MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

New John Luther Adams Memoir

Today brings a new book from John Luther Adams, mark it well: Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska:
“In the summer of 1975, the composer John Luther Adams, then a twenty-two-year-old graduate of CalArts, boarded a flight to Alaska. So began a journey into the mountains, forests, and tundra of the far north—and across distinctive mental and aural terrain—that would last for the next forty years.

Silences So Deep is Adams’s account of these formative decades—and of what it’s like to live alone in the frozen woods, composing music by day and spending one’s evenings with a raucous crew of poets, philosophers, and fishermen. From adolescent loves—Edgard Varèse and Frank Zappa—to mature preoccupations with the natural world that inform such works as The Wind in High Places, Adams details the influences that have allowed him to emerge as one of the most celebrated and recognizable composers of our time. Silences So Deep is also a memoir of solitude enriched by friendships with the likes of the conductor Gordon Wright and the poet John Haines, both of whom had a singular impact on Adams’s life. Whether describing the travails of environmental activism in the midst of an oil boom or midwinter conversations in a communal sauna, Adams writes with a voice both playful and meditative, one that evokes the particular beauty of the Alaskan landscape and the people who call it home.

Ultimately, this book is also the story of Adams’s difficult decision to leave a rapidly warming Alaska and to strike out for new topographies and sources of inspiration. In its attentiveness to the challenges of life in the wilderness, to the demands of making art in an age of climate crisis, and to the pleasures of intellectual fellowship, Silences So Deep is a singularly rich account of a creative life.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Gordon Brooks Wright

We are in the middle of nowhere.

All the other musicians of the Arctic Chamber Orchestra have flown off to the next stop on our tour of villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. With only our backpacks, a duffel bag full of music stands, and a pair of kettledrums, Gordon Wright and I are here alone at this remote airstrip, waiting for the plane to return.

It is early April. The world around us is an endless expanse of white. After the long night of winter, the sun has come back to the north. The morning is resplendent, but the air is cold. So we stand on the south side of the little shack next to the airstrip, basking in the warm light. Everything is golden… [continue]

Filed under: book recs, John Luther Adams

JACK and John Luther Adams at the Crypt Sessions

JLA and JACK at Tippet Rise-1

If you happen to be free tonight in New York, the JACK Quartet will introduce John Luther Adams’s new string quartet, Lines Made by Walking, at the Crypt Sessions in its East Coast premiere. It’s a fantastic exploration of the medium. Here’s my review of the world premiere, which the JACKs gave a few months ago at Tippet Rise.

Filed under: JACK Quartet, John Luther Adams, string quartet, Tippet Rise

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

jla

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

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