Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Contemporary U.S. Composer, John Adams

I'd like to introduce a contemporary U.S. composer, John Adams. I have enjoyed his compositions very much over the years, particularly the instrumental parts of his opera, Nixon in China.

This is a link to a recording on Youtube of "The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra" from Nixon in China. I have very special and personal associations with this recording in particular, and hope that others will enjoy it, too.

The album I particularly enjoy is of the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Edo de Waart from 1987. Originally I had this on LP, and I also have it on CD. This album was the first CD I ever gave my daughter, when she was very little, her first-ever recording. (So, we have three copies of this recording, the only album for which we have three copies.)

An early success by John Adams is the lovely composition called Shaker Loops. It is a composition only for strings in four movements. It can be played by ensembles of any size from a string septet to full orchestra.
I. Shaking and Trembling.
II. Hymning Slews.
III. Loops and Verses. (The link has the last two movements in one Youtube post.)
IV. A Final Shaking.

John Adams won the Pulizter Prize in 2003 for his composition, On the Transmigration of Souls, to commemorate the attacks of 9/11. (Don't be surprised. The sound of New York City noise, what sounds like a tape loop or sound sample of a diggery-doo, footsteps and voices at the beginning are part of the composition.) This is the complete New York City Philharmonic recording that won many awards in 2005 in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. There is also a Youtube video of a part of a Dutch TV broadcast of a performance conducted by Edo de Waarts. This is haunting, lovely, lovely music.

[A great book that harmonizes with this music is Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, one of my all-time favorite novels; I consider it the masterpiece of the English novel of our time.]

A more recent composition by John Adams is his opera Doctor Atomic, about the physicist Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. Adams later adapted the opera into a symphony, too. Here is "Batter My Heart", an aria from the opera Doctor Atomic.

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