Wednesday, August 28, 2013

songbirdsongs by John Luther Adams

While preparing for last week's integrated advisory discussion at ARRT, I discovered a wonderful compact disc called songbirdsongs by composer John Luther Adams. Included on the CD are 10 bird inspired pieces that Adams wrote between 1974 and 2006. A quick description of them is that they are experimental contemporary music. Of course, that does not sound like much fun. The pieces are more pleasing, rooted in both the sounds of nature and classical music.

The lead instruments on songbirdsongs are piccolos and flutes, which are supported by percussive and string instruments in small chamber groups. The first nine pieces grouped as "songbirdsongs" are performed by the Callithumpian Consort and the final piece is "Strange Birds Passing" performed by the New England Conservatory Contemporary Music Ensemble. My favorite pieces are "Wood Thrush" and "Joyful Noise."

What may chase some listeners away is there are no catchy tunes. On first hearing, the pieces may seem without any structure, just a fusion of random sounds. Those listening to the recording a second or third time, however, will likely recognize that there are themes and definite rhythms in these atmospheric pieces. 

Adams, John Luther. songbirdsongs. Mode Records, 2009. 45:24 running time.

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