John Adams and his post-style

A peculiar man, Adams, but he can compose like no other. He is one of the most successful and frequently performed contemporary composers and that is not without a reason: his music is very accessible and pleasant to the ear, without it immediately sounding like a tapestry of sound or muzak.

Adams gets his inspiration from “landscapes and their relation to the human psyche” (his own words!) and considers his music to be “ethnic, but influenced by jazz and pop”. He calls his style ‘post-style’ and says that most of his compositions are a celebration of American culture.

He loves America and its poets. His (in my opinion) most beautiful work, The Wound Dresser, was composed to a poem by Walt Whitman.

‘Hail Bop’, Tony Palmer’s documentary about John Adams, is beautiful, exciting and informative. There are many music and opera fragments, interesting interviews, and beautiful images of the American landscape that Adams loved so much.

I only have trouble with the fragments of the filmed version of ‘Death of Klinghoffer’. I have never experienced the opera as anti-Semitic or even anti-Israeli, but I find the over-realistic images of Palestinian children throwing stones and Israeli soldiers shooting, a bit too much and also irrelevant: the opera was composed in 1991, almost ten years before the outbreak of the second Intifada. But anyway, you don’t have to agree with me (Warner Music Vision 50-51011-4857-2-5)

Bonus: 10 Essential Nixon in China Clips (shared from Opera News):

10. While this is not a performance clip (there’s not a hugely diverse selection online), it’s a good introduction to Adams’s opera (via Adams and director Peter Sellars) for those unfamiliar. Interviewed by Sondra Radvanovsky, in 2011 at the Met. —EG 

9. The original cast of Nixon at HGO, 1987, with John Duykers as Mao, Sanford Sylvan as Chou En Lai and James Maddalena as Nixon. —FPD 

8. June Anderson, looking eerily like First Lady Pat Nixon, at the Chatelet in Paris, 2012. —FPD 

7. Carolann Page created the role of Pat Nixon in the HGO premiere, but Dawn Upshaw’s recording of “This is Prophetic” is a beautiful interpretation. —EG 

6. A bright-eyed, sympathetic Pat Nixon sung by Janis Kelly in the Met’s HD Live transmission. —LTG 

5. Peter Sellars’s production had its Met premiere in 2011, Mark Morris’s choreography shining in the “Flesh Rebels” scene. —EG 

4. The opera’s centerpiece, “This is prophetic,” is a show-stopping reverie, especially as sung by Carolann Page. —HS 

3. Adams’s Foxtrot for Orchestra is some of his most glorious, gorgeous music. I love the way that it shimmers with strange melancholy and a kind of cubist nostalgia. It is so keenly constructed that it was also used to wonderful effect a few years ago in the Tilda Swinton movie I am in love and seemed instantly to take on an entirely new meaning. —AW  

2. Kathleen Kim is fantastic in this performance of Jiang Qing’s signature aria. This is one of the opera’s big moments, and she makes the role and this siren song entirely her own. —AW 

1. Nixon’s entrance aria, “News has a kind of mystery,” sounds like classic rock n’ roll deconstructed through minimalist opera. A decade after first seeing this opera, I still get this stuck in my head. —HS 

And this is my favourite piecee of the opera is the aria of Chou En-lai (Sanford Sylvain) “I am old and I cannot sleep”

John Adams en zijn post-style-style

Merkwaardige man, die Adams, maar componeren kan hij als geen ander. Hij is één van de meest succesvolle en het vaakst uitgevoerde hedendaagse componisten en dat is niet zonder reden: zijn muziek is zeer toegankelijk en prettig in het oor liggend, zonder dat het meteen aan klanktapijt of muzak doet denken.

Zijn inspiratie haalt Adams uit “de landschappen en hun relatie met de menselijke psyche” (zijn eigen woorden!) en beschouwt zijn muziek als “etnisch, maar dan beïnvloed door jazz en pop”.  Zijn stijl noemt hij zelf ‘post-style-style’ en zegt dat zijn meeste composities een celebratie zijn van de Amerikaanse cultuur.

Hij houdt van Amerika en haar dichters. Zijn (volgens mij) mooiste werk, The Wound dresser, heeft hij bij een gedicht van Walt Whitman gecomponeerd.

‘Hail Bop’, de documentaire van Tony Palmer over John Adams is mooi, spannend en informatief. Er zijn veel muziek- en operafragmenten, er zijn interessante interviews, en prachtige beelden van het door Adams zo geliefde Amerikaanse landschap.

Moeite heb ik alleen met de fragmenten van de verfilmde versie van ‘Death of Klinghoffer’. Ik heb de opera nooit als antisemitisch of zelfs anti-Israëlisch ervaren, maar de overrealistiche beelden van de met stenen gooiende Palestijnse kinderen en schietende Israëlische soldaten vind ik te veel van het goede en niet ter zake doend: de opera werd gecomponeerd in 1991, bijna tien jaar voor de uitbarsting van de tweede Intifada. Maar goed, daar hoeft u het niet met mij eens te zijn (Warner Music Vision 50-51011-4857-2-5)