In an effort to try and keep up with my blog I have decided to try the April A to Z Challenge! The details of which can be found on the A to Z website (Which I have linked off to). The basic idea is to make a post each day. The subject of each post will relate to a letter beginning with A and ending with Z. I have decided to do a little blurb on composers for my challenge! The format will be similar to my “Recent Recommendations”, it will function as an introduction and reference guide to composers. I’ll be covering experimental and contemporary composers, some of which will be established composers while others will be close friends and may be a little more obscure. The main goal will be to bring music I find to be really interesting and exciting to new listeners. Today, I will begin with the letter A! I am a day behind in the challenge so tomorrow I’ll post an update for both the letter B and the letter C.
A is for Adams! I’ll be discussing the work of one of my favorite composers: John Luther Adams. John Luther Adams is an American composer who spends most of his time in Alaska. Until recently, he had be living in Alaska for several decades before moving to New York. Adams’ music is what he describes as “Sonic Geography”. Adams’ music is always about place. While he music is about place the music is not evocative or programmatic, it truly is place itself. The first time I ever had the revelation of hearing Adams’ music as being a place is his solo piano piece Among Red Mountains. I remember sitting and listening to the many rhythmic pulses and tempi clashing against one another and thinking “This sounds exactly like the way the mountains in Red Rock Canyon look”. In someways it’s almost impossible to explain how Adams is able to create these places, it’s an experience that has to be heard. I have always listened to his music and imagined it as one massive piece. Every so often I try to graph out realizations of how all his pieces could be listened to in an order to create a kind of meta-piece (perhaps I’ll post a few of them in the future).
In the Fall of 2015 I had the pleasure of playing his piece Inuksuit in Connecticut with about 30 other percussionists. It was one of the most life-altering musical experiences of my life. I remember when it began to rain and I was drenched in a matter of seconds. as I was covered in water all I could think about was the way the rain falling on leaves sounded with the shimmering of the triangle rolls.
Below is a list of pieces I recommend listening to by John Luther Adams:
Inuksuit for 9-99 percussionists
Become Ocean for orchestra (winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
Become River for chamber orchestra (this hasn’t been recorded on a CD yet however there is a recording on youtube from the Ojai Festival)
Strange and Sacred Noise for percussion quartet
The Earth and Great Weather mixed media opera
The Place Where you Go to Listen an installation in the Fairbanks Museum (recordings/excepts on youtube)
In addition to these pieces there is also a fantastic interview with the composer on the Meet the Composer podcast presented by Q2
John Luther Adams has also written two books: The Place Where You Go To Listen and Winter Music. In addition to his books there has been a book of critical essays about him and his music entitled: The Farthest Place (Which has an essay by a composer who will be featured in my AtoZchallenge!)