Music to paint by #2: Shaking and Trembling by John Adams

“The basic way I compose is to take a cluster of sound, like a handful of paint. First of all I give it some kind of rhythmic impetus, and then I let it go forward. There’s a sense of a vehicle travelling forward across terrain.” John Adams, composer, in an interview with Robert Davison


This fabulous piece is by the American composer, John Adams, who in his earlier work used to make sparer, less melodic music, until he discovered how rewarding it was to create sounds that made people feel something. The rest is history, including great pieces such as Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Violin Concerto, and Shaker Loops, of which this rather raw video is an excerpt. His early influence was John Cage, but as his work matured it became more rhythmic and emotional (one could say Romantic) with close links to the work of Terry Riley and Steve Reich.

This video recording, by the way, is of young musicians, none of whom are over 18 years of age.

You can listen to John Adams talk about his work and his influences here.