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John Luther Adams Wins Pulitzer For 'Become Ocean'

Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony.
Flickr Photo/D Coetzee (Public Domain)/

Composer John Luther Adams was as surprised as anybody when the Pulitzer Prize committee called him Monday, April 14, to let him know he'd won the prize for his composition "Become Ocean."

"I was taking a power nap," said Adams, who is a temporary composer in residence at a small Michigan college.

Adams' work, "Become Ocean," was commissioned and premiered by the Seattle Symphony in June 2013. Composed for a large orchestra of almost 100 musicians, the music was inspired by the Pacific Northwest's geography. In a 2013 Seattle Times article, Adams said concerns about climate change and rising sea levels also informed his composition.

The Pulitzer Prize doesn't come with a large monetary award, but Adams said the recognition it bestows is reward enough. The Alaska resident earns his living through residencies and commissions, and the Pulitzer greatly raises his profile.

The Seattle Symphony, under Music Director Ludovic Morlot, will perform the award-winning piece on May 6 at Carnegie Hall in New York. Adams said he'll be in the audience with "all the requisite bells on."

The performance will be extra special for Adams as it'll be the first time he'll get to hear his work in a concert hall setting. Adams said he missed the Seattle premiere since he had to undergo emergency surgery.