John Adams

John Adams


John Adams is an American composer and conductor, whose compositions are some of the most often performed works in contemporary classical music.

Adams played clarinet from an early age and started composing in his teens. He was the first student at Harvard who was allowed to submit a thesis in the form of a musical composition. On graduating, he held positions as a teacher and conductor, and as his career unfolded he started conducting his own pieces of music more and more frequently.

Although his early compositions were mainly academic in style, Adams soon began to draw on broader sources, including pop, jazz and electronic music. He also alternated his use of minimal techniques, characterised by repetition and simplicity, with expressive and neo-Romantic elements.

Adams’ works encompass a whole range of genres: from chamber music to big orchestral works and a few operas. The Chairman Dances, a piece of music Adams originally wrote for his opera Nixon in China, is one of his most often performed works – despite not being included in the final opera score.