J. L. Adams, Become Ocean, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, L. Morlot
(released on September 30, 2014)
Canteloupe CA-21101 | 43'14"
To create a sense of tidal force, three different groups in the orchestra rise and fall in pre-determined patterns throughout the course of the piece. Here, tinkling harps or searing strings or surging brass ride the peaks of waves and then recede. Curiously, the second half of the piece strikes me as more engaging than the first, somehow seeming to make more sense to my ear. After wondering about that, it occurred to me that it may have something to do with the palindromic nature of the piece: Ross notes that the work's 630 bars consist of two halves that mirror one another, with bar 316 being the midpoint. Something similar happens in the third movement of Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta: at the midpoint, you hear a five-note motif, followed by its exact retrograde, and the piece you have just heard unfurls in reverse. With Become Ocean, it seems like one hears the retrograde form first, and then the non-retrograde form, as if the second half was composed first and the first half then derived from it, but this is only an impression.