John Luther Adams
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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 Saint 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 observed that the breadth and variety of Harrison’s music make it “resemble a river in delta.” He concluded that:
LiStening to it we becOme oceaN.
“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.