I'm grateful that SFMike encouraged me to attend this outdoor performance of John Luther Adams's Inuksuit, which kicked off the Ojai North! series. Monday's weather was ideal, & dozens of people were hanging out in the shady areas of a sloping grassy area behind Hertz Hall. 21 percussionists played this performance, though up to 99 may participate. Shortly after the Campanile tolled 5 o'clock, the musicians started slowing moving in from the perimeter. Some had paper cones to amplify their breathing, & others played whirling tubes, bullroarers & other instruments that sounded like wind, rain or rustling leaves. There were silences as well as scored sounds, & a distant train whistle became part of the soundscape.
The musicians made their way to individual percussion setups scattered around the glade. Around 15 minutes in, we heard one-note calls on conch shells & trumpets, then a shattering bass drum solo. Over the next 40 minutes or so, the music grew louder & busier as the percussionists played drums, gongs, cymbals & xylophones. Performers stationed around the perimeter played sirens & then triangles.
We were encouraged to move around, & I was drawn from one percussionist to another, attracted like a moth to lights. Though each musician seemed to be following his own internal pulse, there was often a feel of call & response between the players. The piece wound down to just the tinkling of xylophones. As the silences got longer & the scored music came to a stop, ambient sounds re-asserted themselves. I heard birds chirping & the low hum of a nearby building. As if on cue, the Campanile struck 6 o'clock, & the audience broke into long applause.
Attendees were a mixed bag of music lovers, families, students passing through, & a few odd characters. A woman did her best to be distracting for most of the performance by playing fetch with her frisbee-catching dog right near 2 musicians. I left wanting to hear the piece with the maximum 99 performers spread over a larger area, in Golden Gate Park perhaps.
§ Ojai North!
John Luther Adams
Steven Schick, director
William Winant Percussion Group:
June 11, 5 pm
Faculty Glade (outside Hertz Hall)