Bravo to Tippet Rise for amazing musical magic
Chaos! Bedlam! Pandemonium! All experienced from a seated position in the shade of the ”Satellite No. 5: Pioneers” Statue at the Tippet Rise Art Center. And later, serenity, wonder and awe.
As a lover of music (classical, alternative, rock, blues, folk, country-what have you) I was truly looking forward to an afternoon of rhythmic, harmonic bliss. Music performed outside, with the Beartooths as the backdrop would be a rare treat for us. But “Inuksuit” a work for up to 99 percussionists, by composer John Luther Adams, completely shattered my idea of a musical performance.
By shattered, I mean it took all of the things that I personally knew about music-particularly percussion-broke them into tiny pieces, and whisked ‘em away on the blustering gusts of wind. While I waited patiently for the performers to make their ways to the drum kits placed willy-nilly around the natural amphitheater, I anticipated hearing maybe The Blue Man Group, on a much larger scale, but fantastic and, well…rhythmic!
Instead, men and women, playing conch shells, plastic tubes, maracas, bricks, (and some wonderful disc-shaped things seemingly filled with beebees, that replicated the sound of the ocean waves raking the shoreline) began the set grouped together, then gradually fanned out, and out, up and down the grassy bowl, all the while creating the sounds of life: breath, wind, water…soon, other sounds came in bits and pieces, more staccato, less adagio. Interesting and pleasant, but still, I waited for that big, cohesive moment when we’d hear and actual song-when the drummers would man their drums and begin to form something.
Then suddenly, there it was: The boom! Of a single drum; the beginning of a run, I excitedly thought! But no, random beats still came at us randomly; gongs and cymbals and snares joined in, and now, they seemed to be building to an agitated crescendo.
I hopefully envisioned something like the beginning of Dire Straits “Money for Nothin: Unassembled notes and beats jumbled together, rising in pitch and volume until the buzz of a long electric guitar comes forward and everything follows suit. That’s what I was waiting for, rube that I am.
And just when I gave up, and succumbed to the noise, it transported me…the dawn of civilization, the industrial age, the Blitzkrieg and Vietnam: I heard trains rattling behind me, choppers comin’ in low to retrieve the dead and dying, wailing sirens, roaring winds, hell-fire and damnation…our world. I was terrified, sad, enlightened and exhilarated.
Gradually, The dissonance faded away, and before the listener realized it, we alighted on a quiet meadow full of songbirds, insects and gentle breezes. A lone flutist stood on a rim, not visible to most, her whispery notes barely audible, causing the audience to hush to the point of almost complete silence; then finally, it was complete.
Who Knew that a bunch of percussion instrument-wielding folks could illustrate the history of the world?! John Luther Adams. That’s who. Bravo