Paul McCartney’s Ocean’s Kingdom for New York City Ballet
New York City Ballet and Sir Paul McCartney – Ocean’s Kingdom
Ocean’s Kingdom – the music
I can tell you right away that Paul McCartney’s classical music for ballet is astounding. It has everything – from the soft, barely audible tinkling at the start to the sweeping, Jazzy and almost saucy movements. The whole thing is positively cinematic in scale; sweeping, playful and spritely.
In fact, McCartney asked the orchestra, as only he could, to “groove a little bit. You know, it’s more like Jazz.” Tomorrow night, if you are at the Premiere, you’ll hear this grooving under the baton of New York City Ballet’s conductor, Fayçal Karoui.
The movements are very distinct, and as I listened I could visualise the movement and the story in some detail (even though I don’t know either for sure), so revealing is the music. For a first-time ballet collaboration, Sir Paul has accomplished a masterpiece. I loved the breezy, playful soft sections accompanied by a slight smell of the sea, followed by something more flavoursome but not at all bombastic – in the way that you sometimes find with ballet scores, with blasting trumpets heralding the arrival of important characters and defining moments as though you’d otherwise miss them.
Ocean’s Kingdom is subtler than that; it gets under your skin and makes your feet itch to dance. Even if you can’t physically see the ballet : especially if you can’t physically see the ballet, buy the CD and you’ll see it anyway.
Paul McCartney uploaded a preview to YouTube; here is is :
Paul McCartney announces ‘Ocean’s Kingdom’
His first orchestral score for dance to be released on Decca October 3rd 2011
Marking his first foray into the word of dance, Paul McCartney has announced the general release of Ocean’s Kingdom, commissioned by the New York City Ballet. The recording will be released by Decca Records on October 3rd and is conducted by John Wilson, produced by John Fraser and performed by The London Classical Orchestra.
Ocean’s Kingdom is the first time Paul has written an original orchestral score or any kind of music for dance and is the result of a collaboration between Paul and New York City Ballet’s Master in Chief Peter Martins, who have worked together to present the world premiere of a new ballet for the company’s 2011/2012 season this September.
Though the work is Paul’s first ballet, he approached the project in the same way he writes all other music, driven by his heart rather than his head and inspired by feeling rather than specific technical knowledge. While this may have been another new turn for his staggeringly varied career to take, Paul knew it had to be influenced by his own personal experience and that he needed to create a story the audience would find equally compelling and moving.
Paul’s first step was to visit the Royal Opera House to see Adolphe Adam’s Giselle, danced by The Royal Ballet. Afterwards, Paul met the dancers and discussed the work with them, realising as he did so that he was still without a central theme to his work. Keen to tell a story through his music, Paul decided to focus on the purity of the ocean and within just two months, the first draft had been completed. He then went through the music again thinking specifically of the ballet itself, thereby creating a world featuring distinctive characters and a vibrant underworld kingdom. Finally Paul spent many more weeks working alongside Peter Martins to refine the work, before Peter created the choreography with the NYCB dancers.
An hour-long score featuring four stunning movements – Ocean’s Kingdom, Hall of Dance, Imprisonment and Moonrise – the ballet tells of a love story within the story of an underwater world whose people are threatened by the humans of Earth. A potently expressive and richly varied work, the score is Paul’s most challenging and emotionally complex yet. As he explains: “What was interesting was writing music that meant something expressively rather than just writing a song. Trying to write something that expressed an emotion – so you have fear, love, anger, sadness to play with and I found that exciting and challenging.”
The premiere of the ballet Ocean’s Kingdom will take place at NYCB’s Fall Gala on Thursday 22nd September 2011 while the release of the orchestral score will follow a month later, available digitally, on CD and on vinyl. It was recorded in June in London.
The artwork that accompanies the release is equally striking and inventive. Though it seems to suggest a city skyline, it is actually a digital readout of the notes from the ballet score.
Although this is his first orchestral score for dance, Paul is already quite at home in the world of classical music. His back catalogue already carries four classical albums, the most recent of which was the Classical BRIT Award winning Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart); a work for chorus and orchestra in four movements that was released in 2006.
New York City Ballet’s Fall Gala performance is on Thursday 22nd September at 7.30pm and will open with a special “See the Music…” presentation featuring NYCB Music Director Fayçal Karoui and the New York City Ballet Orchestra, exploring Paul McCartney’s score for Ocean’s Kingdom, followed by the world premiere of this new ballet choreographed by NYCB’s Ballet Master In Chief Peter Martins. This production will feature costumes designed by the acclaimed fashion designer Stella McCartney, who will be designing costumes for the theater for the first time ever. Ocean’s Kingdom will also feature projections designed by S. Katy Tucker, and lighting designed by Mark Stanley.
Following the World Premiere performance, Ocean’s Kingdom will be performed four additional times during the fall season on September 24, 25, 27, and 29 (as well as five additional performances during the 2012 winter season on January 19, 21, 24, 27, and 29). All performances will take place at the David H. Koch Theater, which is located on the Lincoln Center Plaza at Columbus Avenue and 63rd Street. For general information on tickets for any New York City Ballet performances, call 212-870-5570, or visit New York City Ballet’s website.
Major funding for Ocean’s Kingdom is provided by the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation and the Carl Jacobs Foundation, with additional support from The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.