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John Luther Adams

Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing
Taiga Press (BMI)
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
1 Hour 2 Minutes
Programme Note
John Luther Adams Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing
Quantum physics has recently confirmed what shamans and mystics, poets and musicians have long known: the universe is more like music than like matter. It may well be that our most fundamental relationship to the great mysteries is one of listening. Through sustained concentrated attention to the fullness of the present moment, we listen for the beat of being, the voice of God.

Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing is a work of musical contemplation, an attempt to consecrate a small time and space for extraordinary listening. The work is titled after The Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th Century mystical text which has much in common with the teachings of contemplative traditions throughout the world, be they Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sufi, Native American or other.

My music has long been grounded in a strong sense of place and a deep response to the landscapes of the far north, exploring a territory I call "sonic geography". But the landscapes of Clouds are more essentially sonic than geographic in nature. My hope has been not so much to compose a piece of music as to create - in essentially musical terms, with no external references - a wholeness of music, a sonic presence somehow equivalent to that of a vast landscape. Still, (perhaps unavoidably for me), the sound of this music has a certain coldness, clarity, aridity and starkness, reminiscent of the light, atmosphere and landforms of the Arctic.

I began work on Clouds in early 1991, following the death of my father. Much of the music was composed during 1994-95, with a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts. The work was composed for conductor JoAnn Falletta and the musicians of the Apollo Chamber Orchestra.

Clouds is dedicated, with love, to the memory of my father, Thomas Luther Adams, and, with gratitude and respect, to Jasper Johns.

John Luther Adams

Preview the score:

  • Ensemble
    The Apollo Chamber Orchestra
    Joann Falletta
    New World Records:
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