Hear and Now: a portrait of John Luther Adams
Ornithologist, musician and broadcaster Tom McKinney presented music by John Luther Adams for BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now on Saturday. This portrait programme includes excerpts from Adams's cycle of chamber pieces songbirdsongs, music from his Alaskan opera Earth and the Great Weather, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral piece Become Ocean. The programme is available to hear for another four weeks on the BBC iPlayer via the button below.
Tom McKinney writes a blog that includes a 52-part weekly feature on birds that have influenced music. He writes “as a way into the music Adams wrote in Alaska, have a go at Dark Waves, inspired by the Pacific Ocean of the Bering Sea. It was the first piece I heard by him, and I think it's pretty incredible. It's massive music, slow moving blocks of sound, gradually changing textures that rise and fall with intensity. It's as big and slow as the Alaskan landscape and ocean.”
During Hear and Now, Adams describes his Earth and the Great Weather as “a sacred work of some sort” and “a kind of sonic geography; I’m still not sure what that means but is has something to do with the interrelationship between place and the human imagination.” Written in collaboration with four native Alaskans, it includes natural sound, native drumming and Aeolian harps. Adams reveals that, in his sixties and now living mainly in Mexico, he has returned to bird song as a major influence, decades after songbirdsongs.