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US composer John Adams: 'People who call me anti-Semitic are a disgrace'

John Adams: 'I don’t think you are going to change the world by writing an opera'
John Adams: 'I don’t think you are going to change the world by writing an opera' Credit: Los Angeles Times
As the Proms and the Barbican prepare to honour his work, controversial US composer John Adams talks to Ben Lawrence

John Adams has been at the vanguard of American minimalism for 40 years, his name uttered in the same breath as such other pioneers as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. The minimalist label, however, is not always helpful and he has sometimes embraced neo-classicism, jazz and Wagner. He has also been described as “America’s unofficial composer laureate” which sounds as much a burden as a compliment. When I bring it up, he shoots me an old-fashioned look from behind his thin, professorial glasses and emits a reedy chuckle.

“What we do is such a small part of the collective; 90 per cent of the world listen to pop music, the others probably listen to Yo-Yo Ma. I have to become very sober when someone asks me what it’s like to be famous. I think I am only famous in one zip code.”

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