Events & exhibitions

Music in a Burning World

John Luther Adams
Photo By Donald Lee

The 2023 Kim and Judy Davis Dean’s Lecture in the Arts will feature the Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning composer John Luther Adams. Motivated by a deep concern for the state of the earth and the future of humanity, he brings the sense of wonder we experience outdoors into the concert hall with the hope, and belief, that music can do more than politics to change the world.

The Parker Quartet will perform Adams’s The Wind in High Places, and the composer will engage in conversation with Boston Globe classical music critic Jeremy Eichler.

“…throughout my life I’ve steered an uneasy course between the Scylla of solitude and the Charybdis of politics, between my desire to help change the world and my impulse to escape it. The vessel in which I navigate these turbulent waters is music.

I am two men. One man is the lifelong activist, who was marching in civil rights and antiwar demonstrations before he was able to vote, and who was a full-time environmental activist until he was in his mid-30s. The other man is the artist, who believes that music is his best gift to our troubled world. These two men don’t fully understand one another. Yet even as they struggle to balance their apparent contradictions, they share a sense of responsibility to and faith in the next generations.

My hope is that the music I compose may somehow be of use to someone who truly will change the world. Inspired by the young people who are rising up all around the world, I continue my work in the belief that music has a special power to plumb the depths within us, and to elevate those places where courage and compassion are born.”

The Kim and Judy Davis Dean’s Lecture Series was established through the generosity of Kim G. Davis AB ’76, MBA ’78, and Judith N. Davis, longtime friends and champions of Harvard Radcliffe Institute. This annual lecture series invites leading figures from across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences to share their expertise, ideas, and diverse perspectives with the Harvard community and the broader public.


Jeremy Eichler is the chief classical music critic of the Boston Globe. An award-winning critic, essayist, and cultural historian, Eichler has been a public scholar grantee of the National Endowment for the Humanities and has received fellowships from Harvard Radcliffe Institute and MacDowell Colony. His forthcoming book on music, war, and cultural memory, titled Times Echo, will be published by Knopf in fall 2023.

Performance by

Parker Quartet

Daniel Chong, violin
Ken Hamao, violin
Jessica Bodner, viola
Kee-Hyun Kim, cello

Internationally recognized for their “fearless, yet probingly beautiful” (The Strad) performances, the Boston-based Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet is one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation, dedicated purely to the sound and depth of their music. The Quartet has appeared at the world’s leading venues since its founding in 2002 and its numerous honors include winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition, the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at France’s Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition, and Chamber Music America’s prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award. The members of the Parker Quartet serve as professors of the practice and Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music.

Event Video

View video of the 2023 Kim and Judy Davis Dean’s Lecture in the Arts by John Luther Adams

Order of Program

Music: Parker Quartet
The Wind in High Places
(John Luther Adams, 2011. Commissioned by Theodore Front Musical Literature)
Movement 1: Above Sunset Pass

Reading by John Luther Adams
“Down the Mountain” (Part 1)
Essays are drawn from a book in progress by John Luther Adams with the working title "True Places: An Atlas of Dreams."

Music: Parker Quartet
The Wind in High Places
Movement 2: Maclaren Summit

Reading by John Luther Adams
“Down the Mountain” (Part 2)

Music: Parker Quartet
The Wind in High Places
Movement 3: Looking Toward Hope

Reading by John Luther Adams
“To You”

Conversation with Jeremy Eichler and audience Q&A

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