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John Luther Adams - Four Thousand Holes

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Artist: John Luther Adams

Album: Four Thousand Holes

Label: Cold Blue

Review date: May. 13, 2011

John Luther Adams’ engaging new composition Four Thousand Holes is a long, unbroken, but ever-changing sound field scored for piano, tuned percussion and electronic processing. It finds the composer limiting himself to some materials that are unusual for him: major and minor triads. Adams has assembled and shaped his chosen melodic and harmonic materials into a layered and interwoven construct of occasionally rumbling, but mostly ringing and shimmering sound. Ever-shifting juxtapositions of various tempi, of seemingly simultaneous resolution and modulation in steady, unhurried motion, lead here to 33 minutes of spell-binding music; to a sense of events unfolding, at times, like a process of nature.

This music, as performed by pianist Stephen Drury, percussionist Scott Deal and the composer himself on electronic “aura,” is clear and sharply delineated. Even the electronics have a well-defined structure and chroma: spectral, but not at all hazy. (This is all well served by the clean recording and vividly spatial mix.)

A shorter piece, performed by the Callithumpian Consort, closes the album. As the title suggests, “…and bells remembered” is composed of ringing tones and varied relationships. Like the longer piece, it brings with it the suggestion of being music that just happens, even while it sounds carefully thought and wrought. I’m not sure if anybody can summon this sense quite as well as John Luther Adams does. And it seems that he just keeps getting better at it.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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