The timing of John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean Pulitzer Prize announcement in conjunction with the Seattle Symphony’s trip to Carnegie Hall during Spring for Music 2014 to perform that very piece was unbelievably perfect. Ever since, it’s been a ride of pride and celebration for John Luther Adams, Ludovic Morlot, and the Seattle Symphony.
Cantaloupe records releases a beautifully mastered recording on September 30, 2014 of Become Ocean, recorded at Benaroya Hall and mastered in NYC. It’s a musical commemorative token of the journey and relationship fostered between all involved.
Seattle Symphony gave the world premiere of this piece in June 2013 at Benaroya Hall with a supporting art installation at Seattle Art Museum featuring Adams’ Veils and Vesper. Adams was unable to attend the premiere due to a medical emergency, but when he heard one of the concert recordings he was “thrilled because it sounded exactly like I imagined it would. I’m a perfectionist and chronic reviser, always tinkering with pieces and always critical of performances, but the orchestra played it flawlessly. That just doesn’t happen with a world premiere of a piece. I think that just speaks to what a perfect musical partnership that was, what a great orchestra you have there in Seattle, and what an extraordinary Music Director.”
The admiration continued when he heard Become Ocean live for the first time in Carnegie Hall, nearly a year after its premiere. “People are looking to Seattle as a model for the new orchestra, for what the symphony orchestra might be in the 21st century and how it might not just survive but thrive and expand the arts world. I was balled over by the sense of commitment and joy coming from that orchestra. These are professional musicians, veteran orchestral musicians who love music and are in no way jaded.”
As for the recording? The ideal scenario for the listener in a performance of this piece is to be surrounded by the orchestra and furthermore have the opportunity to move around within the physical space, if desired. Listening to this recording in surround sound is the next best thing! Adams told me, “In making this recording we took special care to mix in stereo much of the time, so that the experience of hearing this music in stereo is as vivid as possible and gives you a sense of being immersed.”
The title “Become Ocean” comes from the end of a poem written by John Cage in memory of Lou Harrison (below). While this piece is not specifically a direct homage to either composer, John says, “It would be disingenuous of me to say they were not huge influences on my life and my life’s works. I have no idea as to where I would be without John Cage, Lou Harrison, as incredible role models and their incredible music. So in a way, everything that I do is some kind of tribute to Lou and John.”
first the quaLity
make it Resemble
a rIver in delta
liStening to it
As if there wasn’t already enough good will shared in this post – there’s more. This recording project was successfully funded with a Pledge Music campaign and 5% of those proceeds go directly to the Ocean Conservancy. How’d that come about? “I’m a hardcore environmentalist!” John says. He is an activist going back to the mid-1970s for the Alaska Coalition and the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. These types of issues are at the core of his life. It only seemed appropriate that they might give a little bit back to one of the many organizations trying to clean up and preserve the oceans.
Cheers to the Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot, & Cantaloupe Records!