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On The Corner Masthead


July 21, 2017 | by Ross Eustis

Land's End, San Francisco

“The ultimate environmental piece,” John Luther Adams' 'Inuksuit' for up to 99 percussionists allows the audience to create their own experience. SFJAZZ and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy team up to present the epic work at S.F.'s iconic Lands End on July 29 at 1pm – free to all – part of a weeklong John Luther Adams Festival. 

A note from John Luther Adams

In the concert hall, we shut out the outside world and concentrate our listening on a few carefully chosen sounds. Outdoors, we're challenged to expand our awareness to encompass a multiplicity of sounds - receiving messages not only from the composer and performers, but also from the larger world around us.

Each performance of Inuksuit is different, determined by the size of the ensemble and the specific instruments used, by the topology and vegetation of the site - even by the songs of the local birds. The musicians are dispersed widely throughout a large area. The listeners are also free to move around and discover their own individual listening points, actively shaping their experience.

Inuksuit is inspired by the stone sentinels constructed over the centuries by the Inuit in the windswept expanse of the Arctic. Translated literally, the word "Inuksuit" means "to act in the capacity of the human.

As I composed Inuksuit, my thoughts were haunted by visions of the melting of the polar ice, the rising of the seas, and the questions of what may remain of humanity's presence after the waters recede. I imagined each musician and each listener as a solitary figure in a vast, open landscape. What I wasn't prepared for was the strong sense of community the piece seems to create.

Special thanks to Cantaloupe Music for footage.

San Francisco Classical Voice preview: "John Luther Adams Gets a Festival at SFJAZZ"