John Adams, composer Dharma at Big Sur and I Remember Charles Ives by John Adams.
In CD Format
This is a splendid addition to the Adams discography, one that follows him from New England to California. Dharma at Big Sur is a concerto for electric violin. It begins by evoking the West's sun and easy living, but this is more than a musical piece of nature-painting. It rambles ambiently for a while before landing in an Indian raga, jazzy mode and ends with a type of heavenly good-naturedness. The electric violin is played by Tracy Silverman; a sixth string allows for the sonorous tones of the cello. The other work, presented on a second CD (so as to avoid culture shock?) is My Father knew Charles Ives, which, while apparently untrue, lets us know that Ives's New England sound and his wacky one-on-top-of-the-other methods will be found here, and, indeed, they are. It pays homage to some of Ives's music (the trumpet from his "The Unanswered Question" is clear here), but more than that, in its various sections ("The Lake;" "The Mountain") it evokes the nature of New England as picturesquely as Ives does, and parallels Adams's California in Dharma A pair of fascinating works, at times a bit thorny, but well worth it. --Robert Levine