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John Adams

Publisher: AMP

Shaker Loops (1978)
Publisher
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Category
Orchestra
Sub Category
String Orchestra
Year Composed
1978
Arranger/Editor
arr. for string orchestra 1983
Duration
26 Minutes
Orchestration
Alternate Orchestration
3vn, va, 2vc, db


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Score Score

Programme Note
John Adams Shaker Loops (1978)
Galili Dance video clip on YouTube
Composer Note:

Shaker Loops began as a string quartet with the title Wavemaker. At the time, like many a young composer, I was essentially unaware of the nature of those musical materials I had chosen for my tools. Having experienced a few of the seminal pieces of American Minimalism during the early 1970's, I thought their combination of stripped-down harmonic and rhythmic discourse might be just the ticket for my own unformed yearnings. I gradually developed a scheme for composing that was partly indebted to the repetitive procedures of Minimalism and partly an outgrowth of my interest in waveforms. The "waves" of Wavemaker were to be long sequences of oscillating melodic cells that created a rippling, shimmering complex of patterns like the surface of a slightly agitated pond or lake. But my technique lagged behind my inspiration, and this rippling pond very quickly went dry. Wavemaker crashed and burned at its first performance. The need for a larger, thicker ensemble and for a more flexible, less theory-bound means of composing became very apparent.

Fortunately I had in my students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music an ensemble willing to tryout new ideas, and with the original Wavemaker scrapped I worked over the next four months to pick up the pieces and start over. I held on to the idea of the oscillating patterns and made an overall structure that could embrace much more variety and emotional range. Most importantly the quartet became a septet, thereby adding a sonic mass and the potential for more acoustical power. The "loops" idea was a technique from the era of tape music where small lengths of prerecorded tape attached end to end could repeat melodic or rhythmic figures ad infinitum. (Steve Reich's It's Gonna Rain is the paradigm of this technique.) The Shakers got into the act partly as a pun on the musical term "to shake", meaning either to make a tremolo with the bow across the string or else to trill rapidly from one note to another. The flip side of the pun was suggested by my own childhood memories of growing up not far from a defunct Shaker colony near Canterbury, New Hampshire. Although, as has since been pointed out to me, the term "Shaker" itself is derogatory, it nevertheless summons up the vision of these otherwise pious and industrious souls caught up in the ecstatic frenzy of a dance that culminated in an epiphany of physical and spiritual transcendence. This dynamic, almost electrically charged element, so out of place in the orderly mechanistic universe of Minimalism, gave the music its raison d'etre and ultimately led to the full realization of the piece. Shaker Loops continues to be one of my most performed pieces. There are partisans who favor the clarity and individualism of the solo septet version, and there are those who prefer the orchestral version for its added density and power. The piece has several times been choreographed and even enjoyed a moment of cult status in the movie Barfly, an autobiographical account of the poet Charles Bukowsky's down and out days on LA's Skid Row. In a famous scene Bukowsky (Mickey Rourke), having been battered and bloodied by his drunken girlfriend (Faye Dunaway) holes up in a flophouse room, writing poems in a fit of inspiration to the accompaniment of the insistent buzz of "Shaking and Trembling".

— John Adams

  • Ensemble
    The London Chamber Orchestra
    Conductor
    Christopher Warren-Green
  • Ensemble
    Orchestra of St. Luke's
    Conductor
    John Adams
  • Ensemble
    Ridge String Quartet
    Soloist(s)
    Gary Lowendusky (Double Bass), Judiyaba (Cello), Dan Smiley (Violin)
    New Albion:
  • Ensemble
    Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Marin Alsop
    Naxos:
  • Ensemble
    Lucerne Festival Strings
    Conductor
    Achim Fiedler
    Oehms:
  • Ensemble
    London Chamber Orchestra
    Conductor
    Christopher Warren-Green
    Virgin Classics:
  • Ensemble
    Orchestra of St. Luke's
    Conductor
    John Adams
    Nonesuch :
  • G. Schirmer / AMP:
  • Ensemble
    Ensemble Modern
    Conductor
    Sian Edwards
    Rca Victor Red Seal:
  • Ensemble
    London Chamber Orchestra
    Conductor
    Christopher Warren-Green
    Emi Classics:
  • Ensemble
    London Chamber Orchestra
    Conductor
    Christopher Warren-Green
    Virgin Classics:
  • Ensemble
    La Pietà
    Conductor
    Angèle Dubeau
    Analekta:
  • Ensemble
    London Chamber Orchestra
    Conductor
    Christopher Warren-Green
    Emi Classics:
  • Nonesuch:
  • Ensemble
    Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
    Soloist(s)
    Nathan Gunn, Baritone
    Naxos:
  • Ensemble
    Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
    Naxos:
  • Ensemble
    Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Marin Alsop
    Naxos:
  • Ensemble
    San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor
    Edo de Waart
    Philips:
Performances
Date
Title
  • 21 JUL 2017
    Rheingau Musik Festival
    Wiesbaden, Germany
    Camerata Geneva
    Francesco Tristano, Piano; David Greilsammer, Piano; David Greilsammer, conductor
  • 19 MAY 2017
    Charlotte, NC
    Charlotte Symphony Orchestra
    Christopher Warren Green, conductor
  • 12 APR 2017
    City Hall Waterford, Ireland
    Irish Chamber Orchestra
    Fiona Kelly, flute; Daniel Bates, oboe; Simon Menin, trumpet; Thomas Zehetmair, conductor

    Other Dates:
    13 April - University Concert Hall Limerick, Ireland
  • 30 MAR 2017
    Three Generations
    Zankel Hall,New York, NY
    Ensemble Signal
    Brad Lubman, conductor
  • 20 JAN 2017
    New York, NY
    Manhattan School of Music
    George Manahan, conductor
  • 26 NOV 2016
    Argentina
    Illumina Camerata
    Jennifer Stum, conductor
  • 11 NOV 2016
    Houston, TX
    Shepherd School Chamber Orchestra
  • 10 NOV 2016
    Ford Hall Ithaca,NY UNITED STATES
    East Coast Chamber Orchestra

    Other Dates:
    12 November - Washington Irving High School New York,NY UNITED STATES
    14 November - Advent Lutheran Church New York,NY UNITED STATES
  • 09 NOV 2016
    Freiburg, Germany
    SWR Symphonieorchester
    Ilan Volkov , conductor

    Other Dates:
    13 November - Stuttgart, Germany
    12 November - Karlsruhe, Germany
    11 November - Freiburg, Germany
  • 02 NOV 2016
    Utrecht,QC NETHERLANDS
    Ciconia Consort
  • 14 OCT 2016
    St John's Cathedral, Queensland, Australia
    Camerata of St John's
    Leader: Brendan Joyce
  • 07 OCT 2016
    Seoul Arts Center, Korea, Republic Of (South)
    Korean Symphony Orchestra

    Other Dates:
    8,9 October - Seoul Arts Center, Korea, Republic Of (South)
  • 27 SEP 2016
    Netherlands
    Ciconia Consort [via Albersen Verhuur B.V.]

    Other Dates:
    4 October - Eindhoven NETHERLANDS
    9 October - Den Haag,QC NETHERLANDS
    2 November - Utrecht,QC NETHERLANDS
  • 17 SEP 2016
    St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, London
    Orchestra of St Paul’s
    Ben Palmer, conductor
  • 07 SEP 2016
    Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland, UK
    Scottish Ensemble

    Other Dates:
    8 September - Eden Court Theatre and Cinema, Inverness, Scotland, UK
    10 September - Theatre Royal, Dumfries, Scotland, UK
    11 September - RSNO Centre, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  • 02 SEP 2016
    Genf, Switzerland
    Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
    John Adams, conductor
  • 04 MAY 2016
    L´Auditori, Barcelona
    Orquesta Sinfonica de Barcelona
    Francesc Prat, conductor

    Other Dates:
    5 May - L´Auditori, Barcelona
  • 04 MAY 2016
    Spain
    Orquesta Sinfonica de Barcelona
    Mr. Frances Prat, conductor

    Other Dates:
    5 May - Spain
  • 17 APR 2016
    Omaha, NE
    Omaha Symphony
    Ernest Richardson, conductor
  • 27 FEB 2016
    Byre Theatre, St Andrews
    Lou Major Ensemble
    Ian Munro, conductor
  • 10 DEC 2015
    Oberlin, OH
    Oberlin Conservatory of Music
    Tim Weiss, conductor
  • 28 NOV 2015
    Cromer, UK
    London Mozart Players
    Nathan Waring, conductor
  • 27 NOV 2015
    Minimalism Unwrapped
    Kings Place, London
    Aurora Orchestra
    Leonard Eischenbroich; Nicholas Collon, conductor
  • 27 NOV 2015
    Visions - Tavener, Pärt and Adams
    King's Place, London
    Aurora Orchestra
    Leonard Elschenbroich, cello; Nicholas Collon, conductor
  • 02 SEP 2015
    Berlin, Germany
    Ensemble Modern
    Brad Lubman, conductor
  • 17 AUG 2015
    Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
    Edinburgh Festival Ensemble
  • 01 AUG 2015
    Hitzacker, Germany
    Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop
  • 03 JUL 2015
    TBC
    Penzance String Youth Orchestra
  • 30 APR 2015
    Nürnberg, Germany
    Staatsphilharmonie Nürnberg
    Peter Tilling, conductor
  • 25 APR 2015
    Rio de Janiero, Brazil
    Scottish Ensemble

Reviews
[John Adams's] Shaker Loops is a minimalist quartet that became a septet, then a piece for full strings. Edwards and Ensemble Modern's particularly good recording combines clarity and individualism with density and power, [in] its rapturous lyricism (middle movements) and high-octane energy (outer movements). Kretzschmar drives [the] rhythmically propulsive Phrygian Gates [in] its restless shifting of colour and pulse. This beautifully recorded CD is strongly recommended.
Rob Cowen, Gramophone,01/01/0001
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