Become Ocean

JOHN LUTHER ADAMS Become Ocean (World Premiere) BORN: January 23, 1953, in Meridian, Mississippi;  NOW RESIDES: Fairbanks, Alaska WORK COMPOSED: 2012–13  

Become Ocean is the latest realization of a remarkable new development in the work of John Luther  Adams. “My music is going inexorably from being about place to becoming place.” The work’s title was suggested by a poem by the American composer John Cage, written to his colleague Lou Harrison. Speaking of Harrison’s music, Cage concludes that its breadth and variety “make it resemble a river in delta. Listening to it, we become ocean.”

Become Ocean was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and conductor Ludovic Morlot and premiered in Seattle in June 2013. As the program notes point out, the music “takes the form of waves of sound, both large and small.” The orchestra is divided into three smaller ensembles that perform at independent tempos to create separate crests and troughs that occasionally come together into crashing climaxes. The result is an immersive sonic environment that, like so much of Adams’s music, powerfully reflects the unrelenting, awe-inspiring and savage power of Nature. As the composer writes: “My hope is that the music creates a strange, beautiful, overwhelming – sometimes even frightening – landscape, and invites you to get lost in it.”