Nief-Norf performs John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit and Yaz Lancaster’s sequoia at Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum.
On Sunday, April 18 at 2pm and 5pm, the Big Ears Festival will present Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams’ seminal outdoor piece, Inuksuit. The work will be performed by the acclaimed Knoxville-based contemporary music ensemble, Nief-Norf, and offered free-to-the-public at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens. Big Ears previously worked with Nief-Norf to present Inuksuit as the fondly remembered closing event of the 2016 Big Ears Festival.
Inuksuit — a 70-minute piece — 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 performances for Sunday, April 18 will feature roughly 25 musicians widely dispersed throughout the upper meadow at the Gardens — making it easy for audiences to enjoy the experience while maintaining healthy social distance.
“Each performance of Inuksuit is different,” Adams explains, “determined not just by the ensemble but 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. This work is intended to expand our awareness of the never-ending music of the world in which we live, transforming seemingly empty space into more fully experienced place.”
The concert will open with Yaz Lancaster’s 2019 composition, sequoia, a 10-minute piece scored musicians performing on an array of ceramic flower pots. The work is a paean to the mighty endangered sequoias and a plea to interact with the natural world with greater grace.
The performance is free and open to the public. The program for both the 2pm and 5pm presentations will be identical, and patrons are invited to come for one or the other or both. Masking and social distancing protocols should be observed for the safety of both musicians and fellow patrons.