Composer John Adams to Present Tanner Lectures at Yale University

American composer John Adams will deliver the 2009 Tanner Lectures on Human Values on October 28 and 29 at Yale University.

Free and open to the public, both talks will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St.

Adams will present the first talk, “Doctor Faustus and His Composition: Reflections on Thomas Mann’s Fictional Composer,” on October 28, and the second, “Doctor Atomic and His Gadget: Composing the American Mythology,” on October 29.

Recognized worldwide for the expressive depth, technical range and compelling themes of his work, Adams has broadened the aesthetics of contemporary American concert music, moving it away from academic modernism and toward a more expansive humanist musical language.

Adams’ groundbreaking compositions include the symphonies “Harmonium,” “Grand Pianola Music,” “Harmonielehre” and “El Dorado,” as well as the politically controversial operas “Nixon in China,” “The Death of Klinghoffer” (based on a 1985 terrorist hijacking and murder) and “Doctor Atomic” (about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project). His multilingual nativity oratorio, “El Niño,” was written to mark the millennium. “On the Transmigration of Souls,” a choral tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center attacks, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and won three Grammys, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Adams’ recent memoir, “Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life,” has been lauded as an explication of the creative process and was named a New York Times Notable Book. In his teaching, writing and composition, Adams has been hailed as a “philosopher/craftsman, attempting to reflect and render the truth as he observes and feels it, in all its complexity and its simplicity.”

The first Harvard undergraduate to have a musical composition accepted as a thesis project, Adams went on to teach at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and served for many years as composer-in-residence of the San Francisco Symphony, where he created the orchestra’s “New and Unusual Music” series. Adams continues to compose and conduct extensively and has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. He has received numerous honors for his work, including five Grammy Awards, a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award, a Grawemeyer Award for Musical Composition, the Harvard Arts Medal and the California Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. He holds honorary degrees from Northwestern and Cambridge and is an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa.

The Tanner Lectures on Human Values were established by the American scholar, industrialist and philanthropist Obert Clark Tanner, who hoped that these lectures would contribute to the intellectual and moral life of humankind.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325