John Adams is America's most frequently performed living composer. He has managed the considerable feat of writing accessible music that still surprises and challenges its listeners. In the words of the New Yorker, he is 'the man who takes the agony out of modern music'. Though he is not the only composer who has combined a classical education with a pop sensibility, he is the one who has made the synthesis stick. Richly harmonic, his music embraces just about every style, from Minimalism to Mahler, rock to jazz, hymns to Liberace, but always winds up sounding like Adams.
Adams is also one of music's most controversial figures - thanks to opera. Nixon in China started a whole new genre in modern opera. The Death of Klinghoffer dealt with the 1985 hijacking of a cruise liner by four Palestinian terrorists. Now made into a feature film, it is one of the most contentious operatic works written in over a century. Ironically, Adams started out hating opera but his own musical development made him the perfect composer for it.
This profile of the man who led contemporary music out of the cul-de-sac of the avant-garde and revitalised modem opera centres on a major interview filmed at his home outside San Francisco. There are contributions from stage director Peter Sellars, librettist Alice Goodman and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and extensive performance extracts from Nixon in China and El Nino. His orchestral compositions, Shaker Loops, The Chamber Symphony and Gnarly Buttons, are also featured.
Directed by David Jeffcock.
(Commentary in English, with French and German subtitles; NTSC; Region 0)