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Ludwig Van
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | You Will Either Love Or Hate John Luther Adams’ ‘The Become Trilogy’

By Norman Lebrecht on December 4, 2020

John Luther Adams (Photo: Donald Lee)
John Luther Adams (Photo: Donald Lee)

John Luther Adams: The become trilogy (cantaloupe)

★★☆☆☆

🎧 Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon

Composers grow middle names to protect themselves against rivals of similar plumage. There were so many Bachs around in JS’s time that he was mostly known as Sebastian to ward off all the useless Johanns.

Here, too, the opera composer John Adams stamped ten-league boots on the domain and our Luther had to use his middle name to carve out a claim.

Pretty big terrain he has staked, too. Adams went to Alaska after college in the late 1970s to work in environmental protection. His music derives, he says, from ‘sustained listening to the subtle resonances of the northern soundscape.’

Taken up by the Seattle Symphony and conductor Ludovic Morlot, Become Ocean won him a Pulitzer Prize in 2014 and a Grammy the following year. The present box also contains Become Desert and Become River.

the_become_trilogy

A very large orchestra plays something like the opening of Das Rheingold, only much louder and slower. If you’re expecting much to happen in the next 40 minutes, don’t. That’s not the point of this music. The composer wants us to listen to the ebbs and flows of day and night, four seasons, rain and snow, the pattering of wildlife, the rustling of leaves. You will either feel very, very relaxed by the middle of the piece or, like me, you will throw things at the wall and say some very bad words.

There is not much to distinguish between these three pieces on first listening and I don’t think I could survive a second. One of them has a choral backdrop. Adams has done his damnedest to describe the wide open spaces and I’m prepared to leave it at that. I’m a metropolitan person. If ever you see me in wide open space, you can call me Sebastian.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Bavarian Radio Chorus Will Need To Brush Up When Sir Simon Rattle Arrives

By Norman Lebrecht on January 15, 2021

The Bavarian Radio Chorus offers an unexpected, untaxing and altogether enjoyable collection of Elgar choral works.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | One Of The Year’s Most Atmospheric Releases

By Norman Lebrecht on December 18, 2020

Smart and Uttley find common ground in composers from both sides of the Atlantic for one of the year’s most atmospheric releases.
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YEAR IN REVIEW | 11 Innovative Canadian Arts Groups Who Made The Pivot

By Michael Vincent on December 24, 2020

Here is our list of Canada’s most innovative arts leaders and groups who made the pandemic pivot against the odds (in no particular order).
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