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John Adams at 70


The influential American composer John Adams turned 70 earlier this year.

As a student, I had the pleasure of meeting Adams when he was teaching at Harvard in the 1980s; I was also lucky enough to get to see his opera "Nixon in China" staged twice -- once in Houston, and once at Indiana University.

Beginning in the 1970s, Adams' music began to spin away from the strict metronomic Minimalism of Philip Glass and Steve Reich. He had a warmer, more Romantic sensibility in his music, even though he did -- and, still does -- employ repeating motivic figures as part of his compositional style.

Many of Adams' pieces have been recorded multiple times, so there's quite a lot to choose from when compiling a playlist.

I've put together a short Spotify playlist of 11 selections -- from 10 different pieces -- that sample Adams' music from 1977's "China Gates" to 2012's "Absolute Jest".


James served as Classical Music Host and Music Director for WWNO from 1999-2007. He relocated to Atlanta with several WWNO staff members after Katrina, and, in 2007, he accepted a position as Music Director at KVNO in Omaha, Nebraska, where he coached young announcers, programmed, and hosted classical music until 2010.