John Luther Adams
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Like many composers of his generation, John Luther Adams did not grow up immersed in scored music. Adams began playing music as a teenager as a drummer in rock bands. Through his experience, friends introduced him to the music of Frank Zappa, through which he discovered Edgard Varèse and Igor Stravinsky (Kosman 2001). Similarly, Varèse's liner notes brought him to John Cage. But it was not until Adams discovered Morton Feldman that he found his calling.
Adams attended Cal Arts as an undergraduate in the early 1970s, where he studied with James Tenney and Leonard Stein, and graduated in 1973 (Kosman 2001). His group of classmates includes the composers Lois V Vierk and Peter Garland.
After graduating from Cal Arts, Adams began work in environmental protection. This work first brought him to Alaska in 1975. His deep love for the location led to his permanent migration there in 1978. It continues to be the driving force in his music to this day. From 1982 to 1989, he performed as timpanist and principal percussionist with the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and the Arctic Chamber Orchestra (Kosman 2001).
In 2006, Adams was named one of the first United States Artists Fellows. Previously, he received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
Adams's musical work spans many genres and media. He has composed for television, film, children's theater, voice, acoustic instruments, orchestra, and electronics.
His frequent use of static textures and subtle changes show his obvious affinities with minimalism and his tendencies toward extended, meditative, and intuitive structures convey his true love of the music of Morton Feldman.
Adams describes himself saying: "My music has always been profoundly influenced by the natural world and a strong sense of place. Through sustained listening to the subtle resonances of the northern soundscape, I hope to explore the territory of sonic geography—that region between place and culture...between environment and imagination."
List of works
- Green Corn Dance (1974) for percussion ensemble
- Night Peace (1976) for antiphonal choirs, solo soprano, harp, and percussion
- songbirdsongs (1974–80) for 2 piccolos and 3 percussion
- Strange Birds Passing (1983) for flute choir
- up into the silence (1978/84) (poem by E. E. Cummings) for voice and piano
- How the Sun Came to the Forest (1984) (poem by John Haines) for chorus and alto flute, English horn, percussion, harp, and strings
- The Far Country of Sleep (1988) for orchestra
- Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping With His Daughter, Coyote Builds North America (1986–90) for theater
- magic song for one who wishes to live and the dead who climb up to the sky (1990) for voice and piano
- Dream in White-on-White (1992) for orchestra
- Earth and the Great Weather (1990–93) for theater, libretto published in the book "Inukshuk" edited by ARBOS – Company for Music & Theater, Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-85266-126-9
- Five Yup'ik Dances (1991–94) for solo harp
- Crow and Weasel (1993–94) (story by Barry Lopez) for theater
- Sauyatugvik: the Time of Drumming (1995) for orchestra
- Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing (1991–95) for orchestra
- Sauyatugvik: The Time of Drumming (1996) version for 2 pianos, timpani, and 4 percussion
- Five Athabascan Dances (1992/96) for harp and percussion
- Strange and Sacred Noise (1991–97) for percussion quartet
- Make Prayers to the Raven (1996/98) flute, violin, harp, cello, and percussion
- In the White Silence (1998) for orchestra
- Qilyaun (1998) for four bass drums
- Time Undisturbed (1999) for 3 shakuhachis, 3 kotos, and shō
- In a Treeless Place, Only Snow (1999) for celesta, harp, 2 vibraphones, and string quartet
- The Light That Fills the World (1999–2000) for orchestra
- Among Red Mountains (2001) for solo piano
- The Immeasurable Space of Tones (1998–2001) for violin, vibraphone, piano, sustaining keyboard, contrabass instrument
- The Farthest Place (2001) for violin, vibraphone, marimba, piano, double bass
- After the Light (2001) for alto flute, vibraphone, harp
- Dark Wind (2001) for bass clarinet, vibraphone, marimba, piano
- Red Arc/Blue Veil (2002) for piano, mallet percussion, and processed sounds
- The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies (2002) for solo percussion and processed sounds
- Poem of the Forgotten (2004) (poem by John Haines) for voice and piano
- for Lou Harrison (2004, premiere 2005) for string quartet, string orchestra, and 2 pianos
- ...and bells remembered... (2005) for bowed crotales, orchestra bells, chimes, vibraphone and bowed vibraphone
- for Jim (rising) (2006) for three trumpets and three trombones
- Always Very Soft (2007) for percussion trio
- Dark Waves (2007) for orchestra and electronic sounds
- Little Cosmic Dust Poem (2007) for voice (medium) and piano
- Nunataks (Solitary Peaks) (2007) for solo piano
- Three High Places (2007) for solo violin
- The Light Within (2007) for alto flute, bass clarinet, vibraphone/crotales, piano, violin, cello and electronic sounds
- Sky with Four Suns and Sky with Four Moons (2008) for four choirs
- the place we began (2008) four electro-acoustic soundscapes
- Inuksuit (2009) for nine to ninety-nine percussion
- Four Thousand Holes (2010) for piano, percussion, and electronic sounds
- "I L I M A Q" (2012), a drum-kit opera, premiered at the University of Texas at Austin, performed by Glenn Kotche
- Become Ocean (2013) for orchestra, premiered at the Seattle Symphony, June 20, 2013, conducted by Ludovic Morlot
Awards and recognition
- Adams was the recipient of the 2010 Nemmers Prize in Music Composition. He was cited by the selection committee for melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries.
- The Callithumpian Consort's recording of Adams' Four Thousand Holes was noted as one of The New Yorker's Best Classical Recordings of 2011.
- In 2012, he received the Heinz Award.
- songbirdsongs (1981) [LP]
- A Northern Suite/Night Peace (1983) [LP]
- Forest Without Leaves (1987) [LP]
- The Far Country (1993)
- Dream in White on White
- Night Peace
- The Far Country of Sleep
- Earth and the Great Weather (1995)
- Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing (1997) – nominated for the 1999 Grammy Award in the Best Classical Contemporary Composition and Best Orchestral Performance categories
- Dark Wind (2002)
- The Light That Fills the World (2002)
- The Farthest Place
- The Light That Fills the World
- The Immeasurable Space of Tones
- In the White Silence (2003)
- Strange and Sacred Noise (2005)
- The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies (2006)
- for Lou Harrison (2007)
- red arc/blue veil (2007)
- Dark Waves
- Among Red Mountains
- red arc/blue veil
- The Place We Began (2009) – appears on 2009's Best (Mostly) 'New Music', from WNYC
- Four Thousand Holes (2011)
- Four Thousand Holes
- . . . and bells remembered . . .
- songbirdsongs (2012)
- Strange Birds Passing
- "The Place Where You Go To Listen – In Search of an Ecology of Music", (Wesleyan University Press, 2009)
- "The Immeasurable Space of Tones," Musicworks 91 (Spring, 2005)
- "Sonic Geography Alaska," Musicworks 93 (Fall, 2005)
- "Winter Music: Composing the North", (Wesleyan University Press, 2004)
- "Global Warming and Art", Orion (September – October, 2003)
- "Global Warming and Art", Musicworks 86 (Summer, 2003)
- "Winter Music. A Composer's Journal", The Best Spiritual Writing 2002 (Harper Collins, 2002)
- "Winter Music. A Composer's Journal", Musicworks 82 (February, 2002)
- "The Place Where You Go to Listen", The Book of Music and Nature (Wesleyan University Press, 2000) pp. 181–182.
- "Winter Music. A Composer's Journal", Reflections on American Music (Pendragon Press, 2000) pp. 31–48.
- "Strange and Sacred Noise", Yearbook of Soundscape Studies (Vol. 1: "Northern Soundscapes," ed. R. Murray Schafer and Helmi Järviluoma, 1998), pp. 143–146.
- "The Place Where You Go to Listen", Terra Nova, 2/3, 1997, pp. 15–16.
- "From the Ground Up", The Utne Reader, March-April, 1995, p. 86.
- "Resonance of Place, Confessions of an Out-of-Town Composer", The North American Review, January/February, 1994, pp. 8–18.
- Garland, Peter. "John Luther Adams". Liner notes to John Luther Adams – For Lou Harrison. New World Records.
- "John Luther Adams". Deep Listening Institute. Retrieved Dec 21, 2010.
- "John Luther Adams Wins Nemmers Composition Prize" by Judy Moore, Northwestern University, April 29, 2010
- "The Best Classical Music Recordings of 2011" by Alex Ross, The New Yorker, December 6, 2011
- Adams, John Luther. 2004. Winter Music: Composing the North. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6742-6.
- Adams, John Luther. 2009. The Place Where You Go to Listen: In Search of an Ecology of Music. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6903-5.
- Alburger, Mark. 2000. "A to Z: Interviews with John Luther Adams". 21st-Century Music 7, no. 1 (January): 1–12.
- Feisst, Sabine. 2001. "Klanggeographie–Klanggeometrie: Der US-amerikanische Komponist John Luther Adams". MusikTexte: Zeitschrift für Neue Musik, no. 91 (November): 4–13.
- Gann, Kyle. 1997. American Music in the Twentieth Century. New York: Schirmer Books; London: Prentice Hall International. ISBN 0-02-864655-X.
- Kosman, Joshua. 2001. "Adams, John Luther". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Morris, Mitchell. 1999. "Ecotopian Sounds, or, The Music of Luther Adams and Strong Environmentalism". In Crosscurrents and Counterpoints: Offerings in Honor of Bengt Hambræus at 70, edited by Per F. Broman (sv), Nora A. Engebretsen, and Bo Alphonce. 129–41. Skrifter från Musikvetenskapliga Avdelningen 51. Göteborg: Göteborgs Universitet. ISBN 91-85974-45-5.
- Ross, Alex. 2008. "Letter from Alaska: Song of the Earth: A Composer Takes Inspiration from the Arctic", The New Yorker 84, no. 13 (May 12, 2008): 76–81.
- Young, Gayle. 1998. "Sonic Geography of the Arctic: An Interview with John Luther Adams". Musicworks: Explorations in Sound, no. 70 (Spring): 38–43.
- NewAlbion.com: John Luther Adams
- Video: John Luther Adams's 'Inuksuit'
- NonPop Show 006 – "The Place" interview