MusicNOW’s 2014/15 season begins Sept. 29 with a program titled Synchronicity, featuring an ambient pastoral piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams, a powerful electro-acoustic work by Chicago-based composer Anthony Cheung and a multimedia work by Michael Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison. The concert closes with a visceral sinfonietta by Mason Bates, CSO co-composer-in-residence, inspired by synthetic computing.
JOHN LUTHER ADAMS: The Wind in High Places (2011)
Duration: 16 minutes
Instrumentation: String quartet
Commissioned by Theodore Front Musical Literature
Premiered by Ethel on Oct. 26, 2011, at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, Calif.
Publisher/copyright information: Taiga Press
The composer writes:
Gordon Wright was the friend of a lifetime. For 30 years, Gordon and I shared our two greatest passions: music and Alaska. Gordon was my musical collaborator, my next-door neighbor, my fellow environmentalist and my camping buddy. The Wind in High Places is a triptych evoking special moments and places in our friendship. Over the years, I’ve utilized string quartet in several large ensemble works. But, at the age of 59, I finally composed my first string quartet.
I’ve long been enamored with the ethereal tones of Aeolian harps — instruments that draw their music directly from the wind. The Wind in High Places treats the string quartet as a large, 16-stringed harp. All the sounds in the piece are produced as natural harmonics or on open strings. Over the course of almost 20 minutes, the fingers of the musicians never touch the fingerboards of the instruments. If I could’ve found a way to make this music without them touching the instruments at all, I would have.
About the composer:
John Luther Adams is a composer whose life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world.
Born in 1953, Adams grew up in the South and in the suburbs of New York City. He studied composition with James Tenney at the California Institute of the Arts, where he was in the first graduating class (in 1973). In the mid-1970s, he became active in the campaign for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and subsequently served as executive director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.
Adams was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his symphonic work Become Ocean. Inuksuit, his outdoor work for up to 99 percussionists, is regularly performed all over the world. A recipient of the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness, Adams also has been honored with the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University “for melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries.”
Adams has taught at Harvard University, the Oberlin Conservatory, Bennington College and the University of Alaska. He has also served as composer in residence with the Anchorage Symphony, Anchorage Opera, Fairbanks Symphony, Arctic Chamber Orchestra and the Alaska Public Radio Network. Click here for a WXQR-FM program about “The Wind in High Places.”