According to Alaskan composer John Luther Adams, “music is part of nature and we are an inseparable part of nature.”

With this intersection in mind, Adams composed Inuksuit, his first piece written with the intention to be performed outdoors and fuse music with nature. In celebration of Earth Day, the Department of Music, in collaboration with the University’s ensemble in residence, eighth blackbird, brought Inuksuit to the Jenkins Greek Theatre.

Inuksuit are stone landmarks built by the Inuit people of the Arctic region of Alaska. They stand out against the vast landscape, serving as markers for travel routes and designating fishing locations, hunting grounds, or camps. As Adams composed the piece, he imagined each percussionist as a solitary figure in a vast space, and each listener walking alone through the landscape of music while creating his or her own experience.

As performances took place in landscapes around the world, however, Adams came to a new realization. “What has taken me by surprise and truly delighted me is the way that this piece seems to engender community,” he says. 

The Richmond performance brought together music department faculty and students, local performers, and percussionists from up and down the East Coast. The 99 instrumentalists played drums, cymbals, piccolos, gongs, rubber tubing, and conch shells — all intended to become one with the landscape.

Performers were stationed throughout the Greek Theatre and in the woods leading down to Westhampton Lake. Audience members were invited to walk the paths through the trees, thereby becoming an active participant. “The piece invites us to extend our ears as far as we can hear, to take in as many sounds as we can at once, and to experience the whole world as music,” Adams says.

Experience Inuksuit at the University of Richmond