Friday, January 30, 2015

My son said, "Dawn, you should listen to Radiolab podcasts," so I said ok and downloaded a couple onto my phone so that I could listen to them in the car instead of late-night hockey games between teams I don't follow. I had no idea what any of the podcasts would be about: I just saw a name in the title I didn't recognize and thought, Oh, I'll learn about this person.

Mystery Subject Number 1 turned out to be "John Luther Adams." You cultured city folks might have heard of him, but I had no idea who he was. Turns out he is a composer, based in Alaska, who at first listen might sound as if he writes sort of Brian Eno-esque tone poemy stuff (ick), but in actuality creates hypnotizing, extraordinarily physical evocations of landscape. He won a 2014 Pulitzer for a piece called Become Ocean, composed for three orchestras playing at the same time. It is like listening to a peaceful bay turn into a tidal wave.

His early work includes a series called SongBirdSongs. When he spoke about the process of creating these pieces, he said he started out by going into the woods and "taking dictation from birds." As all my Frost Place friends know, dictation is one of our primary tools for entering poems. So listening to Adams talk about dictation in this way was extraordinary.

The Radiolab interview was in fact a pastiche of a longer WQXR interview, "John Luther Adams: Bad Decisions and Finding Home," which I'll be listening to the next time I get into the car.

Here's a link to some samples from the SongBirdSongs. The mourning dove evocation is particularly eloquent.

In other news: I dreamed I had three beautiful little Jersey cows, clean and calm, all lined up to be milked. I checked their udders and was just getting ready to go hunt down the milking machines when the alarm clock went off and I woke up. Tom assures me that dream cows do not need to be milked on a schedule like regular cows do, but I am still a little worried about them.

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