Program 515: Sounds of the Arctic
KALW Broadcast Date: May 18, 2018 | Host: Randall Wong
First is John Luther Adams’s 2007 composition for string quartet The Wind in High Places. The piece uses only natural harmonics and open strings. It adapts the principles underlying the Aeolian harp, which is played by the wind; it treats the ensemble, in this case New York’s versatile JACK Quartet, as a single 16-string instrument. Throughout its nearly 20 minutes, the players never touch their fingerboards, instead rendering its austere, melancholy melodies with open strings and ghostly harmonics.
The rest of the program was devoted to excerpts from Eskimo, a work released in 1979 by the Bay Area experimental music collective The Residents. This group has done groundbreaking work in the areas of trance, world fusion, electronica, punk, industrial and lounge music. The group has also been credited with being among the originators of performance art and music video. Eskimo tells a story, without relying upon words, of the assimilation of a ritualistic society into consumer culture. This story unfolds as Eskimo fables, a lived experience, set to the grinding of sound effects and music. It is a mind movie rich with detail. Eskimo is, quite literally, a unique experience.