Artist: John Luther Adams
Album: In the White Silence

Label: New World

In the White Silence John Luther Adams
For John Luther Adams, composing is not about finding the notes, it's about losing them. His vast landscapes of sound deal with the beautiful desolation of vast tundra landscapes and the fundamental materials of music: sound and time. Adams' composition In the White Silence, a nature-inspired work for orchestra, was "influenced by the exquisite colors of the sub-Arctic winter light on snow." The music is "stripped to its most essential elements - harmony and color floating in space, suspended in 'time undisturbed'." Working in this mode, he is able to examine complex emotional themes without trivializing them.

Adopted by the post-minimalism movement, Adams' craft strives to transcend conventional boundaries of musical composition. In the White Silence, is "composed of continuously rising and falling lines, layered and diffused into an allover texture of frozen counterpoint. Individual sounds are diffused in a continuous conformation, always changing but always with a minimum of 'incident'." Throughout its 75 minute course, the unification of sustained tones, static textures, consonance and modal harmony suggest the idea of music as an "immeasurable space". "Listening to allover textures, it's difficult to concentrate for long on a single sound. The music moves us beyond syntactical meaning, beyond images, into the experience of listening within a larger, indivisible presence." Adams' works aspire to, "evoke a wholeness of music, a sounding presence somehow equivalent to that of a vast landscape." In the White Silence is an example of Adams' concept of "sonic geography".

Referencing his fascination for the "treeless, windswept expanses of the Arctic", Adams ponders his primary musical influence, "the colors on the snow suggest to me broad diatonic washes suffused with gradually-changing chromatic harmonies." In the White Silence is the sonically transmittable design of Adams' spiritual revelations. His position as composer, in the setting of a contemporary orchestral ensemble, leads him to fashion and arrange phrases and figures into that which we as listeners will be able to translate and be moved by, "Identical formal structures recur, from section to section. The temporal relationships between sounds remain the same, only the sounds themselves change. Rather than moving on a journey through a musical landscape, the listener sits in the same place as light and shadows slowly change. The longer we stay in one place, the more we notice change." Although profoundly inspired and awed by nature, Adams' music transcends the objective presence of place and time. Still moving into another intensity, Adams reveals, "I hope to discover music that sounds and feels elemental and inevitable."

- Chuck van Zyl/STAR'S END   15 May 2003


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