So lately I’ve found myself listening to John Luther Adams‘ Become Ocean, the composition that won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music. I first heard of the piece a few weeks ago on American Public Media‘s Performance Today, and have immersed myself in the piece pretty much at least once a day since.
For the most part, critics were apparently mixed on the piece when it first came out (the Seattle Times‘ Melinda Bargreen said that “after the first 20 minutes or so, the musical ideas had pretty much run their course”). In contrast, The New Yorker‘s Alex Ross, went nuts over it.
The composition is 42 minutes long. Much like a wave, the entire thing’s a palindrome.
The work stands on its own as an amazing piece of music, but it’s also worth pointing out that Adams, a resident of Alaska, is also an environmentalist who penned the essay “Global Warming And Art.” It’s not a subtle work:
“Global warming is a disturbing manifestation of the inescapable truth that anything we do anywhere affects everything everywhere. If we choose to ignore this in our day to day lives, we may pay a terrible price on a planetary scale. The same is true for art and culture. Just as global climate change threatens the health of the biosphere, commercial mono-culture threatens the integrity of the cultural sphere, from Greenland to Australia, from Papua New Guinea to Siberia.”
Image of Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Wave Off Kanazawa:” Wikimedia Commons