The Paul McCartney Project

Ocean's Kingdom

Timeline See what happened in October 2011
UK release date:
Oct 03, 2011
US release date:
Oct 04, 2011
Decca (UK)

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Track list

Disc 1


Movement 1 - Ocean's Kingdom

Written by Paul McCartney

14:07 • Studio version


Movement 2 - Hall of Dance

Written by Paul McCartney

16:19 • Studio version


Movement 3 - Imprisonment

Written by Paul McCartney

13:37 • Studio version


Movement 4 - Moonrise

Written by Paul McCartney

12:31 • Studio version

Disc 2



The second disc was available as an audio download, “an exclusive live recording of the World Premiere Gala Performance in New York by the New York City Ballet Orchestra“.

Official video – Ocean’s Kingdom – Preview

Official video – Ocean’s Kingdom

Ocean’s Kingdom – Rehearsals and Opening Night

Ocean’s Kingdom – Follow The Oboe Along With Paul’s Notes (In Red)

Review from The New-York Times:

Paul McCartney’s first ballet score, “Ocean’s Kingdom,” is in no way an important addition to the corpus of ballet music, but it deserves a better staging than the one it’s been given by New York City Ballet. Never less than agreeable, it has plenty of color and melody. Curiously, it sounds as if it had been composed in the neo-Romantic era before the Beatles: some of its most expansive tunes have hints of Borodin and Samuel Barber; some of its atmospheres evoke Ravel; and its jolliest passages are on the cusp of Bernstein’s “Candide.”

The highlight of Thursday’s gala was the introductory “See the Music …” session, in which the company’s music director, Fayçal Karoui, spoke about the score, playing excerpts to illustrate several different aspects of Mr. McCartney’s composition: the nature of its melodies; the way it transforms a bass figure through orchestral variation into a theme; its creation of intimacy and humor; its rhythmic urgency and heightened suspense; and, finally, its nobility and optimism. These occasional “See the Music …” features are a recent development at City Ballet, and a number of the audience members resist them. Yet Thursday’s led us into Mr. McCartney’s music as Peter Martins’s choreography never did. […]

From The Guardian:

Back in February when Paul McCartney announced he had written his first ballet score, the news attracted more cynicism than excitement. […]
The critics’ response to the ballet, Ocean’s Kingdom, when it premiered last week, widely justified the cynicism.

It was panned in New York as an “over-hyped … expensive fiasco”. Yet the most swingeing attacks were directed at the ballet’s choreography (created by NYCB artistic director, Peter Martins), with mixed reviews going to Stella McCartney’s costumes. […]

And the music itself received some tentative praise, even among New York’s harshest reviewers. Although it was obviously the work of a ballet novice, and obviously derivative of composers such as Ravel, Barber, Tchaikovsky, and Bernstein, McCartney had chosen his influences well.

And more than one critic thought the music deserved a second chance onstage, with better choreography.[…]

But the variety and the interest of the music quickly start to pall. There is a dull overload through the last of the four sections, and you strain to hear something bold or unexpected in the development of the musical ideas.

And what makes Ocean’s Kingdom fall so many millions of miles short of McCartney’s best work is the lack of memorable or arresting melody.

The lyric genius that produced Eleanor Rigby, Fool on the Hill and Hey Jude is nowhere in evidence. And without it, only the most fervent Paul McCartney fan would want to add this ballet score to their collection.

From Wikipedia:

Ocean’s Kingdom is the fifth classical album by Paul McCartney. It is the score from the same-titled ballet, commissioned by the New York City Ballet. It was performed by the London Classical Orchestra and conducted by John Wilson.The ballet tells of a love story based in two fantastic worlds – the “pure” ocean kingdom, and the Earth kingdom with its “sort of baddies” who threaten the underwater way of life. According to McCartney, love happens when earth meets water, and “you’ll have to see whether the couple make it”. His score for the ballet consists of four orchestral movements. The album was released on CD and vinyl,

Available through iTunes and as a digital download with the code card included in the CD and LP, it contains the studio & live versions of the four movements. The live tracks are from the world première on 21 September 2011, as performed by the New York City Ballet Orchestra & conducted by Fayçal Karoui.

Last updated on January 4, 2014


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