John Luther Adams

John Luther Adams: The Light that Fills the World

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The music of John Luther Adams is simply beautiful. It has a crystalline quality and a peaceful character that evoke the Arctic life, despite the cliché this assertion carries. Because of this beauty and the fact that Adams often includes electronic keyboards in his scores, he is often mistaken for a new age artist. This misconception is understandable, but nevertheless wrong. In these long, slow, engulfing pieces, Adams deploys more than a meditative state. The way he looks at stillness and the playing of light in his hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska, and how he translates his findings to music are informed by the works of composers like Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Morton Feldman, among others. The three pieces presented on this disc share a similar form. They are made from a progression of slow chords where movement is expressed through the expansion and reduction of intervals. The Farthest Place (11 minutes) is the simplest piece, stretched over a pentatonic frame. The Light That Fills the Void (13 minutes) is diatonic, softly introducing dissonances. In the accompanying press release, the label Cold Blue claims these are premiere recordings, but there is at least one recording of this particular piece predating this one (it appeared on the compilation Musicworks No. 82, performed by the Paul Dresher Ensemble). That said, this version is better, mainly because the ominous spacy keyboard sound has been replaced by the piano. The Immeasurable Space of Tones (27 minutes) makes the expansion/reduction architecture more complex by introducing inner cycles. The performers on all three pieces are Marty Walker (bass clarinet), Amy Knoles (vibraphone/marimba), Bryan Pezzone (piano), Nathaniel Reichman (keyboard), Robin Lorenz (violin), and Barry Newton (double bass). Adams' music sounds like it has nothing to accomplish. It simply exists, hanging in midair, waiting to be listened to.

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