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Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American…
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Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life

by John Adams

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When I read someone's memoir, what I am most interested in learning is what kind of person the writer might be. A select few describe their failures along with their achievements, and John Adams is one of that small group. (Pitcher David Wells, of all people, is another!) If I had never listened to any of his compositions (only what I can find recorded, unfortunately), I might miss some of his work after reading his comments on his work. Adams also illuminates the work of composition, at least as it is for him, and the difficulties of writing operas. What struck me most was what a fine person he is, speaking ill of no one but himself. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
John Adams is a great composer, but not a great writer. He doesn't even write the librettos for his operas. The text of this book alternates between clunky and cliched unless he is talking about music, when it lights up.

The book is also for a very limited audience. If you are unfamiliar with much of Adams' work and don't have at least a moderate familiarity with concert music (especially of the 20th century), much of the content of the book will be ungrounded and uninteresting.

Still, for people with the requisite background (which I mostly have) and the willingness to overlook the inelegant prose, there is plenty of stuff to like here. Adams has very interesting thoughts about serialism and minimalism in 20th century music. His descriptions of the composition processes for some of his major works (operas and otherwise) are interesting, as is the recollection of some failed premieres due to technical difficulties! After reading his descriptions of some of his pieces, I went back and listened to them carefully, and had a much better feeling for both the emotional and technical structures of the works. (My favorite Adams piece, incidentally, is the magnificently beautiful Dharma at Big Sur, a concerto for electric violin. Highly, highly recommended, with or without Adams' "liner notes" on pp 233-236.)

In retrospect, rather than an autobiograpy, Adams could have packaged this same material as a collection of essays about music, his own, that of others, and his thoughts on music in general. It might have worked a little better. ( )
  Harlan879 | Dec 30, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374281157, Hardcover)

John Adams is one of the most respected and loved of contemporary composers, and “he has won his eminence fair and square: he has aimed high, he has addressed life as it is lived now, and he has found a language that makes sense to a wide audience” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker). Now, in Hallelujah Junction, he incisively relates his life story, from his childhood to his early studies in classical composition amid the musical and social ferment of the 1960s, from his landmark minimalist innovations to his controversial “docu-operas.” Adams offers a no-holds-barred portrait of the rich musical scene of 1970s California, and of his contemporaries and colleagues, including John Cage, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. He describes the process of writing, rehearsing, and performing his renowned works, as well as both the pleasures and the challenges of writing serious music in a country and a time largely preoccupied with pop culture.
 
Hallelujah Junction is a thoughtful and original memoir that will appeal to both longtime Adams fans and newcomers to contemporary music. Not since Leonard Bernstein’s Findings has an eminent composer so candidly and accessibly explored his life and work. This searching self-portrait offers not only a glimpse into the work and world of one of our leading artists, but also an intimate look at one of the most exciting chapters in contemporary culture.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:41 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

An eminent composer shares the story of his life, from his childhood and early studies in classical composition to his minimalist and "docu-opera" achievements, in an account that evaluates his professional relationships and the social movements that inspired his creative process.… (more)

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