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John Luther Adams

New York, NY      

Called “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker), John Luther Adams is a composer whose life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world.

Adams was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his symphonic work Become Ocean, and a 2015 Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition”.  Inuksuit, his outdoor work for up to 99 percussionists, is regularly performed all over the world.

Columbia University has honored Adams with the William Schuman Award “to recognize the lifetime achievement of an American composer whose works have been widely performed and generally acknowledged to be of lasting significance.”

A recipient of the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness, JLA has also been honored with the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University “for melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries.”

Born in 1953, JLA grew up in the South and in the suburbs of New York City. He studied composition with James Tenney 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.

Adams has taught at Harvard University, the Oberlin Conservatory, Bennington College, and the University of Alaska. He has also served as composer in residence with the Anchorage Symphony, Anchorage Opera, Fairbanks Symphony, Arctic Chamber Orchestra, and the Alaska Public Radio Network.

The music of John Luther Adams is recorded on Cantaloupe, Cold Blue, New World, Mode, and New Albion, and his books are published by Wesleyan University Press.

Articles by John Luther Adams:

NewMusicBox July 19 2012 | By John Luther Adams
33 Years of Composer Advocacy: Celebrating the Legacy of Ralph Jackson

Ralph Jackson is a kind of sage, a savant with an uncanny gift for seeing beyond superficial complexities into the real essence of a situation. Ralph’s perspective is always insightful,...

NewMusicBox March 19 2012 | By John Luther Adams
Sound Ideas: Prompt #1

In 1960 La Monte Young prompted us: “Draw a straight line and follow it.” The reverberations of this radically simple directive have been vast and profound. But aside from those...

NewMusicBox May 5 2010 | By John Luther Adams
No More Outsiders

The Nemmers Prize is a welcome sign that my music seems to resonate "out there" in the larger world; At the same time, I've found myself wondering: Does this mean...

NewMusicBox May 7 2003 | By John Luther Adams
Remembering Lou

John Luther Adams, Bill Colvig, and Lou HarrisonPhoto by Dennis Keeley The great redwood has fallen. Light streams into the forest. The sound will reverberate for generations to come. The...

NewMusicBox June 1 2002 | By John Luther Adams
Another View: Music and Wilderness

photo by Dennis Keeley In addition to my wife Cynthia and our son Sage, there are two great loves in my life: music and wilderness. At first blush, these two...

NewMusicBox May 1 2002 | By John Luther Adams
A Lesson from Yogi

After he’d miserably flunked a high school exam, Yogi Berra’s disheartened teacher asked him: “Yogi, didn’t you learn anything?” The future baseball Hall-of-Famer replied: “Ma’m, I didn’t even suspect anything.”...

NewMusicBox April 1 2002 | By John Luther Adams
American Originals

“Affirmation of parentage is the substance of rebellion.”—Harry Partch I’ve never been what you’d call a flag-waving kind of guy. But when it comes to music, I guess I’m pretty...

NewMusicBox March 1 2002 | By John Luther Adams
Music Happens

“No matter what we do, sooner or later it all sounds melodic.”—Christian Wolff Despite the best laid plans of composers and performers, music happens. Like life itself, music always involves...

NewMusicBox February 1 2002 | By John Luther Adams
Word and Voice

One of the beautiful things about music is that it can mean almost anything, or nothing at all.