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Work Samples

The Beauty Of The Protest (2016), excerpt

"The Beauty of the Protest" was inspired by the work of photographer Devin Allen. In striking black & white images on Instagram, Allen told the story of the 2015 Baltimore Uprising as only a local artist could, offering a necessary counterbalance to the often one-dimensional narrative presented by the national media.

Rise: Remains (2015), excerpt

"Rise," a collaboration with the poet Tameka Cage Conley, bears witness to civil rights in America at a fraught moment in our history. A 40-minute reflection on the journey from Selma to Ferguson and beyond, the work is at once a celebration and a reckoning.

my heart comes undone (2014), excerpt

"my heart comes undone" is a meditation on patience and longing, inspired by the work of Björk (the title and musical point of departure come from her song “Unravel”) and Arvo Pärt. The score includes an epigraph by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell: "We don't accomplish our love in a single year / as the flowers do."

Inner City (2013), excerpt

"Inner City" is a love song to my hometown of Baltimore, a sonic landscape depicting some of the ways in which I experience and carry with me the spirit of this place. The piano and pre-recorded audio (primarily field recordings) trace a figurative path through the city.

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About Judah

Baltimore City

The music of composer Judah Adashi, grounded in the classical tradition and imbued with soul and pop influences ranging from Nina Simone to Björk, has been described as "beguiling" (Alex Ross, New Yorker), "elegant" (Steve Smith, Boston Globe), and "impassioned" (Will Robin, Bandcamp). His most recent work is centered around the interplay of art and activism, guided by a belief that the creation and performance of new music can bear witness to injustice, bring together diverse constituencies, create... more

The Beauty of the Protest (2016)

The Beauty of the Protest was inspired by the work of photographer Devin Allen. In striking black & white images on Instagram, Allen told the story of the 2015 Baltimore Uprising as only a local artist could, offering a necessary counterbalance to the often one-dimensional narrative presented by the national media. My title comes from Allen’s words in a New York Times interview: "I wanted people to see the beauty of the protest."

"As a prelude to Rise, cellist Lavena Johanson performed The Beauty of the Protest, a new work titled after a comment by photographer Devin Allen, whose chronicle of the Baltimore unrest drew widespread attention and admiration. In an interview, Allen spoke of his desire for 'people to see the beauty of the protest.' Adashi provides a way for people to hear it. The score, which calls on the cellist to do some singing while playing, suggests a solemn incantation, launched by an opening theme with a rise-and-fall motion, and fueled by reiterative harmonic patterns. The textually spare vocal part adds a haunting touch. Johanson performed the piece admirably." -Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun

  • The Beauty of the Protest

    “The Beauty of the Protest,” for singing cellist, was inspired by the work of photographer Devin Allen. In striking black & white images on Instagram, Allen told the story of the 2015 Baltimore Uprising as only a local artist could, offering a necessary counterbalance to the often one-dimensional narrative presented by the national media.

Rise: Remains (2015)

Rise, a collaboration with the poet Tameka Cage Conley, bears witness to civil rights in America at a fraught moment in our history. A 40-minute reflection on the journey from Selma to Ferguson and beyond, the work is at once a celebration and a reckoning, the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century refracted through the unimaginable triumphs and horrors – the election of the first African-American president, juxtaposed with the deaths of young black men at the hands of law enforcement officers – of the 21st. Dr. Cage Conley's text for the fifth movement, "Remains," can be read here. This live recording from a January 2016 Evensong service celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, features Chris Shiley (flugelhorn), Douglas Buchanan (conductor/piano), Tariq Al-Sabir (tenor), and the Choir of St. David’s Episcopal Church.

"It’s not easy to straddle genres; Adashi does so with naturalness and expressive impact." -Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun

"Strong words, clear music." -Anne Midgette, Washington Post

  • Rise: Remains

    "Rise," a collaboration with the poet Tameka Cage Conley, bears witness to civil rights in America at a fraught moment in our history. A 40-minute reflection on the journey from Selma to Ferguson and beyond, the work is at once a celebration and a reckoning.

my heart comes undone (2014)

my heart comes undone is a meditation on patience and longing, inspired by the work of Björk (the title and musical point of departure come from her song “Unravel”) and Arvo Pärt. The score includes an epigraph by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell: "We don't accomplish our love in a single year / as the flowers do."

The piece was conceived with three possible scorings in mind – solo cello with loop pedal, solo cello and strings, or string quartet – but can be performed in a variety of blended instrumental or vocal combinations, in greater numbers, and with or without amplification, effects, lighting and movement. my heart comes undone was commissioned by the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, specifically by the Preparatory String Department's Pre-Conservatory Violin Program. The work is dedicated to Lavena Johanson, who premiered the cello and loop pedal version on a concert presented by the Evolution Contemporary Music Series and Classical Revolution Baltimore at The Bun Shop in April 2014.

my heart comes undone was released on Bandcamp in September 2014, with all proceeds going towards equipment and supplies for student cellists in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's OrchKids program.

"Judah Adashi listened to 'Unravel' & heard a new song inside it." -Björk, via Twitter

"Beguiling." -Alex Ross, New Yorker

"Elegant...sweetly played and beautifully recorded." -Steve Smith, Boston Globe

"An impassioned soliloquy." -Will Robin, Bandcamp

  • my heart comes undone

    "my heart comes undone" is a meditation on patience and longing, inspired by the work of Björk (the title and musical point of departure come from her song "Unravel") and Arvo Pärt. The score includes an epigraph by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell: “We don't accomplish our love in a single year / as the flowers do."

Inner City: The Key to the City (2013)

Inner City is a love song to my hometown of Baltimore, a sonic landscape depicting some of the ways in which I experience and carry with me the singular spirit of this place. The piano and pre-recorded audio (primarily field recordings) trace a figurative path through the city, beginning at Penn Station, going south on St. Paul Street, heading west on Conway Street to Camden Yards, and culminating in West Baltimore. The score includes an epigraph from onetime resident F. Scott Fitzgerald: "I love Baltimore more than I thought – It is so rich with memories…"

This is the third movement, "The Key to the City," which explores the many layers of our national anthem. The Walters Art Museum commissioned Inner City, and I gave the premiere performance there in November 2013.

  • Inner City: The Key to the City

    "Inner City" is a love song to my hometown of Baltimore, a sonic landscape depicting some of the ways in which I experience and carry with me the spirit of this place. The piano and pre-recorded audio (primarily field recordings) trace a figurative path through the city.

Sestina (2011)

I first encountered the poetry of Ciara Shuttleworth in The New Yorker, in November 2010. Her poem Sestina made an immediate impression on me, with its simplicity and depth of feeling. Ciara reimagines the traditional form f­or which her poem is named, compressing it – and the entire life cycle of a relationship – into six words, variously rotated. Sestina is at once intimate and epic; I tried to reflect that sensibility in this spare musical setting for voice and orchestra.

I am immensely grateful to the American Composers Orchestra (especially Artistic Director Derek Bermel and Music Director & Conductor George Manahan) for making Sestina part of the 2015 SONiC Festival, and to my friend Caroline Shaw for singing it. Caroline and the ACO premiered Sestina in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall on October 23, 2015.

"The grand finale in Carnegie Hall with ACO, titled ‘Orchestra Underground: 21st Firsts,’ also revealed another highly original composer, Judah Adashi. His Sestina for voice (sung affectingly by Caroline Shaw) and orchestra (conducted by George Manahan) intoned a six-word poem by Ciara Shuttleworth. The score’s expertly crafted minimal elements, including Shaw’s unforced, limpid singing, matched the sparseness of the poetry. By means of a repeated modal scale, chordal patterns in the strings and delicate flourishes from the wind instruments, Adashi conveyed a sublimely drawn fragility." -Alexandra Ivanoff, Today's Zaman, October 2015

  • Sestina

    Ciara Shuttleworth reimagines the traditional form f­or which her poem is named, compressing it – and the entire life cycle of a relationship – into six words, variously rotated. "Sestina" is at once intimate and epic; I tried to reflect that sensibility in this spare musical setting for voice and orchestra.

Nina (2011)

Nina is my tribute to the great singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist Nina Simone (1933-2003). The piece begins with a tombeau in memory of Simone, followed by my own versions of two traditional folk songs that she recorded. Sharing a personal interpretation of this music is my way of invoking and honoring "The High Priestess of Soul."

Nina was commissioned by York College of Pennsylvania to mark the dedication of its new Steinway. The work is warmly dedicated to the two pianists who premiered it: Gretchen Dekker, and my longtime friend Ken Osowski.

Live recording: Kenneth Osowski
Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD (November 2012)

  • Nina

    "Nina" is my tribute to the great singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist Nina Simone (1933-2003). The piece begins with a "tombeau" in memory of Simone, followed by my own versions of two traditional folk songs that she recorded. Sharing a personal interpretation of this music is my way of invoking and honoring “The High Priestess of Soul.”

Art and the Rain (2008)

In the summer of 1997, I heard Yo-Yo Ma play three of J.S. Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello at Tanglewood. The concert took place in the festival’s open-air venue, the Shed, during a relentless downpour. Art and the Rain – the title is borrowed from a section of the poet Pablo Neruda’s Memoirs – juxtaposes material from the familiar Prelude of the First Suite in G Major, BWV 1007, with my own music, here associated with the rain. The marimba readily inhabits both worlds: the Suites are often performed on the instrument, while its sound evokes the imagery of water. My piece isn't concerned with Bach’s music so much as with my recollection of Ma's eloquent, intensely focused performance, refracted through weather and memory.

Art and the Rain was commissioned by Michigan State University for Gwendolyn Burgett, who premiered the work at the Interlochen Arts Academy in June 2008, and recorded it in 2012 for the CD Boomslang (Blue Griffin Recordings 189).

Recording: Gwendolyn Burgett (marimba), Boomslang (Blue Griffin Recordings 189), December 2012

  • Art and the Rain

    In the summer of 1997, I heard Yo-Yo Ma play three of J.S. Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello at Tanglewood. The concert took place in the festival’s open-air venue, the Shed, during a relentless downpour. "Art and the Rain" juxtaposes material from the familiar Prelude of the First Suite in G Major, BWV 1007, with my own music, here associated with the rain.

The Dark Hours (2007)

"The Dark Hours" takes its title and inspiration from an early poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, the first stanza here translated from the German by Robert Bly:

I love the dark hours of my being
in which my senses drop into the deep.
I have found in them, as in old letters,
my private life, that is already lived through,
and become wide and powerful now, like legends.
Then I know that there is room in me
for a second huge and timeless life.

The poem anticipates Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, in which Rilke exhorts Franz Kappus to "go into yourself." It is in the solitude of his own inner world – "the dark hours of my being" – that Rilke finds depth, freedom, and infinite possibilities." Accordingly, the music is characterized by a restless, inward-directed longing. The poem’s encapsulation of Rilke’s sensibilities struck me as both an apt metaphor for the creative process, and a natural fit for the rich, dark sound world of the bassoon.

The Dark Hours was commissioned by the Carlos Surinach Fund of the BMI Foundation for Concert Artists Guild bassoonist Peter Kolkay and pianist Alexandra Nguyen. They premiered the work in April 2007 on the Lawrence University Concert Series in Appleton, WI, and recorded it in 2011 for the CD BassoonMusic (CAG Records 106).

"Judah Adashi’s The Dark Hours from 2007 is a meaty three movement work. The music is austere, lyrical, and rich with extended tonal harmonies. Even when very little is happening on the surface, my attention is always held fast by the music." (Jay Batzner, Sequenza21)

  • The Dark Hours

    "The Dark Hours" takes its title and inspiration from an early poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, the first stanza here translated from the German by Robert Bly: "I love the dark hours of my being / in which my senses drop into the deep."

Grace (2001)

Grace was composed in memory of the late rock musician Jeff Buckley (1966-1997), with his haunting, ethereal voice and singular musical sensibilities in mind. His songs speak with an elegant simplicity worthy of the title of his 1994 album "Grace," the only full-length release that he completed prior to his untimely death-by-drowning in the Mississippi River. As the title of this composition, "grace" is not indicative of a divine presence, but rather of an earthly beauty captured so eloquently by Buckley’s music, or more broadly, of what the literary critic George Steiner identified in his book Language and Silence as "the quick of the human spirit." The score bears the following epigraph, by Pablo Neruda (as translated by W.S. Merwin): "Your memory emerges from the night around me. / The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea."

Grace was selected by David Zinman, music director of the Aspen Music Festival, to receive the 2002 Jacob Druckman Award for Orchestral Composition. The work was also recognized with a 2003 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award.

Live Recording: Aspen Sinfonia (Markand Thakar, conductor; Lev Polyakin, violin soloist)
Aspen Music Festival, Aspen, CO (July 2003)

  • Grace

    "Grace" was composed in memory of the late rock musician Jeff Buckley (1966-1997), with his haunting, ethereal voice and singular musical sensibilities in mind. His songs speak with an elegant simplicity worthy of the title of his 1994 album "Grace," the only full-length release that he completed prior to his untimely death-by-drowning in the Mississippi River.

Eight Haiku by Richard Wright (2001)

Richard Wright (1908-1960) is best known for his fiction, particularly his incendiary novel Native Son, published in 1940. These haiku were created during Wright’s self-imposed French exile, in the final year-and-a-half of his life. Wright culled 817 haiku from the 4000 that he had written to be published as This Other World: Projections in the Haiku Manner; I selected eight of these to represent musically, in the form of miniatures for violin and marimba. Wright uses stark, evocative imagery within the concise Japanese form to depict both natural and urban landscapes, the latter more familiar from the author’s literary masterpieces. On the surface these are spontaneous word paintings, but a closer look reveals great discipline and craftsmanship, in an economical form of self-expression. Eight Haiku by Richard Wright was recognized with a 2001 BMI Student Composer Award, and was the winning work in the Auros Group for New Music’s 2002 International Composition Competition.

"Eight Haiku by Richard Wright (2001) finds its composer, Judah Adashi, capturing the subtle emotive nature of this Japanese poetic format in a non-vocal environment. Scored for violin/marimba duo, it’s a personable, engaging opus with enough serious undercurrents to impart depth. And despite nods to Messiaen and Stravinsky, the sonic universe sounds fully personal." -David Cleary, New Music Connoisseur

  • Eight Haiku by Richard Wright

    Richard Wright (1908-1960) is best known for his fiction, particularly his incendiary novel "Native Son," published in 1940. These haiku were created during Wright’s self-imposed French exile, in the final year-and-a-half of his life. In "Eight Haiku by Richard Wright," I selected eight of them to represent musically, in the form of miniatures for violin and marimba.

Judah's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.