Friday, December 31, 2004
The understated cover art for In The White Silence by John Luther Adams.
I first read about John Luther Adams in 1987 in John Shaefer's book New Sounds: A Listener's Guide to New Music. It wasn't until I heard some of his music on Postclassic Radio that I realized I needed to actively seek this great body of music and put an active ear toward it. Since then I've learned that Adams is a fellow former student of James Tenney. His music is rooted in a strong identity with his home environment of Alaska. His sonic textures are amazing.
In The White Silence is an expansive, deceptively delicate textured work that luxurously unfolds for over an hour. It succeeds at portraying the other-worldly expanse of a vast snow-covered climate as "painted" by someone who knows and loves the details of this place.
I've long been a skeptic of the idea that music can be rooted in a place or even function as being "about" a place without the assistance of prose. But Adams has made a believer out of me. The "subject" of this music never overwhelms the "ideas." It's beautiful.