John Adams Biography (BBC)
Born in 1947 in Massachusetts, John Adams is 10 years younger than Steve Reich and Philip Glass, with whom he is often classified as a Minimalist. His success has much to do with an espousal of modality and regular pulse – musical elements reintroduced by the Minimalists in reaction to much modernist music. Yet Adams’s approach since the late 1970s emphasises two things that early Minimalism is generally said to have rejected. One is direct emotional expression; the other concerns allusions to, and even direct quotations from, other musics. Adams himself has described his development as an alternation between ‘two opposing polarities: along with every dark, introspective, “serious” piece there must come the Trickster, the garish, ironic wild card that threatens to lose me whatever friends the previous composition might have gained’. Thus Harmonium (1981), settings of John Donne and Emily Dickinson, was followed by Grand Pianola Music (1982).
Allusion and quotation played an increasing role in Adams’s output from 1978 – when Shaker Loops drew on the spiritual ecstasy of America’s 18th-century fundamentalist movement – up to the late-1980s works Nixon in China and Fearful Symmetries. Since then, such references have generally been less overt, though the Chamber Symphony (1992) alludes both to Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1 and to American cartoons.
With Nixon in China, his first opera (1987), Adams achieved international fame. The director Peter Sellars, librettist Alice Goodman and the choreographer Mark Morris were integral both to this project and to his next opera, The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), based on the 1985 hijacking of a cruise-liner. An event from recent history – the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake – was likewise the starting point for the ‘songplay’ I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (1995). By contrast, El Niño (2000) is a ‘Nativity oratorio’ featuring film as well as stage action. Adams’s most recent operatic collaborations with Sellars are Doctor Atomic (2005) and A Flowering Tree (2006), both seen in London during the past two years. The Doctor Atomic Symphony, extensively recasting and extending the opera, was premiered at the 2007 BBC Proms. Adams’s works include Son of Chamber Symphony (2007), also choreographed for San Francisco Ballet by Mark Morris, and City Noir (2009).
In 1995 the composer received the Grawemeyer Award for his Violin Concerto. In 2003, the year in which he became Artist-in- Association with the BBC SO, his On the Transmigration of Souls, written for the first anniversary of 9/11, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Profile by Keith Potter © BBC
John Adams Biography (Wikipedia)
John Coolidge Adams (born February 15, 1947) is an American composer, clarinetist, and conductor of classical music and opera, with strong roots in minimalism.
His works include Nixon in China (1987), Harmonielehre (1985), Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986), On the Transmigration of Souls (2002), a choral piece commemorating the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2003), and Shaker Loops (1978), a minimalist four-movement work for strings.
His operas include Nixon in China (1987), which recounts Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, Doctor Atomic (2005), which covers Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project, and the building of the first atomic bomb and The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) based on the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985, and the hijackers' murder of 69-year-old Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer, who used a wheelchair. The opera has drawn controversy, including allegations by some (including Klinghoffer's two daughters) that the opera is antisemitic and glorifies terrorism. The work's creators and others have disputed these criticisms.
- Tommy Smith | My Musichttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p04cpnt7.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p04cpnt7.jpg2016-10-21T08:39:00.000ZTommy Smith chooses Harmonielehre by John Adams as his My Music.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p04cpntq
Tommy Smith | My Music
- "When I listen to this music what I read is this incredible information overload"https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02qbnf8.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02qbnf8.jpg2016-08-04T09:40:00.000ZShobana Jeyasingh on why John Adams' City Noir reminds her of the city of Bangalorehttps://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p043kz5m
"When I listen to this music what I read is this incredible information overload"
- Proms Composer: John Adamshttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p00w6yr8.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p00w6yr8.jpg2014-09-03T12:25:00.000ZAndrew McGregor introduces works by Proms Composer John Adams.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p025z7qq
Proms Composer: John Adams
- John Adams - early yearshttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01s9017.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01s9017.jpg2014-04-25T09:37:00.000ZDonald Macleod meets John Adams to discuss his life and work.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01xyhf7
John Adams - early years
John Adams Tracks
Past BBC Events
BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus 2016-17 season: John Adams conducts Doctor Atomic
Proms 2012: Prom 72: John Adams – Nixon in China
Proms 2012: Prom 4: Respighi, Ravel and Adams
Proms 2007: Prom 50
Proms 2007: Prom 47
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