John Luther Adams wins Pulitzer Prize for music

James McCarthy Tue 15th April 2014

The composer's 'Become Ocean' was awarded the prize over works by the 'other' John Adams and Christopher Cerrone

John Luther Adams wins Pulitzer Prize for music (photo Donald Lee)

John Luther Adams wins Pulitzer Prize for music (photo Donald Lee)

John Luther Adams's Become Ocean has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music. The prize, which amounts to $10,000, is awarded annually to American composers for works premiered during the previous year. The other two nominated pieces for the 2014 prize were John Adams's (no relation) The Gospel According to the Other Mary and Invisible Cities by Christopher Cerrone.

Become Ocean was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony and is an evocation of the seas close to the Pacific Northwest of the US. Adams explains the title thus: 'Life on this earth first emerged from the sea, and as the polar ice melts and the sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that, once again, we may quite literally become ocean.'

John Luther Adams has also been a recipient of the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, which he received in 2010 and for which he was awarded $100,000. Previous winners of the Pulitzer Prize for music include Steve Reich (for Double Sextet, 2009), David Lang (for The Little Match Girl Passion, 2008) and Aaron Copland (for Appalachian Spring, 1945). But the prize hasn't been without its critics. When he was awarded the prize in 2003 for On the Transmigration of Souls John Adams said that the prize had 'lost much of the prestige it still carries in other fields,' and that 'most of the country's greatest musical minds' are frequently overlooked 'often in favour of academy composers.' An accusation that can't be levelled at the Pulitzer judges this year, at least.

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