On a winter’s day nearly 50 years ago, the Beatles and composer Karlheinz Stockhausen arranged to meet in New York City to plan a joint concert. No such performance would ever take place. But its tantalizing promise is the departure point for Alarm Will Sound’s 1969. Told through their own words, music, and images, 1969 is the story of great musicians—John Lennon, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Paul McCartney, Luciano Berio, Yoko Ono, and Leonard Bernstein—striving for a new music and a new world amidst the social and political ferment of the late 1960s.

1969 is both a concert and a work of theater. As archival video and photographs are projected around the stage, the members of the ensemble play their instruments, sing, and voice the words of the composers and others in their circle, woven together to tell the story of how these artists galvanized one another and responded through their music to the momentous events of the day—the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention, the election of Richard Nixon. All of the artists suffered critically for their efforts, and yet, in the end, they would transform music and transcend their time.

In the work of Alarm Will Sound, a vibrant, technically dazzling new-music ensemble, listeners have grown accustomed to encountering the amazing, the amusing and, occasionally, the near-impossible. A musical event called 1969, which the group presented for a capacity audience at Zankel Hall on Thursday night, had all those qualities and more.

…a swirling,heady meditation on the intersection of experimental and commercial spheres, and of social and aesthetic agendas.

…Hearing impossible electronic collages like Stockhausen’s Hymnen and the Beatles’ “Revolution 9” rendered by live musicians was a consistent wonder.

The New York Times

…When I tell you that 1969, an evening of music, video and theater performed Thursday at the Zankel Hall in New York, and based on the prospect that John Lennon and iconoclastic German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen planned to stage a concert together, was fantastic, I mean it in all senses of the word… They exploded musical genres, made history come alive and demonstrated that art — original, vivid, reckless — can lift the grim clouds of current events, if only for two hours.

The Los Angeles Times

1969 Artists