John Luther Adams: Earth and the Great Weather
Liner Notes   Cat. No. 80459     Release Date: 1994-01-01

A Sonic Geography of the Arctic

Amy Knoles, percussion; Robert Black, doublebass and percussion; Robin Lorentz, violin and percussion; Michael Finckel, cello and conductor; Ron Lawrence, viola; James Nageak, Doreen Simmonds, Inupiat Eskimo performers; Lincoln Tritt, Adeline Peter Raboff, Gwich’in Indian performers; Dave Hunsaker, Latin voice; John Luther Adams, conductor and percussion

"My music has always been profoundly influenced by the natural world and a strong sense of place. In my recent work, I have begun to explore a territory I call “sonic geography”—a region that exists somewhere between place and culture, between human imagination and the world around us. I hope to move beyond landscape painting in sound toward a music which, in its own way, is landscape—a music which creates its own inherently sonic presence and sense of place.     

Several years ago, I was commissioned to produce a work for New American Radio. In the Arctic I recorded natural sounds as well as the music of the wind on the strings of a small Aeolian harp. With those recordings, I composed and produced a half-hour piece for radio, which also incorporated language and drum rhythms of the Inupiat Eskimo people of Alaska’s arctic coast.

From that beginning, Earth and the Great Weather has grown to its present form, crossing the arctic divide to encompass the boreal forest of the northern interior—the physical, cultural, and spiritual geography of the Gwich’in Athabascan people.

Expanding on my work with the wind harp, the musical ground of Earth and the Great Weather is a cycle of pieces for strings and digital delay, collectively titled Aeolian Dreams. Aeolian Dreams is my most extended work to date in just intonation.

Rising like the mountain ranges above the Aeolian plains of Earth and the Great Weather are three large pieces for four drummers. These quartets are constructed of asymmetrical rhythmic cells abstracted from traditional Inupiat and Gwich’in dance music, which I have admired for many years.

The principal text is a set of eight Arctic Litanies, composed of the names of places, plants, weather and the seasons of the Arctic. Gwich’in and Inupiat names speak vividly with deep knowledge and intimate experience, evoking an authentic poetry of place. In the last two litanies, Latin is included (the scientific binomials for plants and animals), primarily for its contrasting color and rhythmic texture.

Indigenous peoples have long understood the extraordinary powers of certain landscapes. For those of us who have lost or forgotten our intimate connections with such places, the Arctic is a vast and enduring geography of hope. Somewhere out in that far country of imagination and desire lie the foundations of my own faith."                          —John Luther Adams

The voluminous forty-page booklet contains the composer’'s text-in English, Alaskan Indian, Alaskan Eskimo, and Latin-in its entirety.

John Luther Adams Ensemble

John Luther Adams: Earth and the Great Weather

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Track Listing

The Place Where You Go to Listen
John Luther Adams
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Drums of Winter
John Luther Adams
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Pointed Mountains Scattered All Around
John Luther Adams
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The Circle of Suns and Moons
John Luther Adams
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The Circle of Winds
John Luther Adams
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Deep and Distant Thunder
John Luther Adams
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River With No Willows
John Luther Adams
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One That Stays All Winter
John Luther Adams
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Drums of Fire, Drums of Stone
John Luther Adams
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Where The Waves Splash, Hitting Again and Again
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