EducationCalifornia Institute of the Arts MoviesJohn Luther Adams: Strange and Sacred Noise AlbumsIn the White Silence, Inuksuit, The Wind In High Places, The Mathematics of Reson, Clouds of Forgetting - Clouds of
John luther adams the music of a true place
John Luther Adams (born January 23, 1953) is an American composer whose music is inspired by nature, especially the landscapes of Alaska where he lived from 1978 to 2014 (Garland 2007). His orchestral work Become Ocean was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music (Huizenga 2014).
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 the California Institute of the Arts, Adams began work in environmental protection and through this work Adams first travelled to Alaska in 1975. Adams moved to Alaska in 1978 and lived there until 2014. He now lives between New York and the Sonoran desert in Mexico (Service 2015). 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)
Adams's composition work spans many genres and media. He has composed for television, film, children's theater, voice, acoustic instruments, orchestra, and electronics. From 1998 to 2002, Adams served as Associate Professor of Composition at Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Influence of nature
Adams has described his music as, "[...] 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.(b)).
His love of nature, concern for the environment and interest in the resonance of specific places led him to pursue the concept of sonic geography. Early examples of this idea include two works written during Adams’s sojourn in rural Georgia: Songbirdsongs (1974–80), a collection of indeterminate miniature pieces for piccolos and percussion based on free translations of bird songs, and Night Peace (1977), a vocal work capturing the nocturnal soundscape of the Okefenokee Swamp through slow-changing and sparse sonic textures (Feisst 2013).
His 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).
His more recent works include, Across the Distance, for a large number of horns, was premiered on the 5th of July, 2015 at the Cambo estate in Fife, Scotland as part of the East Neuk Festival. His recording of Ilimaq ("spirit journeys"), a solo work for percussion, played by art-music percussionist, composer, and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, was released in October 2015 (Clements 2015). A combination of contemporary classical music, Alaskan field recordings, and found sounds from the natural world, it evokes the travels of a shaman riding the sound of a drum to and from the spirit world (Sigler 2012).
Awards and honors
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,). 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). The surround-sound recording of Become Ocean on Cantaloupe Music debuted at #1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical Chart, stayed there for two straight weeks, and went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition (Davis and Adams 2014). All his works are published by Taiga Press (BMI) and available from Theodore Front Musical Literature (n.d.)
In October 2015, Adams received the William Schuman Award from Columbia University. The events surrounding the award included a series of concerts of his music at the Miller Theater, including Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing, For Lou Harrison, and In the White Silence (Oestreich 2015).
On February 8, 2015, Adams was awarded a GRAMMY in the category Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his Become Ocean
In November 2014, Adams was named the Musical America 2015 Composer of the Year (NewMusicBox Staff 2014).
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 (Anon. & n.d.(c)).
In 2006, Adams was named one of the first United States Artists Fellows. He has 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 received a 1993 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award (Anon. & n.d.(a))
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
The Wind in High Places (2011) for string quartet
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
Ten Thousand Birds (2014) for chamber orchestra, premiered by Alarm Will Sound, October 19, 2014 (Smith 2014)
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
Across the Distance (2015) for French Horn, premiered at the East Neuk Festival at the Cambo estate, July 5, 2015, led by Alec Frank-Gemmil (Molleson 2015).
untouched (2015) for string quartet, commissioned by the University of North Carolina for Brooklyn Rider
Everything That Rises (2017) for string quartet, commissioned by SF Jazz
The Wind Garden (2017), a permanent public artwork commissioned by the Stuart Collection at the University of California San Diego
songbirdsongs (1981) [LP]
A Northern Suite/Night Peace (1983) [LP]
Forest Without Leaves (1987) [LP]
The Far Country (1993)
Dream in White on White
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)
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 . . .
Strange Birds Passing
Inuksuit (2013). So Percussion Ensemble, Doug Perkins (cond.). CD and DVD recording. Cantaloupe Music [no catalog number].
Become Ocean (2014). Seattle Symphony; Ludovic Morlot, conductor, Cantaloupe Music CA 21101 (Adams 2014)
The Wind In High Places (2015)(Adams 2015)
Ilimaq (2015) Glenn Kotche, Cantaloupe Music
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)