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John Luther Adams

Ten Thousand Birds (2014)
Publisher
Taiga Press (BMI)
Category
Orchestra
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
2014
Duration
1 Hour 10 Minutes
Programme Note
John Luther Adams Ten Thousand Birds (2014)
My life's work began with birds. From songbirdsongs (1974-80), to Inuksuit (2008), to Canticles of the Holy Wind (2013), the songs of birds have engaged my ears and my imagination for more than forty years. Now I've embarked on a new, open-ended series of pieces for a full range of instrumentation - from solos to full orchestra - under the collective title Ten Thousand Birds.

All the sounds in this music are specifically notated. However, the moment-to-moment sequence of events is not fixed. There is no master score. In the tradition of Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison's "performance kits", this folio of unbound pages is an atlas of musical possibilities for performers to use in creating their own unique realisations of the music.

The sequence of phrases on the page does not necessarily imply the sequence of events in performance. Musicians are free to choose when and for how long to play each phrase and rest, within the broad guidelines provided. There is no rhythmic coordination between instruments, except where specifically noted.

Each piece in this folio is a self-contained "place" that occupies its own physical space and its own time. The instruments of each piece/place should be relatively near each other, except where otherwise noted. A piece/place may begin as soon as the minimum number of required instruments is present and may continue as long as the minimum number of instruments is present.

Pieces may be combined, simultaneously and sequentially, to create varied performances. A performance should encompass the largest possible physical space. There should be moments when all or most of the available instruments are playing as many different pieces in as many different locations as possible. Conversely, there should be moments when only a single piece is being performed in a single location. Musicians are encouraged to move around and among the listeners and listeners should be free to move around and among the musicians.

The size of the ensemble and the duration of a performance may be tailored to the specific site and occasion. It is not necessary to play all the pieces in this collection. It's not even necessary to play all the musical material within a particular piece. However, symphonic-scale performances with many musicians are encouraged. And even with smaller ensembles, performances are most appropriately staged as complete concert-length events.

There should be moments when all or most of the available instruments are playing as many different pieces in as many different locations as possible. Conversely, there should be moments when only a single piece is being performed in a single location.

The sequence of pieces and locations of instruments may be organised around the songs of birds that sing at different times of day and night.

The materials include a sample sequence of pieces. This is only an example. Performers are encouraged to create their own sequence of pieces/places for the unique conditions of their ensemble, occasion and performance site.

John Luther Adams


Preview the score:


Performances
Date
Title
  • 03 MAR 2018
    The Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre, Vancouver, Canada
    ADHOC Ensemble
    Vicky Chow, conductor
  • 01 DEC 2017
    Warner Concert Hall, Oberlin, OH
    Oberlin Sinfonietta
    Tim Munro, conductor
  • 14 MAY 2017
    Ten Thousand Birds New York Premiere
    Symphony Space Residency
    Morningside Park, New York, NJ
    Alarm Will Sound
    Alan Pierson, conductor
  • 28 JUL 2016
    Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival
    MassMoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts, United States of America
    Bang on a Can

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