JLA's music is heard regularly all over the world. The Chicago Symphony, the Radio Netherlands Philharmonic, and the Melbourne Symphony have performed his Dark Waves for large orchestra and electronic sounds. Inuksuit for up to ninety-nine percussionists has been performed in New York City's Morningside Park and at the Park Avenue Armory, as well as many other outdoor venues throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
Adams is the author of Winter Music (2004), a collection of essays, journal entries and reflections on his life and work in Alaska. The subject of his second book is The Place Where You Go to Listen (2009) his installation at the Museum of the North that translates geophysical data streams into an ever-changing environment of sound and light. The Farthest Place (2012), a book-length critical study of JLA's music, includes essays by Kyle Gann, Steven Schick, Glenn Kotche and many other prominent musicians and scholars.
Adams has taught at Harvard University, the Oberlin Conservatory, Bennington College, and the University of Alaska. He has been composer in residence with the Anchorage Symphony, Anchorage Opera, Fairbanks Symphony, Arctic Chamber Orchestra, and the Alaska Public Radio Network, and he has served as president of the American Music Center.
Born in 1953, Adams grew up in the South and in the suburbs of New York City. He studied composition with James Tenney and Leonard Stein at the California Institute of the Arts, where he was in the first graduating class (in 1973). In the mid-1970s he became active in the campaign for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and subsequently served as executive director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.