Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

First Watch: Tom Adams And 'Time,' A Rare Voice Amid The Mountains

This past May, Tom Adams released his debut album, Silence. When I listen to it, something I've done often this year, the world seems to shift. This poignant, atmospheric album seems to slow time, its stories become part of my landscape, details come into focus in vibrant new ways; ordinary objects along my daily drive, photographs on my desk, become cinematic.

Tom Adam's life was changed in a courtyard in Berlin in the summer of 2014, the same year he self-released an EP, In the Constant Noise, which he created with a hand-held recorder. It was in that courtyard that pianist and composer Nils Frahm was performing on his new piano, the Una Corda. Frahm invited people in the audience to play something on it and Adams took him up on the offer, managing a spontaneous, jaw-dropping performance. Afterward, he met the man who would be his manager and, not long after that, he was remixing the widely lauded post-minimalist composer Max Richter (specifically, his piece "Berlin By Overnight"). Adams went on to release his second EP in 2016, Voyages by Starlight (via Kowloon Records).

Tom Adams has a voice that comes along only a few times in a generation — think Jeff Buckley, or Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós. He may have grown up in the flattest part of England, but his haunting piano melodies resemble mountainous terrain, with all its spaciousness and detail.

In fact, the video for "Time," which we're premiering today, is set in the mountains of Norway. Adams says that "living in the countryside is lovely for writing as you can leave so much space in your music — the perfect situation for delicate sounds."

Director Leo Plunkett says setting Adams' stark music to film wasn't an easy task."The main challenge for this film was to not distract the viewer from the incredible subtlety of the music. I wanted the imagery to be expansive and beautiful, but also inhospitable and hopeless — somewhere so isolated that, however far our character travels looking for help, no one can find him, and however hard he listens, no one can get through to him. While the world around him is beautiful to our eyes, I didn't want him to see it." (A look at the highlights and challenges that came up during the video's mountainous, one-week shoot can be found in this making-of.)

Adams told me that Leo Plunkett's concept was "to make something that felt like a cross between a short film and a music video. I thought this was a cool idea and, since I have a background doing music for film, it allowed us to collaborate very closely throughout the process of producing the film."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.