John Luther Adams: Houses of the Wind
Constantly testing his powers John Luther Adams leans into the raw energy of a decades old recording of Aeolian Harp. The sound emanating from this dawn spacemusic instrument and its wind animated strings seems a perfect soundtrack to unsettled realms. His Houses of the Wind (52:46) – an album in five parts, each about ten minutes, each perceived so elementaly – makes it easy to imagine our planet before it was inhabited, or at such time it is returned to that state. Transformed into a migrating, subtly colored timbral field, the basic recording of this instrument gains depth, acquires radiance, and further comes to life through untold audio manipulations. Requiring multiple facets of listening, thinking and feeling Houses of the Wind may seem the result of a strange new art. Lacking familiar reference points, it should lead us to consider unseen things around us.
The fluvial action of wind on strings produces a gradual purring drone, which is reimagined by Adams’ action on the recording – which provides even further transformations between mood, tone color and hue. Further in, darkness descends in rumbling drones and primitive spaces. The shifting shapes and shades of sound hum in a tremor of floating textures – emanating from the simple vibrating overtones of taut susurrating strands activated by random currents of air.
With Houses of the Wind Adams adds to an impressive oeuvre and proves himself a far more adventurous composer than previously suspected. His relentless curiosity and receptiveness to all things audible and a fascination with the effect of sound tells us about his values – that his work is as equally about music as it is about attitude. Whether an unnavigable experiment in indefinite pitch, or a quiescent tone zone, the haunting nature of these five realizations will be felt long after the recording has completed its play. In a world that cannot be made sense of Adams offers the listener music for dreaming bigger than one’s own self – of something bigger than what we know in this world.