for violin and orchestra

Program Notes

Takuminartut is a recently-coined word that refers to Inuit (also known as Eskimo) art, and suggests that the works are so beautiful and powerful that the viewer wishes to see them over and over again.  The movements reference two frequent subjects of Inuit art, the Inuksuk and the demons known as Tupilaq.

Inuksuk are hand-made stone monuments or cairns that are ubiquitous in Inuit lands, consisting of perhaps a single stone set upright, or a stack of stones in an aesthetically pleasing shape.  They vary greatly in size, although with some exceptions most that I have seen are not very large.  The original purpose or purposes are unclear; it is suggested that they might have been used as navigation aids, or to mark food caches, or represent shrines or other places of ritual significance.  Quite likely they were used for different purposes at different times and places, and many are probably erected just for their simple beauty.

Tupilaq are avenging spirits summoned by shamanic powers, then placed in the sea to seek vengeance against some enemy of the summoner.  They are wild and dangerous, and sometimes turn on the shaman who summoned them.

In these two movements I have attempted to portray first the mystical, calm beauty of the Inuksuk and then the destructive power of the Tupilaq (although there are some more tranquil moments in it, as well).

Takuminartut was written at the request of José Serebrier for a concert he was planning with the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, featuring their regular music director Huifang Chen as violin soloist.  When I first got the request I thought perhaps of doing something Latino-inspired.  Besides the obvious Miami connection with things Latin-American, I lived and worked for a number of years in Latin America (where I originally met Maestro Serebrier) and many of my works take some inspiration from Latin American subjects.  However, for whatever reason, nothing sprang to mind and I kept thinking about the Inuit art my wife and I have loved so much in our trips to Canada, and decided to go with that, despite the fact that the Arctic world of the Inuit couldn’t be more removed from the ambience of Miami.  Perhaps the Arctic chill will be welcome in its way, regardless.

Takuminartut was composed during a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst, Virginia.  I am grateful for the time and solitude so generously provided there for artists of all kinds.

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