Research Paper: Works of John Coolidge Adams: Music

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John Coolidge Adams is one of America's most successful living composers, with his popularity being attributed to personal approach to minimalism, and his ability to produce dramatic works that touch on highly topical subjects. Born in Worchester, Massachusetts on February 15, 1947, Adams took to music at a young age. He learnt to play the clarinet from his father and would often travel to Boston for more training from Felix Viscuglia of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Kirzinger, 2). He would also join his father in playing in the community orchestra and in marching bands, where he learnt the art of conducting. By the time he was ten, he had already began compositions and when he was fourteen, one of his orchestral pieces received its premier, marking the onset of his journey to stardom.

In 1965, Adams went to Harvard University, where he received composition lessons from the likes of David Del Tredici, Leon Kirchner, Earl Kim, and Roger Sessions. According to Kirzinger, he had become a well-rounded musician and would often conduct the Bach Society Orchestra, as well as play the clarinet for the Opera Company of Boston and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (2). In fact, he was one of the first students at Harvard to hand in a musical composition as an undergraduate thesis and after he received his undergraduate degree, he advanced to a master of arts, which he was awarded in 1972. He later taught at the San Francisco Conservatory until 1982. This text takes a look at the works of John Coolidge Adams in detail and examines the significant place he occupies in the American musical life, and how eccentric he is for his time.

The works of John Coolidge Adams

Majority of Adams' works often touch on highly topical subjects. For example, one of his works 'On the Transmigration of Souls' in 2002 commemorated the victims of the September 11 attacks and won him a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. 'Nixon in China' in 1987 recounted Richard Nixon's visit to China back in 1972 and 'Doctor Atomic' in 2005 provided details about the building of the first atomic bomb, the Manhattan Project and Robert Oppenheimer (Kirzinger, 2). 'The Death of Klinghoffer' was also based on the events that took place when the Palestine Liberation Front kidnapped Achille Lauro, a passenger liner, and the brutal murder of Leon Klinghoffer. When working at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Adams managed to build his own synthesizer, and he often paired with young talented musicians to come up with unique pieces of music. Some of the pieces released during this time were: 'Shaker Loops' (1978), 'Harmonium' (1981),'The Chairman Dances' (1985), 'Grand Pianola Music' (1982), 'Harmoniolehre' (1985) and 'Light over Water' (1973) among many others. Each of the pieces was well composed with a minimalist mix of styles and instruments, which earned him the title of one of the most famous composers of all time.

John Coolidge Adams' eccentricity

In addition to Adam's dramatic works and preference for current and interesting topics, he is also quite popular for his unique musical style and minimalist techniques (McCardell, 42). Having been born a decade after Philip Glass and Steve Reich, his writing has been termed more… [END OF PREVIEW]

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