Wednesday, June 10, 2009

John Luther Adams

Adam Reinwald and I were working in the Cantus office yesterday, sorting through and filing music while geeking out to some music from his infamous iPhone. We came across some interesting scores, including a small art song entitled "up into the silence" by John Luther Adams (the poem is by e.e. cummings...a GREAT poem that you should google!). I brought this art song home to sift through. At first I couldn't figure out if I liked it or not... It was repetitive, with the same sorts of figures in the accompaniment, and the right hand of the piano almost always played what the solo line was singing (which wasn't much other than arpeggios already used in the piano part). But by the end of the bleak-sounding piece, I was completely entranced. It wasn't boring like I'd thought: It was very, very slow progress, with a lot of measured silences.

So I looked up this John Luther Adams, and it turns out he's pretty famous. He's got a discography of around 10 CDs, a quote from Lou Harrison mentioning that he's "one of the few important young American composers", and it seems like he's a semi-continuation of Morton Feldman's ideas about slow moving processes. But these slow moving processes and possible minimalist gestures are a direct result of his love for Alaska, where he's lived since the late 1970s, which he mentions in almost every interview I could find.

I then searched for him elsewhere, and came upon this article in the New Yorker about a sound and light installation that Adams placed in the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. It's called "The Place Where You Go to Listen", and it's based on natural events that occur in real time. By that I mean it's completely controlled by input data collected from its surroundings: seismic waves, overcast/clear skies, etc. I know...I freaked out a little too.

So check the New Yorker article's quite interesting. And who knows. Maybe John Luther Adams might sit in on one of our concerts in October, when we're scheduled to have our very first Alaska tour!

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