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The Dharma at Big Sur was composed in 2003 for the opening of Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles…My first plan was to compose an orchestral work that would feature an actor–I had Willem Dafoe in mind–reading some of these essential Kerouac visions from the poems, from the early “road” books and from that later alcoholic dark night of the soul he describes in “Big Sur”…But my plan took a sudden sharp turn when I heard Tracy Silverman play the electric violin at an Oakland, California jazz club in 2002. A classically trained, Julliard-educated violinist, Tracy had left off playing the classical repertory soon after graduation. Restless with the tedium of repeating the classical repertory and trying to fit into the narrow job description of violin virtuoso, Tracy had developed his own unique style of violin playing that was a marvel of expressiveness… Hearing Tracy Silverman play his six-string electric violin immediately reminded me not only of the great jazz and rock performers and Pakistani qawwali singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, but also made me think of the prose style of Jack Kerouac, so deeply influenced by his listening to the rhythms and melodic arcs of improvised jazz. And this is how The Dharma at Big Sur eventually took its final shape. –John Adams

Album Personnel

  • Tracy Silverman
    Electric 6-string violin
  • BBC Symphony Orchestra
  • John Adams


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