John Luther AdamsJun 22, 2022
Silences So Deep
Music, Solitude, Alaska
Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2020
John Luther Adams's Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020) is a profound, funny, and enlightening memoir from one of our greatest contemporary composers. Adams describes the process of writing music inspired by the wild landscapes of the far north, pieces with titles like Arctic Dreams, In the White Silence, and Become Ocean. But as much as Silences So Deep is a meditation on craft, it is also a masterpiece of nature writing, reminiscent at times of Walden, at other times of Dharma Bums.
Adams moved to Alaska as a young man in search of the solitude of America's last frontier. But Adams also discovered community: a bohemian group of farmers, poets, activists, and musicians, including the poet John Haines and the conductor/composer/activist Gordon Wright.
Silences So Deep is sure to reward long-time fans of Adams' work and listeners of contemporary classical music more broadly. It will also appeal to nature lovers and to anyone interested in the day to day work of a life committed to art.
Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts.