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Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life

John Adams

Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life by John Adams is a witty, warm and wise autobiography from the hugely important and admired modern composer of Nixon in China, Shaker Loops, and much besides.

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Sometimes I liken the creative act to that of being a good gardener. The musical material itself, the harmonies, rhythms, the timbres and tempi, are seeds you have planted. Composing, bringing forth the final formal arrangement of these elements, is often a business of watching them grow, knowing when to nourish and water them and when to prune and weed.

A book unlike anything ever written by a composer, part memoir and part description of the creative process, Hallelujah Junction is an absorbing journey through the musical landscape of John Adams, one of today’s most admired and frequently performed composers. A musician of enormous range and technical command, Adams has built a huge audience worldwide through the immediacy and sincerity of his music, such as his Pulitzer prize-winning memorial for the September 11 attack On The Transmigration of Souls.

Hallelujah Junction isn’t so much an autobiography as a fascinating journey through the musical landscape of his life and times, centred around the three highly controversial operas based on social and political issues he has written in the past twenty-five years – Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer and, most recently, Dr Atomic.


Born and raised in New England, John Adams was exposed to both classical and jazz music from an early age. After graduating from Harvard during the tumultuous period of the late sixties he moved to San Francisco and has lived in northern California ever since. Adams’ music, rooted in the driving pulses and emotional directness of American popular music, was…

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