“In this time when we humans have become a geologic force, most of us live in increasingly homogenous environments, and in the amorphous non-places of the internet. Searching for real experiences in real places, we travel to far-flung destinations, where we make photographs of ourselves to prove that we were there. Yet it’s increasingly rare that we are fully present anywhere, and the knowledge that we truly belong to any place eludes many of us.”
—John Luther Adams
For John Luther Adams, music is a lifelong search for home—an invitation to slow down, pay attention, and remember our place within the larger community of life on earth.
Living for almost 40 years in northern Alaska, JLA discovered a unique musical world grounded in space, stillness, and elemental forces. In the 1970s and into the ’80s, he worked full time as an environmental activist. But the time came when he felt compelled to dedicate himself entirely to music. He made this choice with the belief that, ultimately, music can do more than politics to change the world.
In works such as Become Ocean, In the White Silence, and Canticles of the Holy Wind, Adams brings the sense of wonder that we feel outdoors into the concert hall. And in outdoor works such as Inuksuit and Sila: The Breath of the World, he employs music as a way to reclaim our connections with place, wherever we may be.
A deep concern for the state of the earth and the future of humanity drives Adams to continue composing.
As he puts it:
If we can imagine a culture and a society in which we each feel more deeply responsible for our own place in the world, then we just may be able to bring that culture and that society into being. This will largely be the work of people who will be here on this earth when I am gone. I place my faith in them.
Since leaving Alaska, JLA and his wife Cynthia now divide their time between the Chihuahuan desert and the wilds of Manhattan.