Here’s a rarity – a one-star review

Here’s a rarity – a one-star review

Album Of The Week

norman lebrecht

October 14, 2022

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

Sometimes I listen to music as a public service: just so you don’t have to. The US composer John Luther Adams has a high reputation for ecologically descriptive music of meditative extrospection. His orchestral suite Become Ocean won a 2014 Pulitzer Prize and topped the classical charts for a couple of weeks. It got to the point that the world-famous Nixon in China composer John Adams had to go around telling people he was not that Adams.

Myself, I liked his suite. It occupied a vacant space somewhere between John Cage and Greta Thunberg…. I looked forward to what John Luther Adams might do next.

If this is it, I’m done….


Read on here.

And here.

En francais ici.

In Czech here.

In The Critic.


  • Tony Sanderson says:

    There was Become Desert in the meantime. Like you, I enjoyed Become Ocean. I will take your advice and give Sila a miss.

    • Pierre says:

      I personally prefered Become Desert a hell of lot more than Become Ocean. The trilogy (with Become River) really works well. I hope more performances of these works take place in the future.

  • perturbo says:

    “There is less in this than meets the eye.”

  • Charles1986 says:

    His music is very interesting but in sparse moments. In The White Silence is a fantastic piece by him as well.

  • J Barcelo says:

    They don’t write ’em like they used to. If some composers feel neglected perhaps they deserve it. Some are ridiculed for good reason. This is not “new” either. The premiere was eight years ago:

  • Bingham says:

    Refreshing to read an honest and excoriating review in these BS filled times. ‘Eternity, beside this, will seem short’…goodun! Guess you won’t be getting the freebies though.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “….his suite…. occupied a vacant space somewhere between John Cage and Greta Thunberg.”
    I was not aware that Greta Thunberg is a composer.
    If she isn’t, then I personally do not appreciate that gratuitous swipe at her.


    WOW. It really IS that bad! What a shame… that “music” (this is more performance art than music) has reached this nadir. Apparently if you make something banal and you extend it for a long duration, certain people might be convinced it is significant.

  • Adista says:

    John Luther Adams is one of those boomer composers that didn’t grow up with classical music and doesn’t really know much about it, but as a smart and enterprising guy figured out a way to call himself a “composer” and BS his way into a career using using as much gimmickry, contrivances, and pretentious titles as possible. I have to say, it’s worked out quite well for him.

    • Peter says:

      Theres room for “outsiders” in classical music. If he has something to say, then its good that he says it, and even if some of his works fall flat, he has produced something of interest.
      Thats more than most of us can say.

  • Barry Michael Okun says:

    May I point out that Kenny Savelson isn’t a composer?

    • MWnyc says:

      And it’s hardly some conspiracy. David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Michael Gordon are (as Norman knows) the three composer who founded and lead Bang on a Can. Kenny Zavelson is its executive director. All the producer acknowledgement means is that Bang on a Can helped with the recording.

  • MWnyc says:

    John Luther Adams is an excellent composer who deserves his popularity. This CD is not what to judge his music by.

    Sila: The Breath of the World is basically an outdoor sound installation, and committing it to disc simply wasn’t a good idea: none of its strengths (and, honestly, it’s far from JLA’s best work, imho) were ever likely to come across through speakers.

    The JLA piece to look forward to is Vespers of the Blessed Earth, commissioned for the Philadelphia Orchestra and The Crossing (about damn time they performed together) and premiering next spring.