Artists have the power to change the world through their mediums of expression. This thought is supported by Leonard Bernstein when he said, “It is the artists of this world, the feelers and thinkers, who will ultimately save us, who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing, and shout the big dreams. Only the artists can turn the “not-yet” into reality.” They have this ability because they work through mediums, such as music, visual art, dance, literature, etc. that evoke emotional responses in others that can possibly produce change. And it’s because of this that they often address issues of their days to bring about awareness to problems.
Composer John Luther Adam addresses climate change in his Pulitzer prize (2014) and Grammy (2015) award winning orchestral piece “Becoming Ocean.” “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.” This is the note he left in the front of the score giving the players and his audience the meaning behind this huge 42 minutes work.
After graduating with a degree in music composition, Adams began work in environmental protection which brought him to Alaska. He has experienced climate change first hand and his music is inspired by it and his love for nature. Alex Ross of the New Yorker wrote, “’Become Ocean’ is his most ambitious effort in this vein: its three huge crescendos, evenly spaced over the three-quarter-hour span, suggest a tidal surge washing over all barriers. It may be the loveliest apocalypse in musical history.” The composer addresses the issue head on. It proposes what could possibly happen if the polar icecaps continue to melt and sea level rises, and advocates for its protection.
Through the brilliance of Adams, you can feel vastness of the ocean, its power and wonder. “Become Ocean ushers you in and swallows you up. It’s gorgeous, darkly beautiful and ultimately unsettling” (Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR).
And guess what?! We have both the score of this award winning piece and a recording available to stream for AU students via Naxos! Check it out!