composer | percussionist
"A Pioneer in World Music"
- The New York Times
Photo: Molly Sheridan/NewMusicBox
Adam Rudolph: Languages Of Rhythm - New Music USA Bio Article
"A Percussion Wizard"
"A Master Percussionist"
- Musician Magazine
For the past four decades composer, improviser and percussionist Adam Rudolph has performed extensively in concert throughout North & South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Rudolph has been hailed as "a pioneer in world music" by the NY Times and "a master percussionist" by Musician magazine. He has released over 25 recordings under his own name, featuring his compositions and percussion work. Rudolph composes for his ensembles Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures, Hu: Vibrational percussion group, and Go: Organic Orchestra, an 18 to 54 piece group for which he has developed an original music notation and conducting system. He has taught and conducted hundreds of musicians worldwide in the Go: Organic Orchestra concept. In 1995 Rudolph premiered his opera The Dreamer, based on the text of Friedreich Nietzsche's "The Birth of Tragedy".
Rudolph has performed with Don Cherry, Jon Hassell, Sam Rivers, Pharaoh Sanders, L. Shankar, A.A.C.M co-founders Fred Anderson and Muhal Richard Abrams, Wadada Leo Smith, and Omar Sosa. He has toured extensively and recorded 15 albums with Yusef Lateef including duets and their large ensemble compositional collaborations.
Born in 1955, Rudolph grew up in the Hyde Park area of the Southside of Chicago. From an early age he was exposed to the live music performances of the great blues and improvising artists who lived nearby. As a teenager, Rudolph started playing hand drums in local streets and parks and soon apprenticed with elders of African American improvised music. He performed regularly in Chicago with Fred Anderson and in Detroit with the Contemporary Jazz Quintet. In 1973 Rudolph played on his first record date with Maulawi Nururdin and with the CJQ at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz festival.
In 1977 he lived and studied in Ghana, where he experienced trance ceremonies. In his travels throughout West Africa he saw how music can come from a cosmological grounding beyond music itself and can also be about something beyond music itself. In 1978 he lived in Don Cherry’s house in the Swedish countryside. Cherry inspired him to start composing and showed him about Ornette Coleman’s concept and the connection of music to nature.
Rudolph is known as one the early innovators of what is now called “World Music”. In 1978 he and Gambian Kora player Jali Foday Musa Suso co-founded The Mandingo Griot Society, one of the first groups to combine African and American music. In 1988, he recorded the first fusion of American and Gnawa music with Sintir player and singer Hassan Hakmoun. Rudolph intensely studied North Indian Tabla for over 15 years with Pandit Taranath Rao. He learned hundreds of drum compositions and about how music is a form of Yoga – the unity of mind, body and spirit. In 1988 Rudolph began his association with Yusef Lateef, with whom he has recorded over 15 albums including several of their large ensemble collaborations. Lateef introduced Rudolph to the inspirational practice of Autophysiopsychic Music – “that which comes from one’s spiritual, physical and emotional self”. Rudolph still performs worldwide with Dr. Lateef. Their performances have ranged from their acclaimed duet concerts to appearances as guest soloists with the Koln, Atlanta and Detroit symphony orchestras.
Rudolph continues to also create visual art – painting, drawing, photography - and to write. In 2006, his rhythm repository and methodology book, Pure Rhythm was published by Advance Music, Germany. In 2010 Rudolph’s article Music and Mysticism: Rhythm and Form was published in Arcana V, edited by John Zorn. Other essays have been published by Parabola Magazine and Morton Books. Rudolph has been on the faculty of Creative Music Studio ( New York and Istanbul) Esalen Institute, California Institute of the Arts and the Danish Jazz Federation Summer Institute. Rudolph has received grants and compositional commissions from the Rockefeller Foundation, Chamber Music America, Meet the Composer, Mary Flagler Cary Trust, the NEA, Arts International, Durfee Foundation, Phaedrus Foundation and American Composers Forum.
"Double Concerto proved a masterful blending of jazz styling
and instrumental prowess."
"A Percussion wizard"
- Down Beat
"An intriguing, and, to these ears, utterly unique aural experience."
- Option Magazine
A master percussionist, Rudolph has been studying musics and rhythms from around the globe for over 25 years -- "to understand more about human creation in sound." He explains: "Most musicians come to grasp an understanding of music in terms of style - such as the predominant style of music of the sixties. When you look underneath style, then you see more basic components, like rhythm and harmony. But at an even more essential level there is music as vibration; and I think this is the deepest level of understanding we can pursue".
Mentored as a youngster by legendary figures in improvisational music, and in the Blues world of Chicago and Detroit, Rudolph was inspired to find his own musical vision and voice by such revered elders as saxophonists Fred Anderson and Malawi Nurdurdin; and trumpeters Charles Moore and Don Cherry. But that was just the beginning of his life-long musical odyssey. Rudolph's academic credentials are extensive -- a self-designed undergraduate degree in ethnomusicology from Oberlin College, and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. Still, it is through the oral transmission of living traditions that he received his most vital imprint:
"What's passed on is specific musical information about intervals, rhythms, use of sound and silence. But the more profound things that we learn from the elders have to do with an attitude and a reverence toward the creation of music. Don [Cherry] said to me: 'You have to respect the silence before you can respect the sound.' There are many such ideas that require deep reflection to absorb and integrate into one's music." Rudolph's repertoire of world rhythms -- many of which were learned on-site -come from the Balinese, Cuban, Ghanain, Haitian, Hindustani, and Moroccan traditions, and are layered on top of his strong foundation in American improvisational jazz drumming.
But though his extraordinary technique has brought him fame as well as collaborations with master musicians from around the world, Rudolph has "never been interested in trying to showcase technique on the drum." His performances are "always in the service of greater spiritual and emotional expression." While living in Ghana in 1977, Rudolph met the Gambian griot Foday Musa Suso, the kora player who now works with Philip Glass and Kronos. The following year, Suso and Rudolph formed the Mandingo Griot Society in Chicago -- the first band to blend traditional African music with R & B and jazz. During a trip to Morocco in 1978, Rudolph became acquainted with the mystical music of Gnawa. He has been collaborating with Gnawa master Hassan Hakmoun since 1988. South Indian violinist, L. Shankar, is another of Rudolph's frequent performance partners. It was from his 15 year study of the North Indian tabla drums, under the direct tutelage of Pandit Taranath Rao, that Rudolph came to understand "the evolution of rhythm as a high art form."
One of the first tabla players for Ravi Shankar, Taranath's performances as a solo artist and accompanist spanned three generations. Among the most important "skills" that he passed on to Rudolph was "the ability to experience music as a form of yoga or spiritual pursuit." Under his guidance, Rudolph learned "to use music as a vehicle for both self-expression and self-exploration." It is Rudolph's dedication to his art, and his desire to absorb and express the underlying worldview from which a specific musical language has arisen, that makes his compositions so unique, accessible and engaging. From the outset of his studies, he has paid special note to the sacred nature of a culture's heritage of rhythms, sound and rituals and has treated each of these components with great reverence:
"I never studied with Taranath, or with the African drummers, with the idea becoming a master of those traditions because I feel that the bridge between the art and life of distinct cultures should be profound and preserved. But in creating relative to my own tradition, I have found that I can strive to embrace the deeper human aspects within any musical idiom. Because I don't attempt to interpret temporal or culturally specific elements, I am free to feel my way into the strength and beauty of a musical language." Rudolph's enormous foundation in world music has given him a rich vocabulary for his personal expression as a performer and composer:
"In general, my whole relationship with what's called "world music," or "music cultures" has not so much to do with referencing them in direct ways. Rather after listening, studying, and performing these musics for many years, they have become a part of my experience. I feel my intuitive expression embraces and synthesizes their sounds and philosophies in organic ways."
Rudolph is also an accomplished and empathic instructor who teaches world music improvisation and composition in Europe and the United States. His rhythm workshops, geared to young and old -- with or without musical experience -- are designed to help participants "find and develop your own voice with hand drums." While it may sound unlikely that our hands could lead us to our voice, the path turns out to be a direct one: Because the rhythm and pattern of our movements in the world most often get locked into a limited, stylized mode of expression when we are quite young -- learning to hear the infinite variety of rhythmic possibilities outside the tempo of a single culture is a liberating experience with potential repercussions in every area of our lives:
New rhythms break-up old patterns. Participants thus find themselves more able and free to hear and "march to a different drummer. This time, however, the drummer is themselves - responding to the natural rhythms of their own unique being.
Rudolph continues to perform with, and compose for his percussion ensemble Vashti, a quintet of world musicians that also includes Hamid Drake, Poovalur Srinivasan (South India), Souhael Kaspar (Egypt), and I Nyomen Wenten (Bali). As Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures, he tours worldwide and performs with multi-instrumentalist, Jihad Racy of Lebanon and the legendary giant of creative music, Yusef Lateef.
Composing for these master improvisers poses a particular challenge for Rudolph who must create a musical context that inspires, contains, and blends flights of spontaneous musical invention. To accomplish this feat, he employs an original compositional technique that he calls "Cyclic Verticalism" which allows each improviser to "move through the music in their own time flow, yet still cycle with each other -- like planets circling the sun."
Rudolph has played on many recordings released by Atlantic, Capitol, EMI, Flying Fish, Island, Polygram, Warner Brothers and Windham Hill. In November 1994, Flying Fish released Rudolph's Moving Pictures -- his first recording as composer, performer, and group leader -- to great critical acclaim. Bob Tarte described the album this way for The Beat:
"Such eclecticism could easily add up to a cacophonous mess or a new-age blandout. But the level of professionalism is so high, what we get is the world-music equivalent of jazz elders deftly improvising around one another, mapping out genre juxtapositions that make other recombinant experiments seem tame."
The Dreamer is Rudolph's first release on his own Meta Records label. It will soon be followed by Night Sky, which will set the poetry of Blake, Goethe, Tu Fu and others into an "improvisational sonic dialogue with instruments from around the world combined with sounds of stellar objects, including pulsars, radio emissions, and solar storms." Another recent Meta Records release is The World at Peace, the second orchestral collaboration between Rudolph and world music innovator and legend, Yusef Lateef.
The Dreamer is Rudolph's musical/philosophical "thesis" distilling a quarter century of intense study, travel, and performance. Within the unifying context of its composition, singers and instrumentalists fuse their voices into a "syncretic musical fabric" that is far more than an audio interpretation of paintings and text: As a composition whose constituent elements -- though vastly different -- are equally essential to the whole expression, it is a universe in microcosm, conceived and performed by conscious dreamers.
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