I speak of Harmonielehre (the book of harmony) by John Adams. Full disclosure: I was not prepared to like a single measure of the study of tonal harmony Adams began composing in 1984 and completed in March 1985. Although I was not really familiar with the Adams canon, I knew he was a minimalist, and for that I was ready to dismiss him. But then conductor Edo de Waart lifted his baton, and the beguiling magic began.
I was particularly enchanted by part 3 of the three-part study, Meister Eckhardt and Quackie. John Adams, who is only three years older than I am, was quoted in the program notes as saying: “The Zappaesque title refers to a dream I’d had shortly after the birth of our daughter Emily, who was briefly dubbed Quackieduring her infancy. In the dream, she rides perched on the shoulder of the medieval mystic Meister Eckhardt as they hover among the heavenly bodies like figures painted on the high ceilings of old cathedrals.” Indeed, as that tender berceuse gradually picked up speed and culminated in a tidal wave of brass and percussion over a pedal point on E-flat major, I was hovering with my dearly departed Mother over the orchestra. Who knew? Now, I do!!! Oh, full disclosure: Mr. Adams, we could indeed be distantly related, as I carry the Adams name from my father’s side.