by Robert Leeper
The Rite of Summer music festival closed out their 2016 season on Saturday afternoon at The Hills park on Governors Island. Music Director Amy Garapic led over 70 percussionists from several of New York City's top percussion ensembles and schools and coming from the ranks of rock bands including Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) in John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit.
Inuksuit is an event more than it is a performance. Percussion ranged from temple gongs, drums, cymbals, conch shells and rocks to whirly tubes, piccolos and several hand-cranked sirens over the approximately hour long performance. Bird songs fluttered out of pitched instruments creating appealing call and response textures. The work builds from a sparsely scored introduction to a thrilling middle before fading back to silence.
Many attendees wandered the hills taking in the different angles and sounds as seems to be the intent of the piece, but it was interesting to note a number of people who appeared to stay in one spot, engaging deeply with the collage of sounds from only one location.
As the work ended, audience members strained to listen for any last strands of music - and this may have been the most potent example of the value of a massive environmental work of this nature. In that strain to, the audience listened more closely to their environment than perhaps they ever had before - lured into a world of sounds and interest can be immersive and is constant.
It was a beautiful day for it and readers should certainly experience it for themselves if possible. If you're in the area, the UConn Percussion Ensemble is performing Inuksuit September 10 of this year.
More pictures from Saturday are below: