MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

John Luther Adams and JACK Break New Ground at Tippet Rise

JLA and JACK at Tippet Rise-1

John Luther Adams (center) with the JACk Quartet: John Pickford Richards, Austin Wulliman, Christopher Otto, and Jay Campbell (left to right)
Credit: Zackary Patten 

Last weekend, at Tippet Rise Art Center, I got to experience the brilliant JACK Quartet give the world premiere of Lines Made by Walking, the latest string quartet (No. 5) by John Luther Adams (plus a foretaste of his next quartet, whose premiere is already on the horizon in spring 2020).

Thanks to his close working relationship with the JACKs, JLA has become fascinated with the medium, though he waited until age 58 to take it up. He’s now finishing his Sixth and Seventh String Quartets. My review for Musical America:

FISHTAIL, MT — The vast, roiling orchestral soundscape of the Prize-winning Become Ocean has served many listeners as an entrée into the world of John Luther Adams. But he is just as much at home within the intimate dimensions of chamber music…

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Filed under: commissions, John Luther Adams, string quartet, Tippet Rise

John Luther Adams: Become Desert

Become Desert by John Luther Adams — one of his most spellbinding and innovative compositions — has just been released. Here’s my review from the world premiere by Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot last year.

It’s a rare concert when a major work of Beethoven gets upstaged. Rarer still when the music responsible for the upstaging is brand new…

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Filed under: John Luther Adams, Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony

A Weekend at Tippet Rise

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Jeffrey Kahane playing the “Goldberg” Variations. Credit: photo is by Emily Rund, courtesy of Tippet Rise Art Center

My report for Musical America on my recent trip to the Tippet Rise Art Center for a weekend of chamber music, sculpture, and nature has now been posted. PDF version here: Tippet Rise-pdf-07.30.18_MusicalAmerica

FISHTAIL, Montana–Lots of music festivals beckon with the prospect of a temporary retreat from the mundane. Tippet Rise Art Center takes this to a remarkable extreme, thanks to its geography. Located on a 10,260-acre working ranch in rural south-central Montana, Tippet Rise requires nothing less than a pilgrimage just to take in one of the musical weekends of this year’s summer festival season, spread over eight weeks between July and September.

Filed under: Bach, John Luther Adams, Musical America, pianists, review, travel

Becoming the Light

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Composer John Luther Adams with conductor Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Seattle Symphony presents the world premiere “Become Desert” March 29 and 31. (Brandon Patoc )

And what a night: Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot have given the world premiere of Become Desert by the incomparable John Luther Adams.

My review for The Seattle Times here, where I was only able to offer a few hints of how extraordinarily original, enthralling, and transformative this music is.

Filed under: Beethoven, John Luther Adams, review, Seattle Symphony

“Become Desert” from John Luther Adams

This week brings the world premiere of the new large-scale orchestral work from John Luther Adams, which Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot will perform Thursday and Saturday. My preview for The Seattle Times:

“Close your eyes and listen to the singing of the light,” exhorts Octavio Paz in “Piedra Nativa” (“Native Stone”)….

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Filed under: American music, John Luther Adams, Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Times

John Luther Adams World Premiere at Emerald City Music

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My latest Seattle Times story:

Emerald City Music is an innovative series that presents chamber music in a relaxed, intimate South Lake Union venue as well as around the region. Fresh off its inaugural season, Emerald City landed an opportunity to present a world premiere from one of today’s hottest composers.

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Filed under: John Luther Adams, Seattle Times

John Luther Adams in Lucerne

To open its Special Event Day on Sunday 27 August, Lucerne Festival presented the Swiss premiere of Sila: The Breath of the World by John Luther Adams. I’m not able to post video of that (the video above is from the Lincoln Center premiere three years ago at Hearst Plaza), but I can report that the “JLA effect” was in full sway: the audience, some there by design, some caught by surprise and curiosity, fell under the spell of this aural mystery unfolding for nearly an hour at the Europaplatz, just between the sleek, modernist KKL concert complex and Lake Lucerne.

And today I just learned that the wonderful music writer and critic Bernd Feuchtner devised a program for the first-ever German performance of Become Ocean last year at the Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe, pairing JLA with Alberto Ginastera’s Popol Vuh.

Back in Seattle on 15 September, Emerald City Music will present the world premiere of JLA’s there is no one, not even the wind … Spring will meanwhile bring his latest major orchestral work, Become Desert, to be unveiled by Seattle Symphony.

More on that soon …

Filed under: John Luther Adams, Lucerne Festival

Let There Be Light

Filed under: John Luther Adams

Music for a While: Beguiled by Beethoven and John Luther Adams in Los Angeles

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In the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, music presenters struggled to readjust programmes so that they could provide an appropriately solemn response. For some this seemed the only justification to enjoy music at all in the face of nightmarish reality.

But the act of making music with care and conviction is itself life-affirming and humanity-empowering, as Leonard Bernstein knew when he famously declared: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before”.

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Filed under: Beethoven, John Luther Adams, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ludovic Morlot, review

John Luther Adams at the Miller Theatre

Last night Columbia University’s Miller Theatre presented the opening of its John Luther Adams concert trilogy celebrating JLA as this year’s Schuman Award winner.

Together these three concerts are presenting JLA’s trilogy of large-scale memorials to his parents and to his musical parent (Lou Harrison). Last night Steven Schick conducted ICE in a luminous performance of Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing: music you wish would never have to come to an end.

Especially notable was the sustained realization of the sheer sensuousness of JLA’s voicings, so deftly counterbalanced with the abstract structure of the piece.

Here’s the essay I wrote for these programs:

Extraordinary Listening: A John Luther Adams Trilogy

“Music is not what I do. Music is how I live. It’s not how I express myself. It’s how I understand the world.”
—John Luther Adams

One among many moments of dazzling clarity in the writings and reflections of John Luther Adams, this artistic credo points to a composer deeply rooted in the American maverick tradition of figures like Lou Harrison, John Cage, and Morton Feldman: figures who have operated outside the business-as-usual conventions of making and thinking about music.

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Filed under: John Luther Adams, new music essay

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