 1912 - Moravian-born American composer Hugo Weisgall, in Ivancice, Czechoslovakia;


  • 1694 - German composer and trumpeter Johann Christoph Pezel, age c. 55, in Bautzen;

  • 1979 - English composer Rebecca Clarke, age 93, in New York City;


  • 1855 - Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 in B (first version, European premiere?), in Danzig (Germany); The American premiere occurred just one month later, on Nov. 27, 1955, at Dodworth's Hall in New York City, with violinist Theodore Thomas, cellist Carl Bergmann, and pianist William Mason; For many years, the American performance was claimed as the first performance anywhere; A recent Grove dictionary cites this earlier Danzig performance, but does not indicate if it was a private reading or public performance;

  • 1917 - Mussorgsky (arr. Cui): opera "The Fair at Sorochinsky," posthumously, in St. Petersburg (Gregorian date: Oct. 26);

  • 1944 - David Diamond: Symphony No. 2, by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Serge Koussevitzky, conductor;

  • 1945 - Martinu: Symphony No. 3, by the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting;

  • 1958 - William Kraft: "Nonet" for brass and percussion, in Los Angeles;

  • 1968 - Allan Pettersson: Symphony No. 7, in Stockholm;

  • 1977 - Andrew Imbrie's "Concerto for Flute" at New York Philharmonic concert with Julius Baker as the soloist.

  • 1982 - Bernstein: opera-house version of "Candide," at Lincoln Center by the New York City Opera;

  • 1991 - Daniel Asia: "Black Light" for orchestra, at Carnegie Hall in New York by the American Composers Orchestra, Dennis Russell Davies conducting;

  • 1994 - James MacMillan: "Memento" for string quartet, at Merkin Hall in New York City, by the Kronos Quartet;

  • 1998 - Kancheli: Piano Quartet ("L'istesso tempo), in Seattle, by the Bridge Ensemble

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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