John Adams (b. 1947)
Short Ride in a Fast Machine
John Adams is one of the best known and most often performed of living American composers. A New Englander from Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard University, where he was active as a clarinetist, conductor and composer. He began his working career in 1971 on the West Coast, teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and was composer in residence to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra from 1978 to 1985. His creative output spans a wide range of media: works for orchestra, opera, video, film and dance, as well as instrumental and electronic music. His two operas have been well received though quite controversial, based on recent political events. The first was "Nixon in China", while the second "The Death of Klinghoffer" was based on the Palestinian hi-jack of an Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. Short Ride in a Fast Machine dates from 1986, and is described as a "Fanfare for Orchestra". Its title is accurate, since the piece lasts barely five minutes, and is very fast - notice how the wood-block player anchors the shifting patterns throughout.