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Photo by Melanie Burford/Prime for NPR
If you stop and think about the oceanic dimension of music, there’s this implication of immersion. We came from the ocean, and we’re going back to the ocean, right? We’re made up mostly of water, and life on earth first emerged from the seas. And with the melting of the polar ice caps and the rising sea levels, we may become ocean sooner than we imagine.
Eventually we begin to realize that we’re part of something much larger than ourselves. Become Ocean embraces this idea, but gets its title from something much more personal for me. Back in the late ’70s, John Cage wrote a mesostic poem called “Many Happy Returns,” in honor of his dear friend—also my mentor and friend—Lou Harrison. He compares Lou’s music to a river in delta, with all these different influences and currents, coming together in a big beautiful sweep of music. And in the last line of the poem, Cage writes, “Listening to it, we become ocean.” I’ve always been struck by what a beautiful image that is.
So now, a little history: some time ago, I was commissioned to compose a piece for the Seattle Chamber Players. Then a few years later, the Seattle Symphony and their music director Ludovic Morlot approached me, and asked if I would be interested in composing something for the Symphony. Part of Ludo’s vision for the orchestra is to bring it into the 21st century, and to put a special emphasis on new music, so of course I was thrilled at the possibilities.
One idea that I suggested was to build on the sound world of an earlier piece I’d composed called Dark Waves, which is a 12-minute piece for large orchestra and electronic sounds. To my surprise and delight, Ludo was very interested. I was calling it “Dark Waves on steroids,” and I knew early on that I wanted to take that oceanic sound and expand it into a much larger timeframe. So the result was Become Ocean.
Ludo is all about the sound, and so am I. From our first meeting, I knew that the music would be in the best possible hands. He shared it with the orchestra, and they owned it. What more can a composer hope for? When they performed the piece at Carnegie Hall in May, it was my first time hearing it, and I felt immediately that this was one of the happiest musical collaborations of my life.
I’ve always been deeply committed to making recordings. Listening to them was perhaps the single most important part of my coming of age as a musician. It’s what made me want to be a composer. It’s why I’m doing what I do with my life, because I listened to recordings that changed my life.
A piece like Become Ocean lends itself very well to putting the listener right in the middle of this ocean of sound, with these three sections of the orchestra ebbing and flowing, rising and falling, crashing over and swirling around each other. My hope is that we’ll take what I know is a glittering studio performance of this piece, and turn it into an equally sparkling recording that has a sense of great expansiveness. It will rumble the floor and tickle your backside, and at the same time, you’ll feel the depth of the waves and the spray of the sea. I can’t wait for you to hear it.
You’ll get an MP3 or FLAC download of the final, mastered mix of the complete 45-minute performance of John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean, performed by the Seattle Symphony and conducted by Ludovic Morlot.
Advance private stream of the final mix, with comments by John Luther Adams and mix engineer Nathaniel Reichman. You’ll also have access to inside secrets about the mixing and mastering of the finished recording.
The full, finished package of Become Ocean on two-disc CD/DVD, delivered straight to you as soon as it comes off the presses.
The disc is compatible with NTSC players for North America.
Three full-length releases from JLA’s catalog with Cantaloupe Music—including The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies, Inuksuit and Become Ocean—as well as other rarities (MP3 and FLAC).
John Luther Adams will record a personalized outgoing message for your voicemail or answering machine. He’s one of the most articulate and witty composers in modern classical music, so don’t miss out!
Autographed by John Luther Adams and sent to you before the official release date. (Pictured: signed copy of Inuksuit, released in 2013 on Cantaloupe Music.)
Get all three of JLA’s Cantaloupe Music releases on CD, including the two-disc set Inuksuit and final package of Become Ocean.
Cantaloupe Music’s digital subscription service with Drip.fm features each of our official releases for the calendar year, as well as fan-only rarities that include live performances, outtakes and remixes.
You’ll receive an advance copy of every title that Cantaloupe Music releases on CD in a calendar year (average eight titles), at least one week before the official release date.
Our friends at Carnegie Hall have graciously donated two pairs of tickets to breakout performances on their fall calendar. Along with a Become Ocean CD and a bonus disc from the Cantaloupe catalog, you’ll get two seats to one of the following (first pledged, first served!): Collin Currie Plays Steve Reich (10/29) and the American Composers Orchestra (11/21).
Signed and numbered by John Luther Adams, these are full-color reproductions of the Become Ocean cover image, printed on textured, offset paper and suitable for framing.
Meet up with John Luther Adams for coffee and a walk through Morningside Park in his newly adopted Harlem neighborhood. If you’re in NYC, this is the way to see it!
JLA is known for his impeccable taste in modern headgear; now you can join him in looking the part, and get an autographed message inside the headband too! Please specify size and style—Stetson Ecuadorian straw (summer) or Borsalino wool felt (winter).
Seattle Symphony tour photographer Brandon Patoc has amassed an incredibly detailed portfolio of the New York tour and Carnegie Hall premiere of Become Ocean, taking hundreds of candid shots that can’t be seen anywhere else. Assembled and bound into an ultra-limited keepsake hardcover book, this is your ultimate visual diary of the experience.
Drawn in JLA’s own inimitable hand using Blackfeet Indian #2 pencil, a passage from the original score of Become Ocean on offset artist’s paper—soon to be a collector’s item! (Pictured: a section of the score from Timber, by composer and Cantaloupe Music co-founder Michael Gordon.)