John Luther Adams: Become Ocean

In an effort to try to expand the boundaries of music covered on this site, here is a review of the newest release from contemporary composer, John Luther Adams.

John Luther Adams has a long history of composing for a variety of mediums including television & film, theater, orchestra, acoustic instruments, and electronic instruments. His music has always been profoundly influenced by nature, and this new work bears no exception. Become Ocean is a 42 minute piece for large orchestra and uniquely intoxicating. Right from the start the listener can easily imagine themselves floating in the middle of the ocean. Alone, but neither frightened nor anxious, the listener simply drifts in this sea of notes and harmonies as if they are trying to lose themselves.

I think John Luther Adams has a remarkable way of illustrating the profound reasons why he’s inspired to write into his works and connect those influences with the listener. Become Ocean¬†experiences these contrasts of being very serene and peaceful one minute and then apocalyptic and foreboding the next. Yet all the while, it always sounds absolutely lovely. For being 42 minutes long with no gaps or breaks like a traditional album, I still find myself completely captivated by this piece.

John Luther Adams was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this work. It was premiered in 2013 by Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony. The same conductor and orchestra performed the piece recently in the 2014 at the Spring for Music Festival in Carnegie Hall. This album has also been recorded in surround sound and will be released later this week through Cantaloupe Music.

Luke Helker


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