Echoes from the Alaskan Tundra: John Luther Adams
Imagine a place where music changes according to time of day, geomagnetic activity, aurora shimmers, the path of the sun and moon through the sky and seismic shudder. And it runs 24/7, 365 days a year. This is John Luther Adams‘ installation, The Place Where You Go to Listen. But there’s another name for it.
John Luther Adams: The name is Naalagiagvik which means more or less literally translated “The place where you go to listen,” It’s Inupiat name. The Inupiat are the northern Alaskan Inuit people.
The Place Where You Go to Listen is a permanent installation housed in the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. But it’s only a recent example of the ecological music that John Luther Adams has been making over the last 30 years. His compositions are drawn from the environment, mostly Alaska where he lives, often in darkened skies and snow shrouded landscapes. He’s lived there since 1975 in a place of solitude where he tunes in the world, following a lineage from John Cage.
John Luther Adams: Absolutely. I often speak of Cage as the first great ecological composer. He opened our ears to the music all around us and that’s an enduring influence on my work.
Although he’s an ecological composer, John Luther Adams has used environmental sounds only once in his music. Works like In the White Silence, Clouds of Forgetting, Clouds of Unknowing and The Light That Fills The World don’t employ environmental sounds at all.
John Luther Adams: We are nature and so rather than imitating nature, I hope that the music itself becomes a kind of nature.
He works with orchestras and acoustic musicians, creating his own reaction to the environment.
John Luther Adams: Well, I am not sure the music is the sound of nature, but at times it maybe, but even more I hope it is the feel of nature, that the music is a kind of landscape and I invite you the listener into this landscape.
John Luther Adams has a new book called The Place Where You Go to Listen: in Search of an Ecology of Music. He also has a new album of electronic works called The Place We Began. I’ll have an interview with him Monday 6/22/09, on Echoes. This has been an Ecological Echo Location.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))