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John Luther Adams — Arctic Dreams
(Cold Blue CB0060, 2021, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2021-07-19

Arctic Dreams Cover art

Adams is a true original. His music sounds like no one else, being informed by his many years of living in Alaska, with its vast landscapes and mountains, endless daylight or dusk, and extreme weather. Around six years ago he moved from Alaska to live in the deserts and mountains of south and central America, eventually landing in rural New Mexico, but with all of the years spent in the north, the influence has never really gone away, and that seems to be the genesis of his latest endeavor, Arctic Dreams. A modern classical composer in the truest sense who has worked with a number of symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles worldwide, he has at least seven previous releases on Cold Blue Music, as well as releases on Cantaloupe Music, New Albion, New World Records, and more, 32 albums released since his debut in 1982. Arctic Dreams is a seven-section suite composed for a four piece vocal ensemble (Synergy Vocals – Micaela Haslam, Simon Grant, Amanda Morrison, and Heather Cairncross) and four string players (Robin Lorentz, violin; Ron Lawrence, viola; Michael Finckel, cello; and Robert Black, double bass), all enhanced with three layers of digital delay, creating powerful 32 part canonic textures. The sung parts are essentially wordless, the names of places, birds, plants, and the seasons in the languages of the native Gwich’in and Iñupiat peoples of Alaska. While the strings are collectively intense, produced by natural harmonics or open strings, they share the space with what is effectively a massed choir on all of the album’s seven tracks, creating a beautiful shimmering virtual choir like no other. The opening piece, “The Place Where You Go to Listen,” sets the stage for all that follows, with “The Circle of Suns and Moons” and “The Circle of Winds” being particular standouts. The pieces are at once dreamy, introspective, and filled with gentle serene beauty. In summary, Arctic Dreams delivers something unique and powerful.that one won’t hear anywhere else.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): John Luther Adams

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