Everything That Rises   CB0051

The music

Everything That Risescommissioned by SFJAZZ and the JACK Quartet, is an ever-in-motion virtuosic just-intonation work built of a series of 16 ascending musical “clouds.” Its pitches are derived from the harmonics of the piece’s subsonic fundamental tone (C0).

The composer writes: “Everything That Rises, my fourth string quartet, grew out of Sila: The Breath of the World—a concert-length choral/orchestral work I composed on a rising series of 16 harmonic clouds. This music traverses that same territory, but in a much more melodic way. Each musician is a soloist, playing throughout. Time floats and the lines spin out, always rising, in acoustically perfect intervals that grow progressively smaller as they spiral upward…until the music dissolves into the soft noise of the bows, sighing.”

“Everything That Rises is art without artifice, and its beauty transports the listener into a timeless place outside of everyday experience, surely one of music’s most exalted goals.” —New York Classical Review

Everything That Rises finds Mr. Adams exploring dissonance and just-intonation tuning, in the gentlest of ways…. [It] is dominated by variations on an ascending figure that ends in a trill. In staggered fashion over the course of an hour, the members of the JACK brought this motif into successively higher partials of different fundamental notes. As one string instrument lagged behind or shot ahead of the others, the effect was pleasingly druggy: dissonant, but not in an overpowering way…. When the players briefly aligned in the same harmonious cloud, there was a sense of release.…” —The New York Times

“Nature and spirit inform every magical page of Adams’s music, and the premiere performance of Everything That Rises last Friday showed the powerful effect of all his formative influences. For an hour, the rapt audience was immersed in strands of sound rising at intervals growing progressively smaller. It could be the sound of paint drying to a detractor, but composers like John Cage and Morton Feldman also knew the almost painful beauty of slow musical evolution and the silence between the notes. Adams brings to mind, with transcendent concentration, the atmosphere of Feldman’s own Rothko Chapel and even the dying strands of Mahler’s Ninth. Everything That Rises takes us to a very still place within. Mere words cannot describe it, but music can conjure it. Something tells me John Luther Adams’s ‘sounds in the air’ may well be an answer to a famous koan.” —Bay Area Reporter

The composer

John Luther Adams, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in Music (2014) and a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition (2015), was for many years based in Alaska, where his work derived much of its unique character from the landscape and weather of the Great North. A few years ago he moved from Alaska, and now splits his time between New York City and Mexico’s Baja California, although his works still take wide-open natural spaces as a primary inspiration.

Described by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross as “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century,” Adams composes for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and electronic media and has worked with many prominent performers and venues, including the Seattle Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the International Contemporary Ensemble, eighth blackbird, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, the California EAR Unit, Bang on a Can, Percussion Group Cincinnati, Other Minds, the Sundance Institute, Almeida Opera, SFJazz, and the Radio Netherlands Philharmonic.

Adams has written two books, Winter Music and The Place You Go to Listen (both published by Wesleyan University Press). A book of essays about his music, The Farthest Place, was issued by University Press of New England. He has taught at Harvard, Oberlin, Bennington College, and the University of Alaska; been composer in residence with numerous ensembles and festivals; and served as president of the American Music Center. He has received numerous awards and grants, including the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness. His music has been released by a number of record labels, including Cold Blue, which has six CDs devoted to his work, including The Light that Fills the World (CB0010), Red Arc/Blue Veil (CB0026), the place we began (CB0032), Four Thousand Holes (CB0035), and The Wind in High Places (CB0041), as well as two of his shorter works on the anthologies Adams/Cox/Fink/Fox (CB0009) and Cold Blue Two (CB0036).

“Adams’s major works have the appearance of being beyond style; they transcend the squabbles of contemporary classical music.”—Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“The music of John Luther Adams is simply beautiful. It…sounds like it has nothing to accomplish. It simply exists, hanging in mid-air, waiting to be listened to.”—AllMusic Guide

“Out of many eligible composers of his generation, John Luther Adams is the greatest proponent of the American experimental tradition, a lineage that includes Ives, Cowell, Varèse, Partch, Nancarrow, Cage and Tenney.”—Sequenza 21/Contemporary Classical Music Weekly

“[T]he sense of space is an Adams thumbprint—as is the spiritual aura that comes as a consequence.”—Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“It is impressive to imagine anyone actually following such conceptual virtuosity, much less creating the seamless, seemingly organic layers of sound Adams lays out over his structurally precise and infinitely flexible power grids.”— Gramophone magazine

The performers

JACK Quartet (violinists Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violist John Pickford Richards, and cellist Jay Campbell) has been deemed “superheroes of the new music world” (Boston Globe), “the go-to quartet for contemporary music, tying impeccable musicianship to intellectual ferocity and a take-no-prisoners sense of commitment.” (The Washington Post), and “a musical vehicle of choice to the next great composers who walk among us” (Toronto Star). The group is focused on the commissioning and performance of new works, leading it to work closely with composers John Luther Adams, Derek Bermel, Chaya Czernowin, James Dillon, Brian Ferneyhough, Beat Furrer, Georg Friedrich Haas, Vijay Iyer, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, Steve Mackey, Matthias Pintscher, Steve Reich, Roger Reynolds, Wolfgang Rihm, Salvatore Sciarrino, John Zorn, and many others. 

The JACK Quartet electrifies audiences with its “explosive virtuosity” (Boston Globe) and “viscerally exciting performances” (The New York Times). David Patrick Stearns (Philadelphia Inquirer) proclaimed a JACK performance as “among the most stimulating new-music concerts of my experience.”

Recipient of Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, New Music USA’s Trailblazer Award, and the CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, JACK has performed to critical acclaim at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall (UK), Suntory Hall (Japan), Salle Pleyel (France), Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ (Netherlands), La Biennale di Venezia (Italy), the Lucerne Festival (Switzerland), Bali Arts Festival (Indonesia), Reykjavik Arts Festival (Iceland), Festival Internacional Cervatino (Mexico), Kölner Philharmonie (Germany), Donaueschinger Musiktage (Germany), and the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik (Germany).

“The string quartet may be a 250-year-old contraption, but young, brilliant groups like the JACK Quartet are keeping it thrillingly vital.”—The Washington Post 

“[JACK’s] fresh, energetic, and stylistically omnivorous approach to the contemporary repertoire makes it a worthy heir to the tradition of new-music quartets that goes back to the Composers Quartet in the 1960s and rivals the Kronos and Arditti Quartets of today…. Many of their recordings are must-haves, for anyone interested in new music. Among those are two devoted to the music of John Luther Adams—The Wind in High Placesand Everything That Rises.”—Allan Kozinn, Musical America


“There is a very small group of labels that offers up a transcendent experience every time a promo lands in my mailbox. Cold Blue Music is one of them. Here, in Everything that Rises, we have something as seemingly straightforward as a string quartet that defies traditional notions of quartet hierarchy, melody, harmony, intonation, timbre, and rhythm, all in one of the most unified frames in which a composition can exist.

“John Luther Adams states that this quartet traverses similar harmonic material to Sila, his large choral piece of several years ago, which, frankly, says almost nothing about the experience of existing through this hour of ascent. Yes, its title paints the picture, but the music spins a narrative of tension and resolution, of complexity and simplicity, equal to any short story while miraculously maintaining a sense of tableau. From the very beginning, fundamental and overtone are foregrounded as the music inches skyward, initially accompanied by sighing and rustling bowstrokes that conjure Adams’s percussion music. These don’t so much disappear as subside, drawing attention to the constant timbre of bow on string that we relegate to perception’s back burner. Several octaves are traversed as the perfect-tempered operators work their magic, and the fact that the JACK Quartet can handle the upper registers of this odyssey with such precision is as quietly startling as the music they’re playing.

“There are tonal or modal implications, centers encountered but never fully established, as the music rises. Melody and focus intertwine as the densely textured web of lines is woven. After it all, after the thirds, fifths, seconds, and octaves have dissipated, after the airy sighing that opened the quartet returns to supplant all else, there is the silence. It increases as the players complete the journey, but it is a silence of acceptance, as with Mahler’s final finished symphony. Adams’s vision is, after all is said and done, one of fundamental acceptance, of maturity that has not forgotten rapture.

“The recording is as tall, for lack of a better word, as the playing is gorgeous. The soundstage in my listening room is filled to capacity, each tone replete with the overtones it foreshadows in the quartet’s evolving structure. It is difficult to imagine a piece of “new” music that could appeal to so many while also eschewing the lowest common denominator mentality that has infiltrated so much of today’s composition. This music is not merely good, interesting, or satisfying. It is a glorious and transportive experience as important yet simply fundamental as a deep breath.” —Marc Medwin, Fanfare magazine

“John Luther Adams is by now such an established presence on the scene that I don’t think we need to be making critical judgments about the relative worth of this or that piece. They are starting to flow into a body of work that expresses a vision, one that is comprehensive and often transcendental. After his beginnings as a composer for percussion, the techniques he developed manipulating sound in time have moved from the rhythmic sphere to that of pitch. He’s also been ticking off the major classical genres in the last few years: works for symphony, chorus, and now string quartet. This is his fourth. I’ve heard at least one other live. The ruling factor has been the use of open strings and natural harmonics. This would seem to be a highly restrictive condition, but somehow the composer has found ways to keep it fresh, and to keep returning renewed and curious to this bounded field.

“In the very brief note to this release, Adams writes that this work is an extension of his piece Sila, a work for chamber orchestra spread out over a landscape (there is a wonderful video of it on the internet, from its premiere at Lincoln Center). He speaks of 16 harmonic fields, and it seems clear that in the quartet these are translated into the four strings of each instrument, also totaling 16.

“The whole point of the piece over its nearly hour duration is that of a slow and steady ascent. This could be very reductive, even boring, but in his exploration of different articulations—in particular tremolo—the move through the harmonic series of each string takes on great variety and presence. In its strongly conceptual character, it reminds me of the work of one of the composer’s teachers, James Tenney, whose Koan for solo string instrument (and also string quartet) has a similar character, though the process of ascension is quite different. I can’t help but feel there might be an element of homage subtly embedded here.

“In a way, the most extraordinary thing in the piece occurs in its last minutes. As the players move to the very top of their range, the pitches begin to disappear into noise, though of a very delicate rubbing sort. There’s also some sort of sonic byproduct that sounds like distant drums. It’s very haunting, and I suspect because the process demands it, Adams allows it to go on for quite a while. You are never quite sure the piece is over until it’s over, and that ambiguity is a strength; it gives the music real mystery.

“The recording is very close and present, but not claustrophobic. The JACK Quartet (Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violins; John Pickford Richards, viola; Jay Campbell, cello) is stunning in its concentration, pacing, and control.” —Robert Carl, Fanfare magazine

“Mississippi-born, long-time Alaska resident John Luther Adams has gained a reputation as an ‘environmental’ composer: his works are often inspired by the natural world, intended to be performed outdoors in a landscape, and embrace ecological concerns. His more recent music—including Everything That Rises, his hour-long fourth string quartet—is often intended for more conventional forces and venues, but still looks deeply at natural forces, crystallised in brilliantly simple musical concepts. Everything That Rises is a ‘cloud’ of harmonies, conjured by combining the four string players’ brief, ever-ascending melodies, which themselves use the overtones of a deep fundamental tone, never actually heard.

“But if the physics of sound isn’t your thing, don’t worry. From its gently throbbing opening right through to the breathy, pitchless scrapings of bow against string in its ecstatic conclusion, Everything That Rises is a work of serene, meditative beauty that unfolds unhurriedly in the Jack Quartet’s strong, assertive performance. The Jack players show remarkable stamina and a strong sense of pacing across the work’s epic length. There’s a glorious rawness to their sound which, combined with the ear-tweaking dissonances of the just intonation that Adams employs, ensures the music is never mere sonic wallpaper.

“This is a gripping, deeply involving performance of a quietly visionary piece of music, captured in close, authentic recorded sound.” —The Strad

“Everything That Rises…is the latest music, a string quartet, by John Luther Adams. The remarkable JACK Quartet does the honors.

“The music is perhaps more processual than minimalist. There are long foundational notes in the cello and a series of rising scalar motifs in the rest of the strings, in delicate untempered intonation. The artful articulation of sequences helps via gloriously rich attacks to give the upper notes transparency and vertical flight as they also create overlapping harmonic sequences with distinct timbral colors that stand out as special.

“The movement of notes gives us another possibility in the Radical Tonality camp. It rises in melodo-continuity, not so much in contumacy against the orthodox but as another alternate lawful structure if you will. It has a real cosmic endlessness that feels as if it reaches ever higher….

“The sequence of soundings, as one ever expects from John Luther Adams, is most artful. And the performance and audio quality are world-class ,as one expects ever from Cold Blue Music releases.

“It has a kind of organic-melodic arc that is very pleasing to hear repeatedly if one is willing to suspend judgmental expectations. The sound colors are quite beautiful to behold. For these reasons and for the way the music ever expands one’s horizons I do not hesitate to recommend it heartily. Its value to me is as plain as the nose on my face. Enough said.” —Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

“Describing John Luther Adams’ new string quartet, Everything That Rises, in words is simple enough, but it misses the entire experiential point of the piece. This roughly hour-long work, which had its U.S. premiere in San Francisco last summer during the festival devoted to Adams’ work by SFJazz, consists of an extended series of ascending melodic figures. They proceed at different rates in the four instruments, and the resulting rhythmic dislocations, combined with the harmonic implications of the instruments’ being tuned in just intonation, create an unpredictable flood of overlaps—sometimes compellingly dissonant, sometimes shimmering and serene. The processes at work seem simple enough, but you have to sit and listen for the music to unveil its full splendor across time. The Jack Quartet, for whom Everything That Rises was composed, gives it a wise and eloquent performance. “— Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“As Everything That Rises so remarkably illustrates, John Luther Adams possesses an uncommon gift for translating a concept or idea into musical material. Eschewing the familiar multi-movement form of a string quartet composition, his fourth quartet is performed by the JACK Quartet (violinists Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violist John Pickford Richards, and cellist Jay Campbell) as a single-movement, fifty-six-minute work.

“For many years Adams, a long-time associate of Cold Blue and 2014 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Music, was based in Alaska, an experience that saw his creative output deeply affected by the region’s expansive natural spaces and character; though he now splits his time between New York City and Mexico’s Baja California, his works continue to reflect the influence of the wide-open spaces of the Alaskan setting that exerted such a huge impact on his sensibility; distancing himself from the usual centers of artistic activity for many years no doubt helped Adams develop his distinct artistic voice. The New Yorker‘s Alex Ross has called him “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century,” a statement that probably would qualify as hyperbole when applied to another but in the case of Adams seems apt.

“Structurally, the piece comprises sixteen harmonic clouds that patiently and inexorably rise. The strings’ ascending movements grow ever more transfixing as this elegant work advances, and the minutes melt away as the staggered phrases, their ascents punctuated by fluttering, vocal-like trills, spiral continually upwards. Executed so subtly it verges on imperceptible, diminutions in volume occur in tandem with the gradual ascensions of pitch. Never is the work’s effect more exquisite than during the final minutes when the strings constitute little more than a ghostly whisper until the material expires, an end logically foretold from the first moment. The effect is so powerful, one visualizes an entire audience spellbound as the piece approaches its resolution.

“Put simply, Everything That Rises is a mesmerizing work stunningly realized by the JACK Quartet. Certainly incredible degrees of control and concentration are required to execute a work whose dynamics and development are so precisely calibrated. That the quartet is able to sustain such an equally incredible degree of almost unbearable tension for the full measure of the performance is remarkable in itself; one imagines that the musicians, especially when each of the four plays as a soloist throughout, must have been completely spent once the last note sounded.” —Ron Schepper, Textura

“When French theologian Teilhard de Chardin argued that ‘everything that rises must converge,’ he was envisaging ultimate resolution of human discord. Stylistically, US composer John Luther Adams is well equipped to tackle lofty ideas. His music has repeatedly conjured up visions of limitless expanse, although those evocations have invariably been anchored in his concern for the environment and connection to places. Calling his fourth string quartetEverything That Rises, Adams may be aspiring to some form of transcendence. In a single continuous movement, for nearly an hour, each member of The JACK Quartet glides in an upward spiral. The intervals that separate their individual instruments, which are tuned in just intonation, steadily diminish until their voices mesh in a breath-like whisper.” Julian Cowley, The Wire

“Adams here has a string quartet, his fourth one, which grew out of an earlier work, a ‘rising series of 16 harmonic clouds.’ This new work works in the same way but is more melodic, says Adams, and each musician of the JACK Quartet is a soloist, playing all the time, rising and rising until the sound is entirely dissolved. So, over the course of fifty-five minutes the music becomes higher but also softer in volume…. There is something orchestral about this music. Orchestral, yet also minimal…as this piece moves slowly, and eerily, to its vanishing point. It’s like a whirlpool, but in slow motion. It is a majestic piece, not in any way heavy but gentle and peaceful, yet moving with a slow, majestic pace. Lovely stuff! ” —Vital Weekly (Netherlands)

“I have been collecting and enjoying whatever John Luther Adams does for many years and look forward to each and every release. Everything That Rises is Mr. Adams’ fourth string quartet and it is played here by the JACK Quartet. There is always something organic, spiritual or magical in Adams’ music. A swaying motion, breathing slowly in and out, in and out… Drifting on a raft on the ocean, the strings seems to moves in waves, each string a different wave, yet all of them connected to an inner current. Each string is shimmering, resonating in slightly different ways. I am reminded of ghosts or spirits slowly dancing or swaying together in a ritualistic circle. The spirits are rising higher and higher into the heavens. The clouds are drifting by more quickly than is usual. The combined strings sometimes sound like a wheezing accordion, expanding and contracting, breathing slowly. The higher the strings rise, the more the air gets thinner, throwing off our balance a bit yet still keeping us slightly off balance and drifting together. Is that the sunshine slowly creeping through the clouds? I certainly hope so since the winter was long and hard. I found this music to be most uplifting, time to drink a glass of wine and fade into some snooze land.“ —Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter

“Adams shared [Lou] Harrison’s interest in just intonation, founded on the premise that intervals should be based on integer ratios, in contrast to the proportions based in irrational numbers required for equal-tempered tuning. Everything That Rises is Adams’ latest effort to explore to sonorous possibilities behind those integer ratios; and the result may well be described as a lyric poem in honor of the natural harmonic series.

“Since there are an infinite number of natural harmonics (the “’numerable infinity’ of the natural numbers, for those with enough mathematics to know that there is more than one kind of infinity), Adams clearly could not take in the entire series. However, by choosing a fundamental pitch that is below the range of audibility (C0), he allows himself enough scope to take in a generous sector, which extends so high that the intervals between the upper harmonics are almost no longer distinguishable. Furthermore, the listener appreciates the onset of this condition, because the entire composition is based on pitch sequences that rise through the harmonic series.

“These ascents take the form of what Adams calls ‘clouds.’ They are realized by score pages that lack both time signatures and bar lines. All that is indicated is the ascent through the harmonic series; and that ascent emerges as a (cloudy) cluster in which each of the four instruments rises at roughly (but not exactly) the same pace. The overall structure consists of sixteen of these rising clusters, which unfold over that roughly hour-long duration. As the final cluster rises to its ultimate height, the very sense of pitch ‘evaporates into the cloud’ through bowing that no longer yields a pitched vibrating string but, instead, a sigh-like sound of ‘pre-vibration.’

“My guess is that, at this point, there will be skeptical readers, who already know most of my thoughts about recording technology, wondering whether any recording can do justice to such a prodigious theoretical vision…. With that as a disclaimer, I think it is important to credit the full spectrum of production values assumed by Cold Blue in creating this release. The attentive and sympathetic listener should have no trouble apprehending what Adams’ wished to achieve; and this is due to not only capture and reproduction but also the keen sensitivity to natural harmonics cultivated by all four of the JACK players. Perception might not take in every last detail of the physical signal that Adams aspired to generate; but there is definitely enough there to ‘get the message.’

“What about the duration? By all rights sitting still for an hour should be no big deal. Most feature-length movies require at least that much attention, not to mention individual acts in an opera by Richard Wagner or a full symphony by Gustav Mahler. When it comes to ‘extreme listening, Everything That Rises is a walk in the park when compared with Morton Feldman’s second string quartet, whose performance requires a little over six hours! However, as Philip Campbell observed in reporting on the JACK premiere performance of Everything That Rises for The Bay Area Reporter, Feldman may provide the appropriate mindset for listening to this Adams composition. Campbell cited ‘the almost painful beauty of slow musical evolution and the silence between the notes’ in Feldman’s scores; and, while I do not find Adams’ music painful, I would credit it with a poignancy, which I suspect arises from the sense the listener gets of how small (s)he is in the presence of the composer’s attempt to evoke a vision of cosmic proportions.” —Stephen Smoliar, The Rehearsal Studio

“Cold Blue Music has recently released Everything That Rises…the latest in a series of string quartets from the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer…. With a single track running to some 56 minutes, Everything That Rises is an extended exploration of the harmonies derived from a subsonic fundamental tone, through a rising series of 16 ‘harmonic clouds.’…

Everything That Rises opens with a long, deep cello tone followed by a light trill. The other strings join in their lower registers, creating a broadly primal feeling. The cello continues to provide a foundation, and this develops a surging character, like waves on an incoming tide. Now tones and trills in the middle violin registers create some nice harmonies against lower notes in the cello. This has a calming effect, even when the harmonies are somewhat unconventional. The chords pile up, continuously ebbing and flowing, but always moving higher.

“The structure of Everything That Rises is similar in form to an earlier J.L. Adams work, Sila: The Breath of the World, which I first heard at the 2015 Ojai Festival. That work includes strings, woodwinds, brass, voices and percussion, and has the same upward progression of pitches, but its sense is fluid and airy. The overall impression that comes from Everything That Rises is more like climbing than floating—there is a sense of effort and progress, like scaling a high mountain. At the finish, the light scratching sounds from the bows allow the music to seemingly evaporate into thin air.

“The playing of the JACK Quartet is disciplined and orderly throughout, and this contributes greatly to the coherence in the realization of an extraordinary musical architecture. The stamina and consistency of the players is remarkable. Their intonation is masterfully precise, even at the extreme edge of each instrument’s range. Everything That Rises extends the composer’s ongoing and thoughtful examination of the possibilities inherent in the harmonic series and adds to his already significant body of work.” —Paul Muller, Sequenza21

Everything that Rises…is the fourth string quartet by John Luther Adams, one of the most cited and sought-after composers on the contemporary scene. The composition, lasting almost an hour, develops on a main melodic line which, through repetition, is constantly renewed in a continuous and almost hypnotic flow. It is a deep and complex work in which the music is born from a dark whisper and grows in a slow, calm, and almost unreal way, from the strings’ lowest to highest registers. The harmonic metamorphoses are dictated by the contrapuntal overlapping of the lines independently played by the four instruments. From an initial whisper, the strings very quietly ascend, as in an infinite spiral, to the highest harmonics, dissolving into a light buzz that leaves us suspended in the infinity of silence. The great JACK Quartet, interprets and performs the work excellently, offering great proof of their technique and interpretation.”— Luciano Feliciani, Kathodik (Italy)

“John Luther Adams’s description on the back of the sleeve for this CD serves as our introduction:Everything That Rises, my fourth string quartet, grew out of Sila: The Breath of the World—a concert-length choral/orchestral work I composed on a rising series of sixteen harmonic clouds. This music traverses that same territory, but in a much more melodic way. Each musician is a soloist, playing throughout. Time floats and the lines spin out, always rising, in acoustically perfect intervals that grow progressively smaller as they spiral upward… until the music dissolves into the soft noise of the bows, sighing.”

“These rising scales move in slow motion, but are by no means passive or static. The ‘acoustically perfect intervals’ mentioned are based on the harmonic series, which has notes that sound out of tune to Western ears conditioned by equal temperament, in some ways comparable with those delicious clashes you hear with natural horns in certain registers. The players climbing phrases explore a kind of chance counterpoint, at times unified, but eternally reaching upwards, the phrases sometimes ending in strange trills, the interactions of the four players generating its own electric field of sound which remains restless despite the refined slow elegance of its progression. This is music with an element of process in its construction, but the results somehow prevent the seams from showing. The penultimate minutes, in which the notes go almost beyond their upper limits, are truly haunting, and you come away from hearing the whole thing with your ears re-aligned to a natural tuning that might have you whistling in the bathroom in an entirely new way for some time afterwards.

“This is the kind of work that has to be experienced, and describing it in words can do it little justice. As with the music of Morton Feldman, you have to suspend your expectations of thematic development and a conventional flow of time. As with the music of Arvo Pärt, you have to engage something spiritual – a connection with the surrounding air and with natural, aeolian resonances. With this last point I think this recording could have benefited from a slightly more spacious acoustic. The Banff Centre for the Arts is certainly decent enough, but something with a more Rothko Chapelatmosphere might have been the icing on this already very well-made cake.

“Described as ‘fiendishly difficult’ to play, this is one of those deceptive works that sound less virtuoso but which, like anything by Mozart, would mercilessly expose a wrong note or bad tuning in an instant. The JACK Quartet is a master in contemporary music, and no-one puts a foot wrong for nearly an hour. John Luther Adams has been well served by both these musicians and the Cold Blue Music label in the past, and long may their artistic collaborations continue.”— Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International

“Like his earlier work, Everything that Rises is composed in a single span and lasts nearly an hour, which in some ways reminds me of early minimalism in the way that he extends notes to make a progression of the piece’s sound world, but a minimalist piece this is not, with the four members of the quartet playing independently of each other to produce this remarkable work….

“As a lover of the string quartet idiom, I was more than interested in reviewing this disc and to see just how far John Luther Adams takes and bends this most perfect of musical forms, and bend it he does. This is not a quartet in classic sense, rather the four members, or ‘soloists’ following their own individual line and producing on the way some remarkable string sounds.

“It begins with a kind of low drone on the cello and gradually develops and builds through gradually higher pitch to its ethereal conclusion. On the way we get notes that sound more akin to woodwinds from the higher strings whilst the lower strings at times produce notes that sound like low brass. The piece ends with differing drones which I found reminiscent of the sounds from a friend’s beehive and so returning again to John Luther Adams’ infatuation with nature. This is, as the composer attests, a melodic work, with the melody being broken up into short sections and played by the higher strings over the bass of the cello. I find this a wonderful quartet; one I have listened to repeatedly, although it is best listened to in a darkened room through headphones in order to enjoy the full experience. I must say that whilst you might think it an overly long work, as you listen to it time does not drag; rather it passes a lot quicker than you think and the piece ends before you expect it to.

“The JACK Quartet shows remarkable control as it builds up the intensity and pitch of this quartet with each of the member’s parts clearly discernible, this being helped by the excellent recorded sound. Where this recording is lacking is in the booklet notation, all you get is the short paragraph included above. This work does however, makes me want to hear more of John Luther Adams’ music, and especially his three other string quartets.” —Stuart Sillitoe, MusicWeb International

“[T]he most hypnotically meditative piece we’ve had from Adams yet…. [T]he effect is more one of a natural phenomenon—an æolian harp, or wind whistling through rock formations, perhaps—than of conventional music, in keeping with Adams’ intention of portraying nature as literally and un-artificially as possible in his music.”—Records International


“In all of his music, Adams celebrates landscapes—or naturescapes might be more appropriate, as many are not land. He refuses labels of pastoralism or ecocriticism, and reaches neither for a nostalgic idea of the landscapes nor for a dystopian soundscape focused on pollution and environmental destruction. Instead, Adams depicts his chosen environments as they exist in a moment and as they change through a moment. He makes little to no investment in narrative, and refuses to have a favorite compositional weapon….

Everything That Rises is Adams’ latest string quartet, following The Wind in High Places and Canticle of the Sky (Cold Blue Music 2015). He chose just intonation when writing for this quartet—where intervals are only tuned to ratios of whole numbers. For Adams, the environment he envisions determines the space he creates in his music. The capacious intervals are no smaller for the string quartet than they would be for an orchestra. The clarity of these intervals paired with the string harmonics creates an expanse within the musical language. This is space that the listener can not only hear, but feel. In spite of the soaring harmonics, there is no point of departure, no liftoff as it were, that separates the listener from the musical ground. The four soloists climb continuously higher from a subsonic fundamental in their respective registers, through acoustically perfect intervals that become progressively smaller (i.e., closer together), which Adams describes as sixteen ‘harmonic clouds,’ until their sounds seem to vanish, shimmering, into thin air.

“What soaring homages Become Oceanpayed to Debussy and Sibelius in 2014 are still present in Everything That Rises. If anything, the JACK Quartet makes them even more ethereal. The sweeping, complex harmonics seem to swirl on updrafts, soaring above the lower notes without ever seeming to beat their wings. JACK handles the just intonation with ease, and the exposed lines and quiet dynamics sound as comfortable as anything. This is the kind of musical mastery that I respect the most. Achieving near-constant expression while playing so quietly over an hour requires a hyper-focus and stamina that few can boast having.

“Adams’ musical language is experimental and heir to the tradition of Cage and Feldman, but does not aspire to ‘maverick.’ It seems reductive to call him a minimalist, though undoubtedly in technique he is. ‘Atmospheric,’ too, seems inadequate. Calling his musical lexicon both ‘philosophical’ and ‘meditative,’ while appropriate, feels trite. Indeed, because he has not aspired to the titles and labels that we give composers, his music eschews these descriptors, as well. I find that I love Everything That Risesmore for its desire to express the ineffable than for its ability to define it. After 56 minutes of listening, waxing poetic about how much I enjoy this album seems insignificant.”— Kathleen McGowan, I Care if You Listen

 “Heralded by the Boston Globeas ‘superheroes of the new music world,’ the JACK Quartet have made waves in the group’s ten-year history. This latest disc pairs the quartet with another ‘new music superhero.’ John Luther Adams is a longstanding environmental activist, and his much-celebrated music tends to evoke landscapes and communities that are at risk or little understood, in vast yet delicately crafted scores. . . .  A deeply introspective work, Everything That Rises is cast as a single, hour-long movement and develops [the] notion of ‘harmonic clouds.’ Each voice of the quartet moves independently, to wend slowly and delicately up through the harmonic series until, in the composer’s words, ‘the music dissolves into the soft noise of the bows, sighing.’ Performed with consummate poise by the JACK Quartet, the disc offers listeners a strange, dream-like experience, at once meditative, mysterious and gripping.” —Kate Wakeling, ClassicalMusic/BBC Music Magazine

“Cold Blue’s latest release is of Adams’ hour-long fourth quartet, Everything That Rises, in which … seemingly supernatural resonances whistling from four string players that sound like a thousand.” —Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times