Review: Seattle Symphony premiere of John Luther Adams’s “Become Ocean”

Posted on: July 3, 2013

In the July 8 & 15 issue of The New Yorker, Alex Ross reviews the Seattle Symphony’s June 20 world premiere under Music Director Ludovic Morlot of John Luther Adams’s “Become Ocean,” a 42-minute work for large orchestra. “Like the sea at dawn, it presents a gorgeous surface, yet its heaving motion conveys overwhelming force. Whether orchestras will be playing it a century hence is impossible to say, but I went away reeling … A onetime conservation activist who moved to Alaska in the nineteen-seventies, Adams has witnessed the effects of climate change at close range, and his music often reflects what he has seen … ‘Become Ocean’ is his most ambitious effort in this vein: its three huge crescendos, evenly spaced over the three-quarter-hour span, suggest a tidal surge washing over all barriers. It may be the loveliest apocalypse in musical history.” Under Morlot’s leadership, Ross writes, the Seattle Symphony is “a revitalized orchestra, avid for new music and offbeat programming … The orchestra will perform ‘Become Ocean’ again next May, during the Spring for Music festival at Carnegie Hall, on a program that also includes ‘La Mer’ and Varèse’s ‘Déserts.’ Here is an orchestra that has earned its marketing slogan: ‘Listen boldly.’ ”

Posted July 3, 2013