A man plays a conch shell in front of a small group of musicians holding other percussion instruments while the audience sits on the grass around them.

"Inuksuit was produced by the Miller Theatre at Columbia University, a major presenter in New York. It’s the first time they were joining Make Music New York. Inuksuit is a composition by an Alaskan composer John Luther Adams that was meant to be played outdoors and this was the first time it had been played outdoors in New York. It’s a piece for between nine and 99 percussionists that goes about 75 minutes, and of course, this being Make Music New York, we had to do all 99. Columbia invited a lot of percussion groups from all over the country and organized weekend-long percussion workshops and screened a network film about John Luther Adams’ work, all leading up to the performance in Morningside Park, which is just outside of the Columbia University campus.

"The piece has most of the percussionists starting together in a central area and then dispersing throughout the space and playing separately for the duration of the piece. Audience members wander from area to area in the park and get to hear different aspects of music. A lot of it has to do with the interactions between the sounds of the percussion and the ambient sounds in the environment. So birds, or in our case, car horns honking and trucks, because it’s a big urban setting, all those things blend in with the music, and the musicians can react to what’s playing in the environment.

"The experience of Make Music New York as a whole involves a lot of wandering around listening and thinking that you’re hearing a band around the next corner, but maybe it’s actually someone playing a radio, or maybe it’s some other kind of noise entirely, and it’s like having a musical scavenger hunt for audiences. Make Music New York attunes you to the sounds of the regular daily environment. This piece, more than any other, is based on this idea of having interaction between the environment and what the musicians are doing.

"In previous years, it seems like projects like Punk Island and Mass Appeal, these are things that I come up with, and then I try to convince people to do them, and this was the opposite. It was Columbia coming to us to say, ‘We think this would be perfect for Make Music New York, and we want to put it together.’ If this is the future of Make Music New York I’d be very happy."

All quotes by Aaron Friedman

Photo by Shawn Brackbill, c/o Miller Theatre at Columbia University