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John Luther Adams's Inuksuit 

When: Sun., Aug. 26, 5:30 p.m. 2012
Alaskan composer John Luther Adams has always allowed his abiding interest in nature to color his sublime music. Following precedents set by the likes of Jean-Philipe Rameau and Olivier Messiaen, Adams wrote a translucent homage to birdsong, Songbirdsongs, finished in 1980 and released by Mode Records earlier this year in a meticulous performance by the Callithumpian Consort. As Adams writes in his program notes, "This music is not literal transcription. It is translation. Not imitation, but evocation. My concern is not with precise details of pitch and meter, for too much precision can deafen us to such things as birds and music." The piece's fleeting, jaunty melodies, voiced primarily by flutes and piccolos, don't sound strictly natural—the sophistication with which they establish and develop motifs and weave through the sometimes sparse, sometimes turbulent percussion is much greater than you'd expect from birds. This Sunday Adams's 2009 piece Inuksuit—written for 9 to 99 percussionists—will get its midwestern premiere at a concert organized by Chicago's Eighth Blackbird, who performed it in February at New York's Park Avenue Armory. They'll be joined by dozens of local percussionists as well as So Percussion founder Doug Perkins, who will direct. I've never heard the work, which was first recorded for Canteloupe Records in June, but I do know that it's designed to be heard outdoors, where it can merge with the natural sounds it mimics. The prospect of seeing all those percussionists spread out across Millennium Park in subgroups sounds almost as exciting as Adams's consistently spellbinding music. —Peter Margasak

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