Photographs by COURTESY PHOTO
“Inuksuit” swells to a very chaotic, very climactic middle section, and then recedes back into the soundscape of the garden, shares Sean Connors with Third Coast Percussion. The Grammy-winning percussion ensemble will host the striking musical piece at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks tonight. “And one of the cool things that happens, at least in every performance I’ve been a part of, is the piece ends with some flutes and glockenspiels emulating bird calls, and we’ve always experienced birds singing back to us, so the last sound you hear are living, real wild birds.”
Friday, May 19, 2017
What do you get when you bring together just shy of 100 musicians, spread them around an outdoor venue and give them a piece of music that celebrates and blends with the nature around it?
This is the basic premise behind "Inuksuit," a piece created by composer John Luther Adams that represents and was influenced by the stone structures of the same name scattered across the landscape of the Arctic north.
Third Coast Percussion:
WHEN — 6 p.m. today
WHERE — Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville
COST — Free
INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org
"The Inuit people in Alaska, who inhabit a pretty barren landscape above the Arctic Circle, use stone structures that they pile as navigating tools. So these Inuksuit structures, these piles of rocks, are used for people to navigate when they have no other natural landmarks to orient themselves," shares Sean Connors of Third Coast Percussion. And just as the Inuksuit guide people in nature, their shapes inform the musicians as they move through Adams' piece.
"So typical music takes up an entire page and you read from the top left corner down to the bottom right corner just like you would read a book. But the music [in 'Inuksuit'] is actually shaped like these Inuksuit structures -- some of them look like pyramids, some of them look like an arc -- and then [Adams has] invented a way for you to read through this music."
The audience won't see the score for the piece, but its remarkable nature is easily felt as the musicians begin to spread throughout the venue rather than remaining in one tight unit. Connors says this allows the audience the freedom to experience the piece however they choose.
"Kind of the most important performer is the space itself," he says. "It's a piece that starts from silence and ends with silence and really makes everyone aware of the naturally occurring soundscape of an area."
The performance today at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks will be the third production led by Connors' group Third Coast Percussion, although the members of the Grammy-winning percussion ensemble have each participated in multiple performances of the work. Because the piece can accommodate between nine and 99 musicians, the number of participants and the location make for a completely different experience each time.
"It feels like we have the right number of people to kind of take over the whole [location] and put performers in every little nook and cranny," Connors says of the more than 80 musicians who will perform at the Botanical Garden. "The piece really invites the audience to move around with the performers. For most of the piece, the performers are actually kind of by themselves because they spread out and then the audience kind of walks around and experiences different views of the piece based on their location. But for a piece you're playing by yourself, all of the work to put it together really feels like a team effort."
Third Coast will be joined by members of the Artosphere Festival Orchestra as well as students, community members and musicians of all skill levels. Recognizable percussion instruments -- drums and cymbals -- will be part of the performance, but the group will also utilize less traditional "instruments" like an air raid siren, a children's train and a conch shell. The variables of performing a show out in nature -- and the fact that this exact group of musicians representing more than 13 states will never be gathered together again -- make "Inuksuit" a completely unique and memorable experience each time it is performed.
"It's impossible to separate whatever's going on outside from the piece when you're in the park," Connors says. "And after experiencing about an hour-long massive performance, when it subsides, it's like a very tangible feeling of being hyper-aware of the sounds of nature and being outdoors and being in the space. It really does feel like your senses are heightened at the end of it."
NAN What's Up on 05/19/2017
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