John Luther Adams: The Wind in High Places
John Luther Adams composes music about place, either for locations out in the world, or within the mind. The Wind in High Places (43’58”) holds eight tracks, and three compositions. The title piece announces itself with just a sustained note. Over time, the other strings in The JACK Quartet make themselves known. As the room gradually fills with lithe bowed notes, alternately converging in harmony then solo statements; a sense of fragility rises around us. While this work is truly an act of pure freedom of expression and thought, it is concisely formed, and executed to the standards of the composer. While some movements inhabit the upper register, and perhaps ascend our attention to high places, other areas offer a warmer, more terrene atmosphere. There is a beauty in minimalism, if the details are done right. Thankfully here, and elsewhere in Adams’ resume, he transcends an often process-laden genre – to realize music of beauty, with an ability to move. Whereas The Wind in High Places lifts our spirits, the second study on this album moves even slower, more deliberately – yet somehow touches us in a more meaningful way. Canticles of the Sky almost imperceptibly pushes tone colors and clusters around a vast soundfield. Each of the four parts emerges delicately out of silence. The mood of the environment we will inhabit is quickly established. From certitude to searching, onto wonderment and the outright mysterious, the string ensemble plays with a restraint and subdued palette that is reflected in the composer’s mind. The wake of sustaining notes leaves us spellbound. Everything in this dim light if beautiful. The Wind in High Places, even the title stirs the imagination. This music will re-diagram our sense of time, memory and consciousness. It reminds listeners that there is something else besides us in The Universe, felt especially in the remote high places.