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Become Ocean
May 7, 2014 7:53 PM   Subscribe

John Luther Adams won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his symphonic composition Become Ocean. Premiered in 2013 by the Seattle Symphony, who commissioned the piece, it was debuted in New York City last night in Carnegie Hall by the Seattle Symphony as part of a program which took audience from the ocean (Adams' Become Ocean) to the desert (Varèse's Déserts) and back again (Debussy's La mer). The entire concert is available to stream online via WQXR.

Alex Ross examines Become Ocean in some detail.

Seattle Symphony notes from the first performance program.

A CD of Become Ocean will apparently be available later this year.
posted by hippybear (16 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

In the stream, the actual music starts at 9:45 or so.
posted by tss at 8:30 PM on May 7

The Whole Pulitzer Thing can die in a fire but it is high time JLA gets more recognition. One of my favorite living composers. Become Ocean is incredible. Awesome post!
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:32 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]

What's up with there being two awesome modern composers named (essentially) "John Adams."

This cannot be a coincidence and I demand an explanation.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:40 PM on May 7

I think they just got tired of being presidents.
posted by tss at 10:26 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]

I heard just the end of this the other night on the radio, in the car, and wanted more, but couldn't find it, thanks.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:26 PM on May 7

What's up with there being two awesome modern composers named (essentially) "John Adams."

I'm sure it has caused JLA a lot of awkward conversations/emails/etc. "Oh hey, you're that guy who wrote Short Ride in a Fast Machine right?" Or "I LOVED Nixon in China." It's kind of funny (not to compare them because really it's not a worthwhile thing but) because they're both minimalists to a large degree, but oh so on opposite ends of the sort of minimalism spectrum. I like them both quite a lot.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:28 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]

Also: Alex Ross is a fucking national treasure.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:30 PM on May 7 [6 favorites]

Oddly, Become Ocean has brought me back to another contemporary classical piece, Rainbow Body, by Christopher Theofanidis. I think they'd work well on the same program somehow.

There is great stuff happening in modern classical music, but the focus ends up being so heavy on the accepted canon, it is hard for the new works to break through unless they are by a really big composer, and even then....
posted by hippybear at 10:39 PM on May 7

The New York performance was the first time JLA saw the piece preformed live. According to KUOW he missed the Seattle premier due to an emergency surgery.
posted by GarrettEh at 11:39 PM on May 7

What's up with there being two awesome modern composers named (essentially) "John Adams."

Even better, one is just called John Adams, and the other one uses his middle name, just like the Presidents.
posted by themanwho at 12:04 AM on May 8

That was beautiful.
posted by flippant at 4:07 AM on May 8

Even better, one is just called John Adams, and the other one uses his middle name, just like the Presidents.

Even better, the middle name of the other John Adams is Coolidge, just like a President. Another fun fact is that John Coolidge Adams and John Luther Adams won Pulitzer Prizes for their compositions only 11 years apart.
posted by jonp72 at 5:51 AM on May 8

I don't even live in NYC but WQXR is my favorite radio station. Especially Q2.

Also worth noting that the concert was part of the Spring For Music program, which does a pretty cool job of bringing regional orchestras to NYC to play pretty inventive concerts.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:26 AM on May 8

This is really great. Thanks for posting, I hadn't heard about the prize.
posted by aught at 6:30 AM on May 8

The second piece that follows Become Ocean, sounds like a score to Planet of the Apes, with a fusion of the Johnny Quest theme. I thought it was really cool retro, hip, but then learned it was from the 1950s. The last piece by Debussy is well known but it sounded particularly good here.
posted by stbalbach at 7:59 AM on May 8

Yeah, it's beautiful. And long. It's like all the peaceful parts of "La Mer" extracted and expanded to fill 45 minutes. It's good but I just don't get the adulation of JLA as some outsider or musical innovator. But that's pretty usual for the Pulitzer-winning piece -- it's an indicator of the best piece in the style that's contemporary-but-acceptable.
posted by daisystomper at 9:15 AM on May 8

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