About this work
The purest of John Adams' essays in minimalism, Common Tones in Simple Time (1979) is organized around triads (the "common" element of the title) and never strays from the "simple" meters of 4/4 and 2/2. A "pastorale with pulse," in Adams' own words, Common Tones in Simple Time generates interest primarily through long-anticipated modulations (by the use of common tones, naturally) and changes in textural depth rather than melody or rhythm. The steady sixteenth-note churning begins with the violins, violas, and piano playing out of phase with one another by a fraction of a second. Instruments and rhythms are added or removed throughout the work, creating the sensation of floating or flying at an extreme speed over landscapes of varying color and texture until the flight ends abruptly as it began. This work was premiered in January 1980, but after a few hearings Adams withdrew it for "acoustical revisions." The work was finally reintroduced in November 1986 by the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Edo de Waart.
Curated by Femke Steketee, Saxophonist