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John Luther Adams — Houses of the Wind
(Cold Blue CB0063, 2022, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-07-21

Houses of the Wind Cover art

I still remember my first exposure to the sound of the aeolian harp, it was a song called “Winterwhite” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band back in the mid-70s, which was really just a short introduction to another instrumental that involved the whole band playing, but “Winterwhite” was a sound like I had never heard before, with church bells ringing in the background; nobody in the band was credited with playing it, of course, because it is played only by the wind. Composer John Luther Adams, who spent much of his life living in Alaska, made numerous field recordings of aeolian harps strummed by the Arctic winds around thirty years ago, and in the process of transferring those tapes to a more stable medium had a chance to revisit those sounds, and in 2021 he went back to those original recordings to create the five movements of Houses of the Wind. Each of these five movements is roughly ten minutes in length, all created from those recordings while using voice layering, filters, computer time stretching, and pitch manipulation to enrich the sound, but the result is unmistakable, nothing else sounds quite like an aeolian harp, and Adams’ work remains true to that sound. At ten minutes per movement we’re not just talking about a short intro, but a fully immersive wind harp world that a listener can easily get lost within. The sound produced by the wind blowing across the harp st rings is truly beyond description, a number of different pitches and associated harmonics all coming at once, a dreamy natural floating ambient sound without a synthesizer anywhere in sight, working gently on the listener’s subconscious. The titles evoke a presumed source, like “Mountain Wind,” “Tundra Wind,” “Canyon Wind,” and so on, though only Adams knows the true origins, and as listeners we can just open our minds and let the wind find a new home. There really is nothing else quite like Houses of the Wind.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): John Luther Adams

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