Shaker Loops

Shaker Loops is a 1978 composition by American composer John Adams, originally written for string septet. A version for string orchestra followed in 1983 and was first performed in April of that year at Alice Tully Hall, New York, by the American Composers Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

The original "modular" score, published by Associated Music Publisher, has since been withdrawn and replaced by the 1983 "string orchestra" version. The "string orchestra" version can be played either by a septet of soloists or by a string orchestra of any size, where the violins are divided into 3 parts throughout.

The work is in four movements.

  1. "Shaking and Trembling"
  2. "Hymning Slews"
  3. "Loops and Verses"
  4. "A Final Shaking"


Shaker Loops began as a piece called Wavemaker in which Adams tried to emulate the ripple effect of bodies of water in his music. The piece was a commercial failure, but Adams kept the idea of repeating loops of oscillations on string instruments. He retitled the piece Shaker Loops, both because of the "shaking" of the strings as they oscillate between notes and the idea Adams had of Shakers dancing to repetitive, energetic music.[1]


Several recordings of the string orchestra version have been released on CD, including one by Edo de Waart and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra for Philips Records.

Appearances in other mediaEdit