"Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. And 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."
— John Luther Adams
"Become Ocean" by John Luther Adams, a member of the first graduating class from California Institute of the Arts in Valencia (Music BFA 1973),
won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music (announced April 14, 2014). It also won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, presented
at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Feb. 8, 2015.
The Pulitzer Prize Board, as reported by Columbia University, called the work "a haunting orchestral work that suggests a relentless tidal surge, evoking thoughts of melting polar ice and rising sea levels."
The prize was awarded for a "distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year."
Commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, "Become Ocean" premiered June 20, 2013. Premiere performances were also conducted in Portland, Ore., and at the Spring for Music Festival at Carnegie Hall.
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Ludovic Morlot
Orchestra: Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Composer: John Luther Adams (Taiga Press/Theodore Front Musical Literature of Santa Clarita, Calif.)
Release date: Sept. 30, 2014
©2014 Cantaloupe Music
Called "one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century" (Alex Ross, The New Yorker), John Luther Adams is a composer whose life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world.
Adams composes for orchestra, chamber ensembles, percussion and electronic media, and his music is recorded on Cold Blue, New World, Mode, Cantaloupe, and New Albion.
A recipient of the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness, Adams has also been honored with the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University "for melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries."
JLA's music is heard regularly all over the world. The Chicago Symphony, the Radio Netherlands Philharmonic, and the Melbourne Symphony have performed his Dark Waves for large orchestra and electronic sounds. Inuksuit for up to ninety-nine percussionists has been performed in New York City's Morningside Park and at the Park Avenue Armory, as well as many other outdoor venues throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
Adams is the author of Winter Music (2004), a collection of essays, journal entries and reflections on his life and work in Alaska. The subject of his second book is The Place Where You Go to Listen (2009) his installation at the Museum of the North that translates geophysical data streams into an ever-changing environment of sound and light. The Farthest Place (2012), a book-length critical study of JLA's music, includes essays by Kyle Gann, Steven Schick, Glenn Kotche and many other prominent musicians and scholars.
Adams has taught at Harvard University, the Oberlin Conservatory, Bennington College, and the University of Alaska. He has been composer in residence with the Anchorage Symphony, Anchorage Opera, Fairbanks Symphony, Arctic Chamber Orchestra, and the Alaska Public Radio Network, and he has served as president of the American Music Center.
Born in 1953, Adams grew up in the South and in the suburbs of New York City. He studied composition with James Tenney and Leonard Stein at the California Institute of the Arts, where he was in the first graduating class (in 1973). In the mid-1970s he became active in the campaign for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and subsequently served as executive director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.