Composer of the Week

Sunday, 24 August 2014
John Luther Adams (1953 - )

Described as one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century (Alex Ross, The New Yorker), John Luther Adams is a prominent voice in contemporary art music as well as issues concerning art, nature, and no less the survival of humanity.

Celeste Oram spoke to John in New York just after the Carnegie Hall premiere of Become Ocean, a work which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for a distinguished musical composition. Commissioned and premiered by the Seattle Symphony and their musical director Ludovic Morlot in June 2013, it entails an immersive sonic experience that harkens the listener to the imminence of climate change. We’re pleased to feature in this programme a preview of Become Ocean with the Seattle Symphony conducted by Ludovic Morlot, soon to be released on the Cantaloupe Music label.

Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.

John Luther Adams - image courtesy of…what I’ve learned from my native neighbours and friends over the years is how to listen, how to be in that place, in those landscapes, and pay attention. I think it’s a way of being in the world that we have a lot to learn from. The [indigenous] people of western Alaska speak about the spirit in all things and that makes a lot of sense to me: The idea that we are in this world and we’re part of something much larger and much older and much more intelligent and much more powerful than we are… yes we’re aware of the world but the world is also aware of us. We find ourselves now facing the possibility of our own extinction if we don’t pay attention to that relationship – to those interconnections between us and everything else in the world. The world will be fine without us but we may be gone with the wind.

– John Luther Adams in conversation with Celeste Oram  

Image provided courtesy of

Music Details

LUTHER ADAMS: Velocities Crossing in Phase-Space from Strange and Sacred Noise – Percussion Group Cincinnati (mode 153)
LUTHER ADAMS: Clusters on a Quadrilateral Grid 3 from Strange and Sacred Noise – Percussion Group Cincinnati (mode 153)
STARKEY: Don’t Pass Me By from The White Album – The Beatles (Apple Records)
Lou HARRISON: Here is Holiness from IV Strict Songs – Leroy Kromm (bar), University of California, Santa Cruz Chamber Singers & Chamber Orchestra/Nicole Paiement (New World Records)
TENNEY: Koan – Elisabeth Smalt (vla), The Barton Workshop (New World Records)
FELDMAN: Piano and String Quartet – Kronos Quartet, Aki Takahashi (pno) (NONESUCH 7559-79320)
LUTHER ADAMS: Apple Blossom Round from songbirdsongs – Callithumpian Consort/Stephen Drury (mode 240)
LUTHER ADAMS: Clusters on a Quadrilateral Grid 1 from Strange and Sacred Noise – Percussion Group Cincinnati (mode 153)
LUTHER ADAMS: …and Dust rising… from Strange and Sacred Noise – Percussion Group Cincinnati (mode 153)
LUTHER ADAMS: Dark Waves from Red Arc / Blue Veil – Stephen Drury, Yukiko Takagi, Scott Deal, Stuart Gerber (Cold Blue CB0026)
LUTHER ADAMS: The Place Where you Go to Listen from Earth and the Great Weather – Robin Lorentz (vln, perc), Ron Lawrence (vla), Michael Finckel (cello, cond), Robert Black (bass, perc), Amy Knowles (perc), John Luther Adams (cond, perc), James Nageak, Doreen Simmonds, Lincoln Tritt, Adeline Peter Raboff, Dave Hunsaker (vox) (New World Records 80459-2)
LUTHER ADAMS: Inuksuit – Inuksuit Ensemble (Cantaloupe Music CA21096)
LUTHER ADAMS: Become Ocean – Seattle Symphony/Ludovic Morlot (forthcoming release from Cantaloupe Music)