Tag Archives: John Coolidge Adams

What Makes Music Great?

Composer Benjamin Britten

Composer Benjamin Britten

In London right now, a festival is going on that surveys twentieth century music and takes its theme and title from Alex Ross’s excellent book, The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. Related to the festival, David Nice has written a fascinating post, The Rest is Tonal, which has spawned a lively discussion about, among many things, the “importance  of introducing new ideas” (innovation), on the one hand, and the “importance of expression,” on the other. I began by writing a comment on that post, but it became too long for that purpose, so what began as a comment there is now a post of its own here. Continue reading

The Gospel According to John Adams

The Gospel According to the Other Mary, Act 1, Scene 5: Passover Scene © 2013 Richard Termine.

The Gospel According to the Other Mary, Act 1, Scene 5: Passover Scene © 2013 Richard Termine.

Each of us has been a slave in Egypt,
Soaked straw and clay with sweat,
And crossed the sea dry-footed.
You too, stranger.
This year in fear and shame,
Next year in virtue and in justice.

—Primo Levi, from Passover

When I first encountered John Adams’s opera, Nixon in China, I had Nixon neatly stored away as disgraced and thoroughly disgraceful. Why anyone would want to glorify him in an opera was incomprehensible to me.

Then I listened to the opera. Continue reading

My Year in Music 2012

Music 2012 PC132025_edited-1 (1280x1122)

At this time of year, I’m particularly glad I’m not a professional critic assigned to assemble a “top ten” music list for 2012. Instead, what you’ll find is a year-end offering of highlights from my personal musical journey throughout the year. Continue reading

Simple Gifts

This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,
It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointments with all,
I will not have a single person slighted or left away,

—Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Part 19 (excerpt)

If there’s a holiday in the U.S. more Whitmanian in spirit than Thanksgiving, I don’t know of it. It’s the one time each year when, among other things, City friends, and others even further flung, hop planes and trains and get in cars to converge at our house for a grand feast. Continue reading

Autumn Thoughts

leaves in whirlings . . . /Around and away, resembling the presence of thought
—Wallace Stevens

I look out on the lake at Innisfree Garden, the last day it will be open until spring. I wander along its edge and look at the leaves, falling and fallen, the rippling silver of light over water. I look at my friend, the great blue heron, focused not on that shimmering surface, but what’s beneath. Continue reading