Music For Writers: John Luther Adams – ‘To Become An Aeolian Harp Myself’

Image - iStockphoto: Nick Pandevonium
Image – iStockphoto: Nick Pandevonium

‘The Sheer Sensuous Pleasure Of Sound’

Having heard and re-heard the three movements of John Luther Adams’ The Wind in High Places  many times in its new recording from Cold Blue Music, I knew exactly what I wanted to ask the composer about it.

John Luther Adams
John Luther Adams

His speed. These ineffable tempi. Like Robert Wilson’s best moments, in Adams’ work you hear a profound comprehension for the pace of the world. Not the world of my keyboard and your screen, those two sweet instruments that provide the intimacy of my words lying in your mind right now as you read them, no. The world outside us, way outside, tundra-and-butte outside, where momentum can be measured in mountains’ movements.

Adams speaks the natural world. He is fluent in the fields, conversant with the cries of animals and aeons. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does, every time I hear him: he knows the pace.

So I asked him: Is it his own preference, I wanted to know, for the slow-twitch of these raw, righteous sounds the JACK Quartet makes in this piece about The Wind? Or is this aura of unhurried grandeur imposed on his work by his natural-world subjects?

Speaking to me from a “desert by the sea,” Adams told me:

I’m captivated by the sheer sensuous pleasure of sound. As a listener, I want to lose myself in strange, beautiful sounds. As a composer, my work is the same. I listen as carefully as I can and do my best to let the sounds be themselves…to breathe naturally and resonate fully.

Please consider taking advantage of the opportunity that New York Public Radio’s fine 24/7 stream Q2 Music offers you to hear the new album — named for that windy work. Hit the button and listen as you read. The Wind in High Places is Q2Music’s Album of the Week.

You can also find one of Q2Music’s fine Meet the Composer programs focusing on Adams, with host Nadia Sirota.

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There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: Music For Writers: John Luther Adams – ‘To Become An Aeolian Harp Myself’ 

Originally published by Thought Catalog at




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