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Houses of the Wind


“In certain obvious respects the latest release from John Luther Adams is atypical. It features no orchestra, no instrumentalists responding to a score, but was composed—sculpted is the word Adams uses—by layering and transposing material from an archival recording made on a trip to the Arctic in the summer of 1989. Five captivating pieces catch the singing of the wind through the strings of an Aeolian harp. Each has its own distinct character, yet all five evoke vividly the scale and elemental grandeur of that glacial landscape, and the intense presence and luminosity of its Arctic air. Atypical, yet Houses of the Wind encapsulates nonetheless the quintessence of a composer whose music speaks with unmatched eloquence to the ecological awareness and anxieties of our time.” —Julian Cowley, The Wire

Houses of the Wind is in five movements:

1 Catabatic Wind
2 Mountain Wind
3 Tundra Wind
4 Canyon Wind
5 Anabatic Wind


John Luther Adams writes about the work:

“Much of my music of the past thirty-some-odd years has grown out of my experiences listening to aeolian harps. Yet, until now, I’ve never incorporated those sounds directly into the music. “In the last two decades of the 20th century, I made field recordings of elemental sounds all over Alaska—fire, ice, thunder, glaciers calving into the sea. Recently, I transferred those aging tapes to more stable media. Listening to the very first segment of a small aeolian harp, recorded in the Arctic in the summer of 1989, I was captivated. The voices of the wind singing through the strings of the harp brought back vividly the clarity of light, the sprawling space, and the sense of possibility I had felt. “Houses of the Wind (2021–22) is composed entirely from that single ten-and-a-half-minute recording, transposed, layered on itself, and sculpted into five new pieces of the same length. The world has changed since then, in ways we couldn’t have imagined. The winds rising around us now seem darker, more turbulent and threatening. Yet still, if this music is haunted by feelings of loss and longing, I hope it also offers some measure of consolation, even peace.”

His music perfectly echoes the landscape he loves: impersonal, relentless, larger than human scale, yet gorgeous, a quiet chaos of colors, suffused with light. It’s not a climate everyone could live in. But for those who want to bathe their ears in an aural aurora borealis while staying warm inside, it’s a spiritual odyssey well worth taking. - Kyle Gann
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