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John Luther Adams

Taiga Press (BMI)
Works for 2-6 Players
40 Minutes
Programme Note
John Luther Adams songbirdsongs
These small songs are echoes of rare moments and places where the voices of birds have been clear and I have been quiet enough to hear. Now and then this magic finds me wandering (like one of Harry Partch's Lost Musicians) in search of my own voice.

If I have abdicated the position of Composer (with a capital "C") it is because, like ee cumming: "I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten-thousand stars how not to dance." After all, what do we really create but answers to Creation?

This music is not literal transcription. It is translation. Not imitation, but evocation. My concern is not with precise details of pitch and meter, for too much precision can deafen us to such things as birds and music. I listen for other, less tangible nuances. These melodies and rhythms, then, are not so much constructed artifacts as they are spontaneous affirmations.

No one has yet explained why the free songs of birds are so simply beautiful. And what do they say? What are their meanings? We may never know. But beyond the realm of ideas and emotions, language and sense, we just may hear something of their essence. From there, as Annie Dillard suggests, we can begin "learning the strange syllables, one by one."

John Luther Adams

  • Ensemble
    Callithumpian Consort
    Mode Records:
  • Soloist(s)
    Anne McFarland, Ocarina and Picollo; Michel Cook, Ocarina and Picollo; John Luther Adams, Percussion; Kevin Culver, Percussion and Ocarina; Scott Douglas, Percussion; Tim Embry, Percussion
    Opus One:
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