John Luther Adams

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This article is about the Alaskan composer. For the California-based composer, see John Adams (composer). For other persons named John Adams, see John Adams (disambiguation).

John Luther Adams (born January 23, 1953) is an American composer whose music is inspired by nature, especially the landscapes of Alaska where he has lived since 1978 (Garland 2007). His orchestral work Become Ocean was honored with the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music (Huizenga 2014; Pulitzer.org 2014).

Biography[edit]

Born in Meridian, Mississippi, Adams began playing music as a teenager as a drummer in rock bands. He 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). 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 a prominent influence in his music (Garland 2007). 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 (Garland 2007).

Adams's musical work spans many genres and media. He has composed for television, film, children's theater, voice, acoustic instruments, orchestra, and electronics.

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" (Anon. n.d.).

In 2014 Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his orchestral piece Become Ocean, which Alex Ross of The New Yorker called "the loveliest apocalypse in musical history" (Ross 2013,[page needed]). It was premiered in 2013 by Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony and performed by the same conductor and orchestra at the 2014 Spring For Music music festival at Carnegie Hall. Adams had never been to Carnegie Hall before hearing his work played there to a sold-out house (Fonseca-Wollheim 2014). Become Ocean has been recorded in surround-sound on Cantaloupe Music, with a release date of September 30, 2014 (Davis and Adams 2014). All his works are published by Taiga Press (BMI) and available from Theodore Front Musical Literature (n.d.)

His most recent work, Sila: The Breath of the World, represents the "air element," following the representation of water in Become Ocean and the "earth element" in Inuksuit, an outdoor percussion piece (Patner 2012). His music, he says, is "our awareness of the world in which we live and the world's awareness of us" (Friedman 2014).

List of works[edit]

  • 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
  • Become River (2013) for chamber orchestra, premiered by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, April 3, 2014, conducted by Steven Schick
  • Sila: The Breath of the World (2014) for choir, percussion, strings, brass, and woodwinds premiered at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, July 25, 2014, led by Doug Perkins

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 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 (Moore 2010)
  • The Callithumpian Consort's recording of Adams' Four Thousand Holes was noted as one of The New Yorker's Best Classical Recordings of 2011 (Ross 2011).
  • In 2012, he received the Heinz Award.
  • Adams was the recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his composition Become Ocean.

Discography[edit]

  1. Dream in White on White
  2. Night Peace
  3. The Far Country of Sleep
  1. The Farthest Place
  2. The Light That Fills the World
  3. The Immeasurable Space of Tones
  1. Dark Waves
  2. Among Red Mountains
  3. Qilyuan
  4. red arc/blue veil
  1. Four Thousand Holes
  2. . . . and bells remembered . . .
  1. songbirdsongs
  2. Strange Birds Passing
  • Inuksuit (2013). So Percussion Ensemble, Doug Perkins (cond.). CD and DVD recording. Cantaloupe Music [no catalog number].
  • Become Ocean (2014)[full citation needed](Adams 2014)

Writings[edit]

  • 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.

References[edit]

External links[edit]