Review: John Luther Adams’s new “Lines Made by Walking” quartet at Tippet Rise

Posted on: August 14, 2019

“The vast, roiling orchestral soundscape of the prize-winning Become Ocean has served many listeners as an entrée into the world of John Luther Adams,” writes Thomas May in Thursday’s (8/8) Musical America. “Adams has proved himself just as much at home within the intimate dimensions of chamber music. This past weekend, Tippet Rise Art Center [in Fishtail, Montana] presented the world premiere of a work it commissioned from Adams: Lines Made by Walking (String Quartet No. 5). The new piece was unveiled by the JACK Quartet…. Adams fell in love with the surroundings [of Tippet Rise and spent] the summer of 2018 in residence.… But direct inspiration from this landscape of alternating grasslands and canyons … does not translate into a contemporary reboot of old-fashioned program music—any more than Become Ocean sounds like a picturesque orchestral seascape. The three movements of Lines Made by Walking trace a characteristically simple-on-the-surface trajectory … That schematic disguises a complex, rigorously systematic template of multilayered tempo canons arrayed in three harmonic fields…. The distance and abstraction … of Adams’s compositional design emerged as music, emotionally compelling and heartfelt but purged of Romantic effusiveness.”

Posted August 14, 2019