13 October 2008

Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life

John Adams is probably the best-known American composer of classical music alive today. His operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer have played to audiences all over the world, and his orchestral sketch Short Ride in a Fast Machine is such a favourite concert opener that you hear it on the radio almost every day in some setting or other. A post-war baby of musical parents, he was raised on the east coast in New England, and after a childhood as a clarinetist of some distinction he moved to study at Harvard. There he seemed destined for a life as an academic composer. But two things seemed to have worked against this: an adventurous, rebellious spirit, and a love of popular American culture, which as he matured in the 1960s included imported English pop music, dance bands (in which his father played) and television. Rejecting the conventional route to success, he took another which led him to the west coast, where after a bout of proletarian enthusiasm he gave up the 48 hour week of a warehouse worker to take up a teaching post at the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco... Read more >>

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