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American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: A (Part 1)

The following is a guest blog post from the new section head of the NLS Music Section, Juliette Appold.

Have you ever thought about listing classical and contemporary composers by their last names from A to Z? How about identifying American composers from A to Z? And how about filling the alphabet with names of American composers and musicians who are visually impaired or blind? Let’s focus on the latter two challenges.

I would like to start this blog by talking about American composer John Adams who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on February 15, 1947. He has been shaping American music and music history since the late 1970s. Adams was influenced by composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and adapted minimalist composition techniques including the use of consonant harmonies, repetition of musical motifs, gradual transformations, and steady beat. Adams’ own musical style is mostly post-minimalist.

John Adams at the Library of Congress in 2010 reading from his autobiography "Hallelujah Junction." Photo by Abby Brack Lewis, 2010.

John Adams at the Library of Congress in 2010 reading from his autobiography “Hallelujah Junction.” Photo by Abby Brack Lewis, 2010.

Among his most famous compositions are the piano pieces Phrygian Gates (1978) and Hallelujah Junction (for two pianos, 1996). His operas include Nixon in China (1987), Doctor Atomic and The Death of Klinghoffer (1991). He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2003 and several Grammy Awards in 2005 for his work written in memory of 9/11: On the Transmigration of Souls, for orchestra, chorus and children’s choir. One of his more recent works is his dramatic symphony Scheherazade.2 for solo violin and orchestra (2015). John Adams was in residence at the Library of Congress in 2013.

To learn more about John Adams’ operas, check out:

Nixon in China (Opera)

The Death of Klinghoffer (Opera)

Doctor Atomic (Opera)

To learn more about John Adams’ life, check out his

Autobiography

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