[6] John Adams – Harmonium

17 May

This is a tough one.  I generally like Minimalist compositions – my love afair with Steve Reich’s works began my first semester at the University of Sussex and quickly led me to Phillip Glass and, the composer of this week’s recording,  John Adams.  While I don’t hear them often, it is not totally outrageous to find me listening to Adam’s Shaker Loops or Reich’s Come Out.  I enjoy the complexity from simplicity, the huge soundscapes, the zen state it can provoke.

These features are here for all to see in Harmonium, yet in this case seem to irritate me more than engross me.



The biggest barrier is the long, slow crescendo which builds throughout the first “act”.  It begins so quietly that it is inaudible at the levels I usualy set my stereo, or iPod, or computer speakers.  Increasing the volume at the start of the performance makes it uncomfortably, embarassingly loud at the piece’s climax.  I spend more time fiddling with the volume than I do appreciating the music.

It is so strange what can effect one’s enjoyment of a piece of music – there is one particular song that makes me sick to my stomach since I almost got into a car accident while it was playing on the radio – and the inability to just *listen* to this inventive choral symphony has clearly ruined my experience here.

For sections where I can ignore the mechanics of dynamic and just hear, I find the use of text interesting – more painting with sounds than active lyrics – and the effect is powerful.  I appreciate the pulsing, throbbing waves of sound and gradually shifting harmonics as the volume ever increases.  But because I’m constantly fiddling, I’m just not *enjoying* it.

I hope the next recording, Adam’s Death of Klinghoffer, proves less difficult .

Owned before blogging?  No.  (1 of 6.  17%)
Heard before blogging?   No.  (2 of 6.  33%)
Recommend?      I just can’t.  (4 of 6.  66%)

Don’t forget to “Follow” to get a new post in your inbox once a week.

6 Responses to “[6] John Adams – Harmonium”

  1. Joe Gola May 18, 2013 at 12:24 PM #

    Yeah, I have the same reaction to “wide dynamic range” recordings. Middle-70s King Crimson is a big offender.

  2. nycavri May 18, 2013 at 3:28 PM #

    Not to mention network TV with a kid sleeping in the next room . . .

  3. nycavri December 9, 2014 at 8:35 AM #

    Reblogged this on . . . To Hear Before I Blog and commented:

    Throughout December I am going to revisit the first months of this journey, taking time at the end of this year to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve heard.


  1. [23] Marian Anderson – Spirituals | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - September 13, 2013

    […] four recordings I have failed to recommend to date, one was Classical, another Gospel. So it is with some trepidation that I start my exploration of Marian […]

  2. [28] Martha Argerich – Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3 & Ravel Piano Concerto in G | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - October 18, 2013

    […] a couple of misses, I was unsure how I was going to react to another Classical recording I was unfamiliar […]

  3. [36] Johann Sebastian Bach – The Brandenburg Concertos | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - December 13, 2013

    […] has rated more than one album on the list – two pieces in two very different styles, one Classical, one Operatic, neither […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


podcasts for the musically obsessed


Days in the life


My rants, outbursts and musings.

Every number one

Journey through all the songs that topped the charts

musicophilesblog - From Keith Jarrett to Johannes Brahms

Writing About and Reviewing Classical Music and Jazz

Leaves of Logan

Rants, reviews, rambles and a whole lot of books

Punk Rock Reviews

Reviewing Music

Team Distraction

Dicemasters Strategy

Good Music Speaks

A music blog written by Rich Brown

Kenza Moller

writing | editing | marketing

The Delinquent Diplomat

The Diplomacy Player's Blog Of Choice

Sampling Station

Tasty tunes, laughs, TV + film

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

%d bloggers like this: