Tonight (June 7), renowned Alaskan composer and CalArts alumnus John Luther Adams’ (Music BFA 73) piece, Inuksuit, gets its West Coast premiere at the 66th Ojai Music Festival in Ojai, CA. Opening the four-day series of concerts, symposia and auxiliary events, the 80-minute percussion work features 14 CalArtian percussionists among a total of 45 percussionists and 3 piccolo players performing the outdoor piece.
The immersive work, which was written for between 9 and 99 percussionists and piccolo players, brings together both professional musicians and current and former students from CalArts, UCSD, UCSB, Cal State Long Beach’s Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, Chapman University and The Colburn School. The players will be positioned throughout Ojai’s Libbey Park and Libbey Bowl, while audience members are free to move among them and listen.
Inuksuit, like much of Adams’ music, is inspired by the natural world. In a 2009 New Yorker article, music critic Alex Ross delves into more detail about the work:
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.”
“Inuksuit is logistically the most complicated and ‘experimental’ piece that I have ever been involved with,” says CalArts faculty member and percussionist David Johnson, commenting on the amount of equipment and coordination involved to execute the piece. “I must admit that I was skeptical at first, but to hear it being played in that environment of Ojai really makes one see and experience music in a new and thrilling way.”
Among the alumni and current student percussionists of The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts involved are Sean Woodman (MFA 12), Dan Ogrodnik (MFA 13), Nick Baker (BFA 13), Isaac Watts (BFA 14), Domi LaRussa (BFA 13), Brian Foreman (MFA 13), Jodie Landau (BFA 14), Tony Gennaro (BFA 13), Yumi Lee (BFA 10), Dan Savell (BFA 98), Abby Savell (MFA 04), Matt Cook (MFA 10), Justin Dehart (MFA 04) and Johnson.
For more, listen to KPCC’s report on the event.
The video above is a 2011 performance of Inuksuit at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. Below is a 2011 interview with the composer by the music blog, New Music Box.