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John Luther Adams

Become River (2010)
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:

  • 27 JAN 2018
    Friedberg Concert Hall, Baltimore, MD
    Peabody Modern Orchestra
    Harlan Parker, conductor
  • 30 APR 2017
    Mabry Concert Hall, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN
    The Gateway Chamber Orchestra
    Gregory Wolynec, conductor

    Other Dates:
    1 May - Franklin Theatre, Franklin, TN
  • 11 MAR 2017
    Victoria Conservatory, Victoria, USA
    Victoria Symphony
    Tania Miller, conductor

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