Author Archives: John Luther Adams

Sound Ideas: Prompt #1

In 1960 La Monte Young prompted us: “Draw a straight line and follow it.” The reverberations of this radically simple directive have been vast and profound. But aside from those that we humans create, there are few if any straight lines in nature. So, fifty-two years later, I’d like to propose Variations on A Theme by La Monte Young.

No More Outsiders

The Nemmers Prize is a welcome sign that my music seems to resonate “out there” in the larger world; At the same time, I’ve found myself wondering: Does this mean that I’m no longer an outsider?

Remembering Lou

John Luther Adams, Bill Colvig, and Lou HarrisonPhoto by Dennis Keeley The great redwood has fallen. Light streams into the forest. The sound will reverberate for generations to come. The passing of Lou Harrison marks the end of an era in American music that began with Charles Ives and continued on through Henry Cowell, Ruth […]

Another View: Music and Wilderness

photo by Dennis Keeley In addition to my wife Cynthia and our son Sage, there are two great loves in my life: music and wilderness. At first blush, these two things may not seem to have much in common. Music is among the most social of human experiences. Wilderness is where we sometimes go to […]

A Lesson from Yogi

After he’d miserably flunked a high school exam, Yogi Berra’s disheartened teacher asked him: “Yogi, didn’t you learn anything?” The future baseball Hall-of-Famer replied: “Ma’m, I didn’t even suspect anything.” Like Yogi, no one could ever teach me much of anything. As a young man I figured that the few things I didn’t already know […]

American Originals

“Affirmation of parentage is the substance of rebellion.”—Harry Partch I’ve never been what you’d call a flag-waving kind of guy. But when it comes to music, I guess I’m pretty darn red-blooded. I’m captivated by Bach. I revel in Debussy and Wagner. And I admire Stravinsky. Still, I’ve never thought of these composers as family. […]

Music Happens

“No matter what we do, sooner or later it all sounds melodic.”—Christian Wolff Despite the best laid plans of composers and performers, music happens. Like life itself, music always involves some degree of indeterminacy. Improvisation, wrong notes, reluctant instruments, failing technology and other messy realities are integral elements of all music. But it wasn’ t […]

Music, Space, and Place

“Place is security, space is freedom.” —Yi-Fu Tuan Morton Feldman’s one and only composition lesson with Varèse was a brief encounter on the street in New York. The old master gave the young upstart one pearl of wisdom: “Make sure you think about the time it takes from the stage to go out there into […]