John Luther Adam’s Inuksuit Resource Guide

“…to act in the capacity of the human”

John Luther Adams is one of the 21st Century’s most important composers. He has written a lot of extraordinary music for chamber ensembles, orchestras, solo instruments and specifically percussion ensembles. Most of his music draws inspiration from the outdoors, especially the landscapes of his home in Alaska where he has lived since 1978. Inuksuit (2009) was premiered at the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta and received it’s US premiere on the campus of Furman University in South Carolina.

I am fortunate to be performing the West Coast premiere at the 2012 Ojai Festival under the direction of Steven Schick. Over the past couple of months, I have been building a resource guide for percussionists who will be presenting future performances of Inuksuit. This guide is in no way complete. If you know of other resources, please let me know and I will add the links and resources to the site.

Doug Perkins Discusses the Individual Parts
Thanks to Dan Savell for letting me know about these videos. Highly recommended!

Program Note (From Armory Performance)

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 of the 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 is no 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.

Inuksuit has been performed at the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies, on the campus of Furman University in South Carolina, and at the Round Top Festival in Texas. This performance at Park Avenue Armory, the first ever to be presented indoors, features seventy-two percussionists— fifty-four in the drill hall and eighteen in the smaller rooms on the west end of the building. Microphones located around the exterior bring the sounds of the surrounding streets into the space, turning the Armory inside out, as Inuksuit becomes part of the never-ending music of this singular city.             —John Luther Adams

The photo in this post is used under the Creative Commons License: Attribution – NonCommercial – ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by thewoodenshoes’ on

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