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Grand Pianola Music

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John Adams

John Adams

General Info

Year: 1982 / 1994
Duration: c. 30:00
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts - Rental    |   Score Only - $60.00


1. Part I – 15:15
2. Part I, Slow, quarter note = 66 – 7:45
3. Part II: On the Dominant Divide – 8:05


Full Score
Flute I-II (both doubling C Piccolo)
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II (II doubling Bass Clarinet)
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II
Piano I-II
Women's Voices (amplified)
Percussion (3 players), including:

  • Bass Drum (small, with pedal)
  • Bass Drum (large)
  • Crotales (bowed)
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Maracas
  • Marimba
  • Suspended Cymbals (2)
  • Tambourine
  • Tenor Drums (5)
  • Triangles (2)
  • Vibraphone
  • Wood Block (high)
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Grand Pianola Music was commissioned by the General Atlantic Corporation and David M. Ramsey. The work was premiered on February 26, 1982, by the San Francisco Symphony. John Adams was the conductor and Robin Sutherland and Julie Steinberg were the pianists. Later that year it was performed in New York City with Jacob Druckman conducting on a concert along with serial works by composers influenced by Columbia and Princeton Universities.

Inspiration for the work came from the composer's dream of two limousines following him on Interstate 5, which evolved into thirty-foot-long pianos as they passed by him at over ninety miles per hour. Musically the work contains elements of minimalism, but with the scoring and the use of I-V-I cadences it has a mostly post-modern aesthetic. Adams writes, "The piece could only have been conceived by someone who had grown up surrounded by the detritus of mid-twentieth century recorded music. Beethoven and Rachmaninoff soak in the same warm bath with Liberace, Wagner, the Supremes, Charles Ives, and John Philip Sousa." The pianos are used with equal virtuosity.

- Program Note by Jason Ladd


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Oregon (Eugene) Wind Ensemble (Dennis Llanás, conductor) - 10 March 2023
  • San Francisco (Calif.) Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble (Brad Hogarth, conductor) - 1 April 2022
  • University of Georgia (Athens) Chambers Winds (Jacqueline Hartenberger, conductor; David Fung & Liza Stepanova, piano) – 30 January 2020
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Wind Ensemble (Damon Talley, conductor) – 20 November 2019
  • University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble (Kevin Michael Holzman, conductor; Fabio Menchetti & Giuliano Graniti, piano) – 15 October 2019
  • University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble (Kevin Michael Holzman, conductor) – 5 October 2018
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Mallory Thompson, conductor) – 22 April 2016
  • University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Franklin Gross and Jim James, piano; Diana Brown, Annie Byrom and Holly Dalrymple, vocal) – 27 March 2009 (CBDNA 2009 National Conference, Austin, Tx.)
  • Pasadena (Calif.) Symphony – 20 January 2007
  • Los Angeles (Calif.) Philharmonic (Esa Pekka Salonen, conductor) – 23 January 2007

Works for Winds by This Composer