PROGRAM NOTES & BIOS:
John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit & Yaz Lancaster’s sequoia
Public Health & General Safety
Please be respectful of performers and fellow patrons by wearing masks and maintaining proper social distance. As you enjoy today’s performance, please stay on designated paths and leave everything as you discovered it. Help keep the Gardens beautiful by disposing of any trash in appropriate recycling or trash receptacles.
John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit
My music has always been rooted in the earth. Over the past thirty-five years I’ve composed many works inspired by the outdoors, but heard indoors. Recently, after hearing Strange and Sacred Noise performed in the Anza-Borrego desert, the New England woods, and the tundra of the Alaska Range, I’ve wanted to create a large-scale work conceived specifically to be performed outside.
Inuksuit is inspired by the stone sentinels constructed over the centuries by the Inuit in the windswept expanses of the Arctic. The word “Inuksuit” 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.
Inuksuit is a concert-length work for percussion, in which the performers are widely dispersed and move throughout a large, open area. The listeners, too, may move around freely and discover their own individual listening points. 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 a more fully experienced place.
Each performance of Inuksuit is different, determined by the size of the ensemble, the specific instruments chosen, and by the topology and vegetation of the site. There is no master score. Rather, this folio contains a collection of musical materials and possibilities for musicians to use in creating a unique realisation of the work.
Inuksuit invites exploration and discovery of the relationship between the music and the site, as well as the musicians’ interactions with both. The musicians are encouraged to consider carefully the selection of instruments, the distribution of performers, and the acoustical properties of the performance site.
The experience of preparing, performing and hearing Inuksuit may raise larger questions: What does it mean to act creatively with and within our environment? Can we listen and hear more deeply the field of sound all around us? How does where we are define what we do and, ultimately, who we are? And how do we understand the brevity of our human presence in the immensity of geologic time?
— John Luther Adams
Yaz Lancaster’s sequoia
the redwood species contains the largest and tallest trees in the world. these trees can live thousands of years. this is an endangered subfamily due to habitat losses from fire ecology suppression, logging, and air pollution. since logging began in the 1850s, 95% of old-growth coast redwoods have been cut down.
this piece is about interacting with nature in a way that isn’t destructive, & allowing quiet, intimate meditation on our detrimental impact. it is formally structured so that the fixed media containing samples of natural surroundings (activated via human interaction with live plants) reclaims the sonic space.
— Yaz Lancaster
About John Luther Adams
John Luther Adams is a composer whose life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world. Adams was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his symphonic work Become Ocean, as well as a Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” (2014). Inuksuit, his outdoor work for up to 99 percussionists, is regularly performed all over the world.
Columbia University has honored Adams with the William Schuman Award ‘to recognize the lifetime achievement of an American composer whose works have been widely performed and generally acknowledged to be of lasting significance.’
A recipient of the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness, JLA has also been honored with the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University ‘for melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries.’
Born in 1953, JLA grew up in the South and in the suburbs of New York City. He studied composition with James Tenney at the California Institute of the Arts, where he was in the first graduating class (in 1973). In the mid-1970s he became active in the campaign for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and subsequently served as executive director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.
Adams has taught at Harvard University, the Oberlin Conservatory, Bennington College, and the University of Alaska. He has also served as composer in residence with the Anchorage Symphony, Anchorage Opera, Fairbanks Symphony, Arctic Chamber Orchestra, and the Alaska Public Radio Network.
The music of John Luther Adams is recorded on Cantaloupe, Cold Blue, New World, Mode, and New Albion, and his books are published by Wesleyan University Press.
About Yaz Lancaster
“Warm, crunchy, [and] beautifully heart-wrenching” characterizes the work of transdisciplinary artist Yaz Lancaster (they/them/theirs). They are most interested in practices aligned with relational aesthetics and the everyday; fragments and collage; and anti-oppressive, liberatory politics.
Yaz performs as a violinist, vocalist and steel-pannist in a wide variety of settings including DIY/indie venues, contemporary chamber music, and orchestras. Most recently, they have been developing a pop/post-genre duo with guitarist-producer Andrew Noseworthy. Their work is presented in many different mediums and collaborative projects, and often reckons with specific influences ranging from politics of identity and liberation to natural phenomena and poetics. Yaz has had the privilege and opportunity to build community in the US, Canada, and Trinidad and Tobago — they have created with artists like Andy Akiho, Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, Contact Contemporary Ensemble, Contemporaneous, Hypercube, JACK Quartet, Skiffle Steel Orchestra, and Wadada Leo Smith. Their record of commissioned music for violin/voice & electronics AmethYst is forthcoming on people | places | records.
Yaz holds degrees in violin performance and poetry from New York University where they studied with Cyrus Beroukhim, Robert Honstein, and Terrance Hayes (among others). They are the visual arts editor at Peach Mag and a contributing writer at ICIYL. Yaz loves chess, horror movies, and bubble tea.
Nief-Norf is a multi-tiered contemporary music organization devoted to fostering creative collaboration among musical interpreters, composers, and scholars. As performers, educators, and curators, Nief-Norf delights in championing works from the established and emerging experimental tradition since their inception in 2005. Their flexible roster allows the collective to share their passion for adventurous programming concepts and interdisciplinary collaboration whether as featured soloists, chamber musicians, or with larger ensembles.