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Source: Seattle Symphony Orchestra

SEATTLE, WA – On the heels of Become Ocean, one of the most successful new works in recent American musical history, the Seattle Symphony has commissioned a second major orchestral work from John Luther Adams, Become Desert. On March 29 and 31, Music Director Ludovic Morlot will lead the orchestra in the world premiere of Become Desert at Benaroya Hall in Seattle as part of the Delta Air Lines Masterworks Season. The following week, the orchestra will embark on a four-concert tour, starting with performances in Palm Desert, California on April 4 and Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 5 with a program of Sibelius’ Second Symphony and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 with guest pianist Jeremy Denk, who is also a Seattle Symphony Featured Artist for the 2017–2018 season. The second part of the tour is a residency at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on the music of John Luther Adams and featuring both Become Desert (California premiere) and Become Ocean. Become Desert will be performed on a program with Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 on April 7, and Become Ocean will be performed on a program including The Oceanides and Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes on April 8. The residency will include additional activities on the UC Berkeley campus.

Hailed by The New Yorker as “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century,” Adams has won accolades for music that is visceral, breathtaking and highly innovative. The orchestra’s first commission by John Luther Adams, Become Ocean, earned the composer the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2014, and the Seattle Symphony’s recording on the Cantaloupe label received a 2015 Grammy® Award for Best Contemporary Composition.
“Most of us these days live lives in which we’re trying to hear less, retreating into our own private aural caves,” says John Luther Adams. “In the desert we are challenged to open our ears again, to come out of our caves and listen to the never-ending music all around us.”
When comparing Become Ocean and Become Desert, Adams notes the location of the listener contributes to the atmosphere of the music. “In Become Ocean, we’re out on the water, riding the tides and the musical waves as they rise and fall. In Become Desert we are immersed, not in water but in stillness, space and light.” The 40-minute work, scored for orchestra and chorus, was inspired by Adams’ relocation from his home of nearly forty years in Alaska to his new residence in the Chilean desert, and reflects his concerns about the accelerating process of desertification in many of the world’s dry climates.
Featured Artist Jeremy Denk will join the orchestra as the piano soloist for the tour in addition to performances at Benaroya Hall as part of the Masterworks Season, Distinguished Artists series and Chamber series. Performances include Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto on the Masterworks series alongside Become Desert on March 29 and 31 and Sibelius’ Second Symphony on March 30, and Kancheli’s Piano Quartet and Schnittke’s Violin Sonata No. 1 as part of the Chamber series on March 30. In addition to his Seattle Symphony tour performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in Palm Desert and Las Vegas, Denk will also host a master class for students of University of Nevada, Las Vegas on April 6 at 11 a.m.


“Music that takes you out of yourself.” – The Los Angeles Times John Luther Adams’ atmospheric and revolutionary piece Become Ocean was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and received its world premiere in Seattle on June 20, 2013. The Seattle Symphony recording on Cantaloupe Records won "Best Contemporary Classical Composition" at the 2015 Grammy Awards, becoming the Seattle Symphony’s first Grammy Award. The recording was made in the Symphony’s acoustically superb Benaroya Hall using the state-of-the art in-house recording facility, supervised by audio engineer Dmitriy Lipay. John Luther Adams received a 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music for this composition and Music Director Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony gave its east coast premiere at Carnegie Hall in Spring 2014 as part of Spring for Music. Become Ocean is a 45-minute-long work for full orchestra. Adams borrowed the title from a verse by composer John Cage, written in honor of fellow composer Lou Harrison’s birthday. Describing Harrison’s music, Cage wrote: “Listening to it / we become / ocean.” A visionary whose life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world, Adams inscribed the following statement on the score of Become Ocean: “Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. As the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that once again we may quite literally become ocean.”

Become Ocean was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony with the generous support of the Lynn and Brian Grant Family.

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