Using a small army of 99 percussionists from across the country, playing conch shells, airhorns, sirens, gongs, maracas, drums, cymbals, and glockenspiels, this 79-minute work is designed to heighten our awareness of the sights and sounds that surround us every day. The work is deeply influenced by the composer’s belief that “music can contribute to the awakening of our ecological understanding. By deepening our awareness of our connections to the earth, music can provide a sounding model for the renewal of human consciousness and culture.”
The title refers to a type of stone landmark used by native peoples of the Arctic region; listeners discover their individual listening points as they, too, move freely during the performance in this site-specific piece that pipes in the chaotic sounds of the Manhattan streets to evoke a vast urban jungle.
In the composer John Luther Adams’ own words:
My music has always been rooted in the earth. For over thirty-five years I’ve composed music inspired by the outdoors, to be heard indoors. After hearing my percussion cycle Strange and Sacred Noise performed in the Anza-Borrego desert, the New England woods, and on the tundra of the Alaska Range, I was moved to create a large-scale work conceived specifically to be performed outdoors.
Inuksuit is inspired by the stone sentinels constructed over the centuries by the Inuit in the windswept expanses of the Arctic. The Inuktitut word translates literally: “to act in the capacity of the human”. This work is haunted by the vision ofthe melting of the polar ice, the rising of the seas, and what may remain of humanity’s presence after the waters recede. How does where we are define what we do and who we are? How do we understand the brevity of our human presence in the immensity of geologic time? What does it mean to act creatively with and within our environment?
The musicians of Inuksuit are dispersed over a large area. Listeners, too, are invited to move around freely and discover their own individual listening points. There isno preferred listening point, no “best seat in the house”. Rather, every listening point is potentially the best seat. You may choose to root yourself in a central location for the entire performance, listening as the music gradually expands to fill the site. Or you may choose to wander freely, following wherever your ears may lead you, discovering musical moments and spaces that no other listener may ever hear.
After taking part in the Inuksuit premiere at the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, Andy has been in the US premiere on the campus of Furman University in South Carolina and in New York City’s first outdoor performance during the Make Music NY Festival. He has also directed performances in Lexington, KY; at the EcoMusics conference in Asheville, NC; and as the closing event for the 2016 Big Ears Festival.
Video documentary for the New Yorker on Inuksuit world premiere.