On Sunday, June 5th at 1pm and 3pm, the NationalGallery of Art presents Alarm Will Sound in performances of Ten Thousand Birds by John Luther Adams, GRAMMY and Pulitzer Prize-Winning composer. In this composition, performers and audience move freely around the space and each other, birdsong becomes music, instrumental sounds transmute into natural ones, and the West Garden Court of the NGA becomes artistic space, where the lines blur between human creativity and natural phenomena.
Ten Thousand Birds is based on the songs of birds that are native to, or migrate through the American northeast and midwest. It explores the connections between nature and music, a topic that John Luther Adams has pursued over the course of his remarkable career. In works such as Sila: Breath of the World and Become Ocean (for which he won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and Grammy) Adams has portrayed—in big musical gestures—the awe one experiences in response to nature’s grandeur. In Ten Thousand Birds, on the other hand, the source of inspiration is particular birdsongs, captured in minute detail. Adams writes: “In this music, time is not measured. Each page in the score will be its own self-contained world that occupies its own physical space and its own time.”
“Ten Thousand Birds” offers, above all, is an opportunity to marvel… Focus is all it takes for this piece, and Alarm Will Sound’s thoughtful realization of it, to achieve its aim: a heightened aestheticization of nature, and perhaps a renewed connection with it.