John Luther Adams

John Luther Adams: The Place We Began

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Cold Blue Music's John Luther Adams: The place we began springs forth from a little bit of creative recycling; running into some boxes of unfinished tape compositions dating back to the early '70s, Adams decided to reshape these artifacts into something new. The electronic sounds are certainly vintage; analog tones ranging from high squeals to low, rumbling frequencies, but the specific spatial directionality relatively easy to achieve with digital mixing and editing in the 2000s did not exist in the 1970s. You could get a dim approximation of it, but in the spaces you didn't use there would be tape hiss and that tended to flatten everything out. Adams isn't restoring an already existing work so much as he is fashioning a new garment out of old cloth and the result is at times magical and falls right in with his concepts of sound and space, even if in comparison to his instrumental works such as In the White Silence it is far less elaborate and gripping. This music seldom, if ever, raises its voice, the effect is subtle and -- to coin a term -- "semi-amorphous" in that while the entrances of particular sounds are not predictable, they seem to fit together and make sense. Certain small details seem to be standing in the background for a time before one really notices them; the range of sonic combinations runs from comfortably colorful to stark, and many places in between.

For listeners who take an active role in their listening habits, the place where we began might seem to require a lot of patience, but this music might work best played at a relatively low volume and with few other distractions. While for first contact with John Luther Adams In the White Silence, for Lou Harrison or his other Cold Blue disc Red Arc/Blue Veil might be more fitting, those already in the loop will greatly enjoy the place we began and it should also appeal to listeners who enjoy audio art, or "soundscapes" as he refers to these pieces, in a general way.

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