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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 January 1 2002 | By John Luther Adams
Music, Space, and Place

“Place is security, space is freedom.” —Yi-Fu Tuan Morton Feldman’s one and only composition lesson with Varèse was a brief encounter on the street in New York. The old master...

NewMusicBox November 1 2001 | By John Luther Adams
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

As a young composer in the late '60s and '70s, I came of age with minimalism.

NewMusicBox October 1 2001 | By John Luther Adams
The Best of Both Worlds?

Deep within me lives a confirmed Luddite who harbors a fundamental mistrust of technology. But in spite of myself I've been inexorably drawn to electronic media by strong musical imperatives.

NewMusicBox September 1 2001 | By John Luther Adams
Both Ends Across the Middle

Whatever the reason, the music that speaks most directly to me has always been older and newer. And it's always seemed to me that new music and early music are...

NewMusicBox August 1 2001 | By John Luther Adams
While the Music Lasts

…you are the musicWhile the music lasts. —T.S. Eliot, “The Dry Salvages” As composers and performers, our work is to make the music—to be the music while the music lasts....

NewMusicBox July 1 2001 | By John Luther Adams
Your Career or Your Life

From mid-adolescence on, I never had any doubt that I'd be a composer. But the whole concept of having a career didn't really dawn on me until I was almost...

NewMusicBox June 1 2001 | By John Luther Adams
Listen Globally, Make Music Locally

Human cultures are like ecosystems. To sustain themselves, they need a balance of diversity and integrity.

NewMusicBox May 1 2001 | By John Luther Adams
Does the Orchestra Have A Future?

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have long-term partnerships with several outstanding orchestral conductors who have commissioned, performed and recorded my music. This has had a profound influence on...

NewMusicBox April 1 2001 | By John Luther Adams
Music in the Theater

I’m writing this from Washington, DC, where I’ve just seen and heard a new production of Coyote Builds North America, one of my two music theater works with writer Barry...