Steven Mackey, the rock 'n' roll guitarist-turned-professor of music and chair at Princeton, has had a lot of his music played here lately. Only three weeks after the West Coast premiere of his new piano concerto in Walt Disney Concert Hall, Mackey turned up again at a Long Beach Symphony concert in the Terrace Theatre on Saturday night — this time with a world premiere whose genesis occurred during a chance meeting two years ago in Disney Hall.
That encounter with Dennis and Suzanne Poulsen resulted in a commission for Long Beach's Aquarium of the Pacific, “Urban Ocean” — and it turned out to be one of Mackey’s more immediately attractive pieces, one that wears its 12 1/2 minutes comfortably.
The piece begins with a wash of color as if diving into the ocean, after which sustained textures build and ebb in waves amid a lot of enticing detail, with contrasting busy, snazzy writing representing the land.
If you are thinking “La Mer,” you wouldn’t be far off the mark, though Mackey’s language is in no way imitative of Debussy.