Artists

John Luther Adams (Composer) 



John Luther
John Luther Adams likes to talk about the weather, about the state of the world, about art and literature, and sometimes about sports. But most of the time he likes to talk about music. Talking with us, he said that he wants his music to be intellectually airtight and arrestingly visceral.

For Adams music is more than a trade or a profession: music is his vocation – something that you realize in the sound of his works. When we asked him: What virtues does a composer have to have? he told us that a composer needs to have patience, passion, the ability to listen and concentrate deeply, and a willingness to embrace solitude.

We imagine him in Alaska listening for silence, a silence that for him “is not the absence of sound. It is the presence of stillness…the breath of the world”. We imagine him in Mexico reveling in the music of the birds and the wind.

Because he is very clear: “music is not what I do, it’s how I understand the world”, Adams has lived on his own terms, where and how he imagines life should be lived, and he has always composed the music that he feels called to compose. ”Noise is not unwanted sound. When we listen carefully, noise and silence teach us the same thing: The whole world is music”

For John Luther Adams: “Contemporary music is music that springs from the time and place in which it´s made. For me, this encompasses not just the human and cultural dimensions of a time and place, but also the physical place – the topography and climate, the vegetation and animals, the geography and the ecology of place”

Adams likes throwing a baseball, camping out, listening to the laugh of his wife Cynthia, and working to find an essential simplicity in his music and his life.

He might have made his life as an environmental activist, a percussionist, a writer, or an ecologist. But fortunately for us he became a composer, part of a uniquely American tradition of independent composers from Charles Ives and Henry Cowell to John Cage, Morton Feldman, Conlon Nancarrow, James Tenney, Pauline Oliveros and beyond.

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