American composer John Luther Adams has been named the 2010 winner of the Nemmers Prize in Music Composition. He will receive $100,000 but more importantly he will receive something much rarer for living American composers: performances.

He lives in Alaska and his music is “inspired” by natural phenomena. Here is a piece in a natural setting.

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In many of his pieces he usual data from natural occurrences and maps them onto musical parameters.

Decades ago I found this approach mildly interesting. My 1984 work Missa Fractalis was based on fractals; hence the cunning name. In my 1983 work Concertal I mapped a few waveforms from a sampled violin to various parameters and used the processed samples to create the piece on a Synclavier – which was cutting edge back in the 80s. Both of these works are still available on an LP (hey, I said “decades ago!”) aptly named “Cartography” (mapping. cartography. get it?). It also contains works by Rodney Waschka II and Robert Keefe.

Some additional music by Adams:

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