venerdì , 14 Giugno 2024

John Luther Adams – Inuksuit

On February 20, 2011, the Park Avenue Armory’s inaugural Tune-In Festival concluded with an historic performance of John Luther Adams’ epic composition for large percussion ensemble, “Inuksuit.” As he described it during the pre-performance discussion, he conceived the work originally for outdoor performance, using an ensemble as large as 100 musicians. This first indoor performance, of 78 musicians, exploited the vast space of the Armory (along with its attached formal rooms), while encouraging open wandering by the unseated audience. Seizing the opportunity, I shot this modest filmic excerpt of the 85-minute performance, grading the footage in post-production using Red Giant Software’s Looks plug-in (“B&W Grainy” preset), with further shot-by-shot grading for proper contrast. Because this creation sprung unexpected and on impulse, I was not equipped with my boom microphone and thus the sound quality suffers. Accordingly, this 15-minute work is less a concert film, and more a documentary record of this historic event that hopefully gets repeated and outdone in subsequent seasons of the Tune-In Festival.

Filmed and edited by H. Paul Moon / Zen Violence Films |

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Since the nineteen-seventies, the composer John Luther Adams has been living in the area of Fairbanks, Alaska, generating fiercely original music from the vast, sparsely populated environment around him. Last year, I traveled north to write a Profile of Adams for the magazine, noting that the composer seemed more determined than ever to merge his music with the landscape. He made good on his promise earlier this summer, when, as part of a residency at the Banff Centre, in Alberta, Canada, he presented “Inuksuit,” a work for percussion ensemble that is designed to be played outdoors. The title refers to a type of stone marker that the Inuit and other native peoples use to orient themselves in Arctic spaces. The arrangement of rhythmic layers in the score mimics the shape of these lonely sentinels, which sometimes resemble the monolithic shapes of Stonehenge. In a program note, the composer writes, “This work is haunted by the vision of the melting of the polar ice, the rising of the seas, and what may remain of humanity’s presence after the waters recede.” More practically, he advises that “rehearsal and performance may require topographic maps, GPS units, two-way radios, cellular telephones, backpacks, tents and camping gear, off-road vehicles and other such tools.”

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