John Adams (born Feb. 14, 1947), in the words of New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, "may be the most vital and eloquent composer in America." Ross likens Adams's highly expressive works to California's Highway 1, to a "cut-up paradise, a sequence of familiar elements arranged in unfamiliar ways."
Although born and raised in New England, Adams is often identified with the West Coast, where he has resided since 1971. Early in his career, Adams was grouped with minimalist composers such as Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Steve Reich, but over time he has developed his own humanist language.
Some of Adams's more political works, such as the operas Nixon in China (1985-1987) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1990-1991), have elicited controversy. In 2003, Adams won a Pulitzer Prize and three Grammy Awards for On the Transmigration of Souls (2002), which he wrote in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Recently, Adams's New England roots have gained expression in works such as My Father Knew Charles Ives (2003).
Join WGBH classical host Richard Knisely, and John Adams himself, for this profile of an American master in words and music.