John Luther Adams: Can art be both pure and political?

Posted on: February 26, 2015

On Tuesday (2/24) at Slate, composer John Luther Adams writes, “The earth is 4,540,000,000 years old…. Throughout our history, we humans have altered the surface of the earth…. Today a growing number of geologists believe we have left the Holocene and entered a new period—the Anthropocene—in which the dominant geologic force is humanity itself. What does this mean for music? What does it mean for my work as a composer, or for any artist working in any medium today? … When I was younger, I was a full-time environmental activist.… But the time came when … I decided that someone else could take my place in politics; and no one could make the music I imagined but me.… As a composer, I believe that music has the power to inspire a renewal of human consciousness, culture, and politics. And yet I refuse to make political art. More often than not political art fails as politics, and all too often it fails as art…. When I’m true to the music, when I let the music be whatever it wants to be, then everything else—including any social or political meaning—will follow…. My work is not activism. It is art.”

Posted February 26, 2015