Alarm Will Sound Does a Distanced Version of John Luther Adams’s Ten Thousand Birds

Source: Alarm Will Sound.

Alarm Will Sound has created a most unusual musical project under lockdown, turning the wide-open expanse of Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams’s Ten Thousand Birds into an expression of loss for absent friends and communal music-making, made through one man’s obsessive collection of personal electronics. The Washington Post ran a story about it today.

Circumventing “the new normal” of Zoom meetings and video-streaming, Alarm Will Sound’s Artistic Director Alan Pierson—an MIT grad and lifelong techie—staged the piece on myriad screens and devices that he dug up in his Brooklyn apartment. Each screen shows a member of AWS performing their part (each musician plays the song of a bird native to or migrating through New York City, as well as sounds of wind and frogs). Pierson designed a path through the installation, and filmed the synchrony in a single 5-minute take.

The process was arduous and time-consuming, however it created for Pierson an emotional musical story that brought the members of his almost-20-year old beloved chamber ensemble into his home at this time of self-isolation.

The 27 screen devices that Pierson corralled include obsolete, early 2000s gear like iPods and PalmPilots, and antique handhelds that he has collected over the years. With the help of Pierson’s boyfriend, software engineer Paul Melnikow, Pierson spent countless hours fashioning the devices into a DIY installation. The setup called for rifling through closets and unpacking boxes to find old hardware, investigating legacy codecs, and learning how to use ancient and malfunctioning hardware.