‘Inside the (G)Earbox: John Adams @ 70’: an up-close look at America’s most innovative composer

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Composer John Adams turns 70 this month, and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music is joining the world-wide celebration with a daylong symposium, “Inside the (G)Earbox: John Adams @ 70,” that explores the more intimate side of this composer’s work and process. The program will be held March 4 at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall.

Curated by professors Robert Fink and Gloria Cheng, (G)Earbox is a joint venture between the departments of music and musicology. With scholarly presentations that offer a look “under the hood” of this musical innovator and a pair of concerts featuring a selection of Adams’ chamber works performed by some of the musicians who originally premiered the compositions, the audience can expect a close-up and powerful experience.

Cheng, a Grammy-winning pianist, will perform “Phrygian Gates,” long considered one of the most challenging contemporary classical works. Also on the program: “Hallelujah Junction” with Cheng and Grant Gershon. The piano duo premiered the work at the Getty Center in 1998. Pianist Sarah Cahill, called “fiercely gifted” by the New York Times, will perform “China Gates.” uclaFLUX, under Cheng’s direction, fills out the program, which will include “Shaker Loops,” “Road Movies,” “John’s Book of Alleged Dances” and “Son of Chamber Symphony.”

Leading the afternoon panel discussion is the well-known Adams’ scholar Alice Miller Cotter with Kyle Gann of the Village Voice, and Robert Hurwitz, president of Nonesuch Records, the label that released Adam’s latest work, the dramatic symphony “Scheherazade.2.” Hurwitz, a longtime Adams collaborator, is also a visiting lecturer in the school’s music industry program.

“(G)Earbox is an extraordinary opportunity to get up close and personal with Adams as a composer,” Fink said. “The featured performers have been advocates for his music for decades, and they know it inside out; the invited speakers include a young historian who is working directly with the composer to understand his process, and one of the most respected critics of contemporary music, himself a composer.”

Adams’ compositions are among the most-performed of any contemporary classical music. His extensive body of work includes not only opera and chamber music, but compositions for film, video and dance. His work has been featured by every major orchestra in the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia and Australia. He is known for his use of minimalist techniques and has been described by Andrew Porter of the New Yorker as the creator of a “flexible new language capable of producing large-scale works that are both attractive and strongly fashioned.”

(G)Earbox begins at 11:30 a.m. and runs through 9:30 p.m. in Schoenberg Hall on Saturday, March 4. There is a dinner break from 5 to 7 p.m., in advance of a pre-concert lecture, which starts at 7:15, and the concert at 8. General admission tickets for the public cost $15, and tickets for UCLA faculty and staff with valid UCLA ID cost $10. UCLA students are admitted free with valid UCLA ID. Tickets may be purchased at the door or by calling the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310-825-2101 or online.

This program is made possible by the David and Irmgard Dobrow Fund. Classical music was a passion of the Dobrows, who established a generous endowment at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music to make programs like this possible. The school is proud to celebrate this program as part of the 2016-17 Dobrow Series. ​Additional support was provided by the Hugo Davise Fund for Contemporary Music of the UCLA Music Library and the UCLA Arts Initiative.