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Paul McCartney’s ballet score Ocean’s Kingdom to be released

Sir Paul McCartney has announced the release of Ocean’s Kingdom, his orchestral score commissioned by the New York City Ballet.

Ocean's Kingdom album artwork – Paul McCartneyReleased in October 2011, the album will contain the music for the ballet, as performed by the London Classical Orchestra conducted by John Wilson.

It will be issued by Decca in the UK on 3 October, and by Hear Music/Telarc on the following day in the US. Decca famously turned down The Beatles in January 1962 following an unsuccessful audition, instead signing Brian Poole and The Tremeloes. However, the label released McCartney’s soundtrack for the 1966 film The Family Way.

The project is the first time Sir Paul has written an original orchestral score for dance. The score contains four movements:

  • Ocean’s Kingdom (14:07)
  • Hall of Dance(16:19)
  • Imprisonment (13:36)
  • Moonrise (12:29)

Ocean’s Kingdom will have its premiere on 22 September 2011 at the Lincoln Center in New York City. The ballet also features costumes designed by Stella McCartney.

The ballet is a collaboration between Sir Paul and NYCB’s Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins. The pair met in 2010 at the School of American Ballet’s Winter Gala, and shortly afterwards began discussing working together.

Like the rest of my generation, I grew up being a huge fan of the Beatles so I was thrilled to meet him. After I got to know him a bit, and knowing of his great love of composing classical music, I asked if he might be interested in doing something for New York City Ballet, and I am ecstatic that he has agreed to write a score for us.
Peter Martins
I am always interested in new directions that I haven’t worked in before. So I became very excited about the idea… 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.
Paul McCartney

Following the world premiere, Ocean’s Kingdom will be performed four additional times this year, on 24, 25, 27 and 29 September, followed by further performances on 19, 21, 24, 27 and 29 January 2012. All performances will take place at the David H Koch Theater, on the Lincoln Center Plaza at Columbus Avenue and 63rd Street.

Here’s the full press release about the album:

Paul announces ‘Ocean’s Kingdom’, his first orchestral score for dance to be released on 3rd/4th October 2011.

Marking his first foray into the word of dance, Paul 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 (UK) and Hear Music/Telarc on October 4th (US) 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.

Last updated: 8 June 2020
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