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ASU celebrates Alaskan composer's nature-inspired music

April 23, 2007

The Herberger College of the Arts School of Music and the ASU Art Museum will play host to a weeklong residency of eminent Alaskan composer, percussionist and environmentalist John Luther Adams. Free concerts, a sound installation, roundtables, workshops and an exhibit run April 23-27.

Adams has created a unique musical world grounded in the northern wilderness landscapes and indigenous cultures, and in natural phenomena from the songs of birds to elemental noise of crashing glaciers. Much of his music is contemplative, expansive and pictorial. But he also wrote percussive and rhythmically vigorous works inspired by Inuit drumming. Adams ' works for orchestra, ensembles, percussion and electronic media have been widely performed and recorded by prominent musicians.

As a recipient of awards from such institutions as the National Endowment for the Arts and Rockefeller Foundation, he has been composer in residence with the Anchorage and Fairbanks Symphonies. He has taught at the University of Alaska , Bennington College and Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Adams came to classical music through a fascination with progressive rock. After music studies at the California Institute of the Arts, he moved to Alaska , where he worked as an environmentalist fighting for the preservation of pristine wilderness areas. These experiences led him to explore the ideal of “Sonic Geography,” a music of place deeply resonating with the philosophies of deep ecology and bioregionalism.

The events include:

• A concert at 7:30 p.m., April 24, in Katzin Concert Hall in the School of Music building on the Tempe campus. The Phoenix-based group Crossing 32nd St. (Bill Sallak, Brett Reed and Doug Nottingham) presents “The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies” for solo percussion and processed sounds. A roundtable featuring John Luther Adams follows the concert.

• A sound installation from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 25-27, at the ASU Art Museum 's Nelson Fine Arts Center , located on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street on the Tempe campus. The sound installation “Veils” comprises long, layered strands of “pink noise” passed through several harmonic prisms. “Veils” fill time and space with enveloping atmospheres of colored sound.

• A meeting with Adams at 11:40 a.m., April 25, in Recital Hall in the School of Music building on the Tempe campus. Adams will talk about his music, while Sabine Feisst, an assistant professor of music history and literature, will moderate the event.

• A concert at 7:30 p.m., April 27, in Katzin Concert Hall. The Arizona State Contemporary Music Ensemble under Glenn Hackbarth, an ASU music professor, performs several sonic landscapes, including “Dark Waves, Dark Wind,” “The Light That Fills the World,” “ … and bells remembered … ” and “Red Arc/Blue Veil.” Adams also will comment on these works.

• An exhibit from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., April 23-26, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., April 27, in the Music Library in the School of Music Building. The exhibit will include a display of Adams ' scores, writings and CDs.