Imagine melting polar ice-caps, and gigantic glaciers giving way to the ocean. Melting. Water lapping. Joining waves. More glaciers receding, joining waves in unison: Become the ocean.
This is my "environmental" music review of Become Ocean. In three simple words, I loved it. I enjoy soft meditative sounds, especially in nature. And this took the symphony form to a new level. I was immersed in the meditative rhythmic classical masterpiece at its Los Angeles Disney Hall premiere.
Commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, environmentalist and composer, John Luther Adams won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the 2015 Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for Become Ocean. Apparently, Mr. Adams was inspired by melting ice caps and sea level rise to capture feelings around our expanding ocean. I couldn't help but think that Mr. Adams is a great example of what can happen when one marries two passions into one meaningful endeavor!
This was a meditative musical orchestration that gave the feeling of immersion in the ocean. I went with it. At times, I imagined a large wave washing over me, (safely in my seat, mind you). And then I visualized stars twinkling above a gentle tide rippling to shore.
The composition used a large string section, including harps; 2 vibraphones, bells, bass drums, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, piano, percussion and more. Sections of musicians were creatively off-set from each other to emphasize one sound approaching another. Like waves. Instruments were added. Dropped. Now together.
Like whitecap waves joining whitecap waves. Moving forward. Becoming one. In time. A gentle precise beat. Kissing the shore. Now picking up steam, perhaps the composer envisioned methane gases released from global warming, and waves getting bigger, sounds louder, reaching a climax, now a methodical ebb and flow.
The rhythm of ocean waves was emphasized with string instruments and highlighted with methodic ringing of vibraphones. I found the meditative sounds enchanting. A comfort in an uneasy world. So I bought the Become Ocean CD in the Disney Hall gift shop to relive the feeling at home. What a pleasant musical surprise. Thank you, Mr. John Luther Adams.
"Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. Today, as the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans face the prospect that we may once again, quite literally, become ocean." John Luther Adams
Become Ocean was paired with Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major and a talented young violinist from Armenia named Sergey Khachatryan. After a standing ovation, he returned with an encore solo I believe from his native land. Sublime. Audience loved him.
Waiting for the Big Blue Rapid 10 bus to effortless transport me and other concert-goers back to the west side, there was animated talk about the concert. What do you think? To hear Become Ocean, click here.
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Until next time, breathe easy and make life an adventure.