John Luther Adams

(b. 1953)

mode 240



mode 240 John Luther ADAMS: songbirdsongs (Callithumpian Consort, Stephen Drury, director); Strange Birds Passing (New England Conservatory Contemporary Music Ensemble, John Heiss, director)

In stock

  1. Wood Thrush  4:35
  2. Morningfieldsong  3:54
  3. Meadowdance  3:47
  4. August Voices  4:34
  5. Mourning Dove  5:50
  6. Apple Blossom Round  1:55
  7. Notquitespringdawn  3:43
  8. Joyful Noise  3:02
  9. Evensong  7:02

Callithumpian Consort
Stephen Drury, director

Strange Birds Passing (1983/2003)  6:43

New England Conservatory Contemporary Music Ensemble
John Heiss, director

Songbirdsongs is among John Luther Adams’ seminal works. This is the first time the cycle appears on CD.

Although music has been written involving the sounds of birds for centuries, no composer has ever approached the concept in this way. Based on Adams’ observations and studies of actual bird songs, he scored them for various ensembles of piccolos, ocarinas, flutes and percussion.

Rather than having a fixed score, each piece consists of a collection of unordered phrases for each instrument. To create a performance, the musicians interpret their parts according to the instructions found in the score’s notes, maps, and parts — instructions that are carefully derived from each bird’s singing behavior. Adams not only represents birdsongs accurately but also allows performers to piece them together with the unique patterns and spontaneity of the birds interacting with one another in nature.

Each movement of songbirdsongs features specific birds collected together by their region and shared habitat. The result is a work of natural beauty, vivid colors and atmosphere.

Liner notes with musical illustrations by David Shimoni and John Luther Adams.


Songbirdsongs has roots that predate Adam’s time in Alaska. Adams started making the piece in 1974, collecting his impressions and memories of songbirds from Mississippi and California, and has accumulated details through the years up to this vivid 2006 recording. Using two piccolos and three percussionists, Adams rewrites bird calls from his imagination. Rather than capture birdsong exactly, as French composer Olivier Messiaen did, Adams takes musical instruments and makes them into the birds in his sonic geography.
— George Grella, “A Guide to John Luther Adams,” Bandcamp Daily, 18 September 2023


John Luther ADAMS  strange and sacred noise (mode 153, CD or DVD)

John Luther ADAMS  profile

Callithumpian Consort  profile

Stephen DRURY profile