2010 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition
2010 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition Prize
John Luther Adams
For melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries.
John Luther Adams (b. 1953) came to music as a rock drummer. Through a youthful passion for the music of Frank Zappa he became acquainted with the works of Edgar Varese and Morton Feldman. Adams went on to study composition at the California Institute of the Arts, where he received a bachelor of fine arts in 1973. Two years later he made his first trip to Alaska, where he has lived since 1978. Adams has served as timpanist and principal percussionist with the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra and the Arctic Chamber Orchestra. From 1994 to 1997 he was composer-in-residence with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Anchorage Opera and Alaska Public Radio Network. He has served as president of the American Music Center, a New York-based national information and support center for new American music.
Adams’ music is deeply rooted in the geography and cultures of Alaska. While the influence of Feldman can be heard in the scale and contemplative spirit of expansive, slow-moving orchestral works such as “Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing” (1991-95) and “In the White Silence” (1998). Adams combines this with an almost physical embodiment of the natural world. His experience as a percussionist and his study of Alaska Native drumming can be heard in the rhythmic intricacy of his music.
Adams’ work includes pieces for orchestra, chamber ensembles, radio, film, television, theater and opera. He has worked for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Radio Netherlands Philharmonic, the California E.A.R. Unit chamber ensemble, Bang on a Can, Percussion Group-Cincinnati, New Music America, and Arena Stage in Washington.
He has earned awards and fellowships from Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, Opera America, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and the Alaska State Council on the Arts. In 2006, Adams was named one of the first United States Artists Fellows.
Adams’ music can be heard on the Cold Blue, New World Music, Cantaloupe Music, Mode Records and New Albion labels. He is the author of “Winter Music” and “The Place Where You Go to Listen” (Wesleyan University Press) and has written about music and nature in numerous periodicals and anthologies. Adams has served on the faculties of the Oberlin Conservatory, Bennington College and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.