Dwelling in Los Angeles within the Nineteen Seventies, John Luther Adams favored to stroll round and hearken to the birds, making recordings of the squawks and chirps he discovered the loveliest. The acclaimed environmental activist and composer had simply completed finding out music composition at CalArts, however these walks have been as influential as his formal training. “The birds turned my trainer after James Tenney,” he informed an interviewer in 2014. He would write the birds’ calls into his music, however as a substitute of meticulously making an attempt excellent notations of their songs, he wished to seek out “what will get misplaced in translation.”
Adams later moved to Alaska, the place he continued to seek for music throughout the state’s huge tundras, forests, and mountains; the expanse of the Arctic nonetheless conjures up a lot of his work. His Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral piece Turn into Ocean is an summary rendition of Alaska’s roiling ocean that captures the immensity of the wide-open seas with surging melodies. Like his early bird-call explorations, the music is an interpretation, an try to supply an impression of how nature sounds and makes us really feel.
Adams continuously works with orchestra, chamber ensemble, or percussion, however on Homes of the Wind, he turns to area recordings. The album relies on a 10-and-a-half-minute recording of an aeolian harp—a string instrument that’s performed by the wind—that Adams made in Alaska in 1989. He’s explored the sound of the instrument earlier than on items like The Wind in Excessive Locations, by which a string quartet emulates the air-driven gadget. However right here, Adam works with the ethereal instrument itself, creating items that teeter between serenity, mourning, and hope.
The aeolian harp’s light hum is a car for nostalgia; the way in which the wind streams by means of its strings creates a feathery sound that carries with it a sense of wistfulness. A lot of the wafting music on Homes of the Wind grows from the gap into full view, like climbing a mountain and reaching its apex. Opener “Catabatic Wind” defines this construction by beginning with a distant, high-pitched twinkle. Steadily, deeper and extra resonant tones take over, turning the ambiance from wondrous to ominous. Different tracks, like “Mountain Wind,” begin with sonorous, sinister rumbles that blossom right into a radiant spectrum of pitches.
Simply because the gossamer, shapeshifting hum of the aeolian harp is pushed by the ways in which wind interacts with the instrument, Adams follows that natural movement in sculpting his compositions. Nearer “Anabatic Wind” makes essentially the most compelling use of the pure ebb and stream of the air by means of the harp’s strings, sounding like a mellowed-out windchime. Totally different pitches glow and fade, climbing and falling with ease. It’s vibrant and pulsing, venturing from darkish tones right into a remaining shimmer of hope.