• John Luther Adams
  • Lines Made by Walking (2019)

  • Taiga Press (BMI) (World)
  • 2vn.va.vc

Programme Note

I’ve always been a walker. For much of my life I walked the mountains and tundra of Alaska. More recently it’s been the Mexican desert, the altiplano, quebradas, and mountain ridges of Chile, and the hills and canyons of Montana. Making my way across these landscapes at three miles an hour, I began to imagine music coming directly out of the contours of the land.

I began work on my fifth string quartet, Lines Made by Walking (2019), by composing three expansive harmonic fields made up of tempo canons with five, six, and seven independent layers. (This is a technique I’ve used for years, in which a single melodic line is superimposed on itself at different speeds.) Once I’d composed these fields, I traced pathways across them. As I did this, each instrument of the quartet acquired a unique profile, transforming the strict imitative counterpoint of the tempo canons into intricately varied textures.

In the mornings, in my studio, I would search for the most fluid and beautiful routes across my musical landscapes. In the afternoons, on my walks, I’d follow the contours of the land, along old tracks and animal trails or watersheds and ridgelines. In the process I discovered something approaching a true multi-voice polyphony - not so much through my fingers on the piano keyboard as through my feet, walking across open ground.

John Luther Adams


Lines Made by Walking: I. Up the Mountain
Lines Made by Walking: II. Along the Ridges
Lines Made by Walking: III. Down the Mountain