Inuksuit, John Luther Adams, and Ojai

Just before the new year, influential music critic Alex Ross released several end of year lists. He named the Festival’s own Thomas Morris as one of the Persons of the Year, and released his list of the greatest performances of 2011. One of the selected highlights was the performance of John Luther Adams’ “Inuksuit” at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. Written for Steve Schick, Inuksuit–the title is derived from the stone cairns used by the indigenous peoples of the Arctic–is an arresting piece for 9-99 percussion performers who are located throughout a large space (it was originally intended to be performed outdoors), allowing audience members to remain stationary or to move through the performers at will. Watch excerpts from the Armory performance.

Lucky for us, we don’t have to travel to New York to witness Inuksuit. The 2012 Festival will kick off with the piece’s West Coast premiere on Thursday Evening at 5pm. The premiere will be a free community performance featuring 48 percussionists led by Steven Schick, including professional musicians, music students from Southern California universities and colleges, and local musicians from Ojai. They will be placed throughout Libbey Park and Bowl to create a truly unique, interactive musical experience.

Luther Adams is no stranger to such intersections and interactions between space and sound. Described by the New Yorker as “one of the most original musical thinkers of the 21st century,” his works take the vast natural landscapes and the indigenous cultures of his adopted Alaska as their inspiration. Spurred by his deep interest in environmental conservation, Luther Adams’ compositions create a bridge between human experience and the natural world, bringing audiences greater awareness and a heightened connection with nature. Many of his works take their material directly from nature itself. In The Place Where You Go To Listen, for instance, Luther Adams used seismological readings and geophysical data in composing.

In many ways Luther Adams’ compositions are a perfect fit for the outdoor setting of Libbey Bowl, and the 2012 Festival will feature several of his works. After Inuksuit on Thursday, the evening concert will also feature Red Arc/Blue Veil, performed by Marc-André Hamelin and Steve Schick. Luther Adams’ work returns on Sunday night, where Leif Ove Andsnes will join Hamelin to perform Dark Waves. Click here to listen to a preview.

This year’s Festival is promising to be a truly unique intersection of music, place, and idea. If you have not yet purchased your tickets for this year’s Festival, you can do so online, or by calling 805.646.2053.

For more information on John Luther Adams and to read his writing on music, composition, and the environment, visit his website.