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John Luther Adams

Become River (2010)
Work Notes
New York performances reserved through April 2020
Taiga Press (BMI)
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
16 Minutes
Programme Note
John Luther Adams Become River (2010)
Steven Schick and I were having dinner together.

I was just beginning work on a large-scale piece for the Seattle Symphony. So when Steve asked me if I might be interested in composing a new piece for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, I must have hesitated.

Deftly, Steve asked me to tell him a little about the Seattle piece.

I went on at length about the music I'd begun to imagine, finally concluding:

"It's called Become Ocean. The title comes from a poem that John Cage wrote in honor of Lou Harrison."

Cage observes that the breadth and variety of Harrison's music make it "resemble a river in delta." He concludes that:

LiStening to it
we becOme

"So you're already composing a symphonic ocean," Steve said.

"Maybe for a smaller orchestra you could go ahead and compose that river in delta."

Steve had me, and I knew it. Within a week I'd begun work on Become River.

From a single high descending line, this music gradually expands into a delta of melodic streams flowing toward the depths.

I now imagine this river and its related ocean, as part of a larger series of pieces encompassing desert, mountain, tundra and perhaps other landscapes and waterscapes.

John Luther Adams

Preview the score:

  • 02 APR 2020
    Become River New York Premiere
    Last Year
    Carnegie Hall New York NY
    American Composers Orchestra
    George Manahan, conductor

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