Immersive and Magical

Yesterday afternoon we attended a performance of John Luther Adams’ “Inuksuit” at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens. We heard it first five years ago at Mead’s Quarry in Ijams Nature Center, also here in Knoxville. That performance was the culmination of the Big Ears Festival of 2016. This was also a Big Ears event, the first one in about 14 months. An hour long percussion work performed outdoors, it’s an immersive experience; the performers are scattered all around the grounds, and the listeners can move among them to get a changing perspective on the piece as it unfolds. Today’s involved a smaller ensemble than the one five years ago, probably not more than two dozen percussionists, but it was still a wonderful experience.

I set out to attend today’s event with mixed feelings. It’s been over a year since I did anything of a social nature, and I was uncertain, even a little scared (even though I’m vaccinated). After investing so much time and effort into staying safe and minimizing risk, going to a concert, even an outdoor one, was daunting. 

There were no parking spaces when we arrived and we were directed to the overflow lot some distance away. After a brisk walk we entered the performance area and found many people already there, waiting for things to start. With very few exceptions, everyone was masked and maintaining a respectful distance from their fellow listeners, and once the music started, it became everyone’s focus. I looked around at the group of people, from babies in strollers to elderly couples, and they were all transfixed by the performance taking place all around them. The few people who talked did so in whispers so low there was no interference in my enjoyment of the music. It was a lovely experience. Magical. 

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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