Norman Lebrecht talks to the American composer and conductor John Adams in the week that he conducts his opera Nixon in China at the BBC Proms.
Adams who was born in Massachusetts is one of the most celebrated composers alive. Many of his pieces are in the repertory, including his operas Nixon in China, the Death of Klinghoffer and his opera about Robert Oppenheimer, Doctor Atomic all of which receive stagings around the world and all of which he talks about in this interview.
Adams also talks about his early years learning the clarinet, imagining music in his head as he did his paper round and starting to conduct and compose.
Adams turned down the chance to go to Tanglewood to learn conducting and instead drove to the West Coast to broaden his experiences. Here he encountered some of the early minimalist composers and was involved in performing concerts of music by John Cage. As he developed his artistic personality Adams rejected both Cage's ethos and that of the modernists. Adams has always been concerned with music as expressing feeling and was as open to influences from rock and pop music as he was to music of classical composers. In this sense he believes his openness to a variety of influences makes him closer to a fellow New Englander, Charles Ives.
John Adams also tells Norman about his experiences with the US Homeland security, and how he was blacklisted and about his political views in this honest conversation.
Producer Tony Cheevers.