Did Alaska create John Luther Adams' music or did the music create his Alaska?
In his 16' x 24' cabin-studio outside Fairbanks, where Adams has worked for over two decades, the vastness of Alaska has swept through the distant reaches of his imagination and every corner of his compositions.
In turn, the NEA and Rockefeller Foundation grantee - whose music Village Voice critic and composer Kyle Gann describes as "beautiful, shimmering, vast, luminous, ecstatic" - has used any means necessary to communicate the power of the elemental forces he experiences daily.
Adams' methods have included percussion ensembles, Alaska Native voices, orchestral residencies, sound and light installations, and elegant prose writing collected in his book Winter Music. His music has been performed by Bang on a Can, the California E.A.R. Unit, and Percussion Group Cincinnati, among others.
Where Strange and Sacred Noise calls from chaos, other compositions evoke stillness and imperceptible movement. The Light That Fills the World is uncompromisingly gorgeous, rolling beds of tone crystallizing into atmosphere.
The site-specific The Place Where We Go To Listen creates music from data streams measuring the rhythms of night and day, the phases and positions of the moon, the changing sky conditions, seismic readings, and disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field.
In describing it as an "imaginary world that is connected directly to the real world, the larger world," Adams could be describing all of his work. Inside, one will discover that - just as much as Alaska - John Luther Adams' music is a real place, his evocations as unique as the Arctic sun.
Did Alaska create the music, or does the music create Alaska? Not even John Luther Adams knows for sure. -Jesse Jarnow