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Inuksuit

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 29, 2013
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Some musical events encourage a community to take stock of its surroundings, but very few actually fold so seamlessly into the environment itself that they become part of a community's memory and imagination. John Luther Adams' Inuksuit is one of those works. Scored for 9 to 99 percussion players who are meant to be widely dispersed in an outdoor area (although the piece has also been performed indoors), Inuksuit has been described by the New York Times as 'the ultimate environmental piece,' while the New Yorker's Alex Ross hailed it as 'one of the most rapturous experiences of my listening life.'


The title refers to the Stonehenge-like markers used by the Inuit and other native peoples to orient themselves in Arctic spaces. Adams structured the rhythmic layers in the score to mimic these stone shapes, but there's an open-endedness to how the music is performed that reflects the sense of freedom behind it.

'Each performance of Inuksuit is different,' Adams explains, '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 throughout a large area, and the listeners are free to discover their own individual listening points, which actively shapes their experience.'

Inuksuit has been performed numerous times, and in various spaces, since Adams first composed it in 2009. This recording, made in the forest surrounding Guilford Sound in Guilford, Vermont, and produced by percussionist and composer Doug Perkins, marks the first time that the piece is available on CD. Adams also sought to capture the experience of the performance in a surround mix, which unlike most commercially available 5.1 mixes, is full-range in every channel. 'We wanted to make this feel as live as possible,' Adams says. 'When I originally composed Inuksuit, I wasn't prepared for the strong sense of community the piece seems to create. I'm glad to be able to give some of that back with this recording.'

The bonus surround mix DVD includes a video loop of images licensed from photographer Norman Hallendy, as well as the documentary film Strange and Sacred Noise.

Review

Critical responses to live performances of John Luther Adams's Inuksuit - a percussionists' symphony that is meant to envelop listeners in a given space - have mostly been written in the voice of 'deep awe.'

A piece such as this one - ineffable yet fully present at all moments - is naturally going to pose a problem for a record label and stereo-mixdown engineer. But the team at Cantaloupe Records has gamely taken on the challenge with the first-ever release of Inuksuit, and gives us a strong reading of a piece that otherwise precludes, on purpose, the very idea of a 'benchmark' or reference recording.

A performance of Inuksuit this good, from a group of 30-plus musicians ably led by former So Percussion member Doug Perkins works best when given as much attention as possible. --WQXR Radio, Seth Colter Walls

An extended exploration of the intersection of sound and the earth around us. Maybe that sounds a little New Age-y to you. Well, prepare to be shocked - and enthralled - by composer Inuksuit, a piece written to be performed outdoors by anywhere from nine to 99 percussionists. Performed by a group of 30-odd musicians helmed by percussionist Doug Perkins in the woods of Vermont, this version of Inuksuit opens with several minutes of birdsong, whose world is very, very, oh so slowly - nearly imperceptibly at first - set sideways by what morphs into a dense, towering, crashing monster of sound that, in its own time, gives way again to an exuberant, twittering mass of brightly piping piccolos, triangles and glockenspiels. I'd understand if you were inclined to think that Inuksuit would be more enjoyable in concept than in actual execution, but the results are both riveting and exhilarating. --Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR Best Classical Albums of 2013

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Inuksuit Ensemble
  • Audio CD (October 29, 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Cantaloupe
  • ASIN: B00FEFOI6I
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,001 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A previous reviewer described this music as "noisy, chaotic, and generally unpleasant." Is it? Well, it's definitely noisy, but chaotic? I would say complex, instead - it might sound chaotic on first listening, though. Is it generally unpleasant? Well, it's about an hour of what amounts to mostly percussion and nature sounds. There are birds and a creek in the background. A few piccolos come in at the end. There's also a wind machine, and single-note horns. Does that sound unpleasant to you? It doesn't to me, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone said it does to them. Let's face it, you either like this kind of stuff or you don't. This isn't really the sort of music that lends itself to fence sitting. If you think an hour of complex, sometimes (very) loud, sometimes quiet percussion sounds awesome, then this is the record for you. If my surface-level description doesn't appeal, then don't buy this record. This isn't easy music, it really isn't. If you're here because of an NPR article, be warned, this stuff isn't as accessible as the "hype" would have you believe. But, assuming you do enjoy this kind of music, is it still worth all the hubbub?

"Absolutely!" I would say. This is some of the best new music I heard last year. I would even call it profound. It's like the Rite of Spring meets Steve Reich's Drumming. The outdoor aspect reminds me of Kalevi Aho's 12th Symphony. It's at times both savage and hypnotic. The roaring of the drums can be frightening at first, and then become calming as the roar goes on--like sitting near a waterfall. Sudden shifts of rhythm can evoke myriad emotions. I've experienced love, fear, camaraderie, and even loneliness whilst listening to this music.
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I was at the New York premiere of Inuksuit, and it was unforgettable. While having no text per se it is a very dramatic piece, but one that takes its time building up to its peak. It begins and ends with peace and serenity but the middle section is, in a word, terrifying. It musically creates the image of nature in all its majestic beauty at both ends of the spectrum; sweet and blissful at one end, and chaotic and destructive at the other...the possible consequences of human impact on the ecosystem. Even for the CD, this is not one for passive, casual listening; when you have nothing else to do for an hour, lay back and experience the entire thing from start to finish.
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A very interesting composition that takes one into the Northern most reaches of the planet. I'll echo what other reviewers have said: it's difficult, and very different from what most people understand "classical" music to be. If you approach it with an open mind, and understand what the composer is trying to accomplish, there is a good chance you'll enjoy this very unique piece!
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The CD also includes a DVD, but it only gives you a slide show, five photos holding the screen for about 30 seconds each, on an "endless" loop. Very evocative, but if you're going to make a DVD, why not show us the musicians themselves?
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Although this work has received much positive critical attention, I found it to be noisy, chaotic and generally unpleasant. There was no obvious logic to it and for me it had no musical interest whatsoever. Perhaps in a live performance with the "environmental" aspects of it at the fore, it would have a greater effect, but as a sound recording, I cannot recommend it.
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