Strange and Sacred Noise

Percussion Group Cincinnati



There are certain experiences in life for which you have to focus and “get your head right”—scenarios like acupuncture or going to a La Monte Young concert come to mind. John Luther Adams’s 70-minute work for percussion ensemble seems like it would require a similar sort of preparation, but really you can’t help but fall into its entrancing rhythms. The music itself (courtesy of the performers’ disciplined efforts, of course) does the heavy lifting, carrying the ear through sonic white water as swiftly as it floats it over a subsequent movement scored for four air-raid sirens. That Adams is a self-confessed “recovering drummer” surely hasn’t hurt how he has creatively approached the instruments involved.



When I was kid, a neighbor gave me a toy snare drum, which I realize now was probably more an act of aggression against my mother than anything else. Force may seem an easy idea to project using percussion, but Adams uses these timbres to speak with a degree of nuance and subtlety that pushes buttons noise acts never quite reach.


—MS