Alarm Will Sound

alarm will sound performing on stage
Photo Credit: Wojciech Wandzel

Nolan Park

1:00PM & 3:00PM

Saturday, Sep 18, 2021


Rite of Summer does not require tickets or reservations. Social distancing is required for this performance.


John Luther Adams Ten Thousand Birds

We are very grateful to the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund for underwriting this concert.

Group Members

Alan Pierson: Conductor and Artistic Director
Erin Lesser, flute
Christa Robinson, oboe
Bill Kalinkos, clarinet
Elisabeth Stimpert, clarinet
Michael Harley, bassoon
Laura Weiner, horn
Tim Leopold, trumpet
Michael Clayville, trombone
Matt Smallcomb, percussion
Chris Thompson, percussion
John Orfe, piano
Courtney Orlando, violin
Stefan Freund, cello
Miles Brown, bass
Daniel Neumann, audio engineering
Plus Additional Musicians TBA for Ten Thousand Birds
Executive Director: Gavin Chuck
General Manager: Annie Toth
Production Manager: Jason Varvaro
Assistant Director of Artistic Planning: Peter Ferry
Librarian: Chihiro Shibayama

About Alarm Will Sound


alarm will sound red logo



Alarm Will Sound is a 20-member band committed to innovative performances and recordings of today’s music. They have established a reputation for performing demanding music with energetic skill. Their performances have been described as “equal parts exuberance, nonchalance, and virtuosity” by the Financial Times of London and as “a triumph of ensemble playing” by the San Francisco Chronicle. The New York Times says that Alarm Will Sound is “one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene.”

With classical skill and unlimited curiosity, Alarm Will Sound takes on music from a wide variety of styles. Its repertoire ranges from European to American works, from the arch-modernist to the pop-influenced. Alarm Will Sound has been associated since its inception with composers at the forefront of contemporary music, premiering pieces by John Adams, Steve Reich, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Aaron Jay Kernis, Augusta Read Thomas, Derek Bermel, Benedict Mason, and Wolfgang Rihm, among others. The group itself includes many composer-performers, which allows for an unusual degree of insight into the creation and performance of new work.

alarm will sound performing ten thousand birds at cuyahoga valley national park
Photo Credit: Alan Pierson

Alarm Will Sound is the resident ensemble at the Mizzou International Composers Festival. Held each July at the University of Missouri in Columbia, the festival features eight world premieres by early-career composers. During the weeklong festival, these composers work closely with Alarm Will Sound and two established guest composers to perform and record their new work.

Alarm Will Sound may be heard on fourteen recordings, including their most recent, The Hunger; Omnisphere, with jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood; a collaboration with Peabody Award-winning podcast Meet the Composer titled Splitting Adams; and the premiere recording of Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite. Their genre-bending, critically acclaimed Acoustica features live-performance arrangements of music by electronica guru Aphex Twin. This unique project taps the diverse talents within the group, from the many composers who made arrangements of the original tracks, to the experimental approaches developed by the performers.

In 2016, Alarm Will Sound in a co-production with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, presented the world premiere of the staged version of Donnacha Dennehy’s The Hunger at the BAM Next Wave Festival and the Touhill Performing Arts Center. Featuring Iarla O’Lionárd (traditional Irish singer) and Katherine Manley (soprano) with direction by Tom Creed, The Hunger is punctuated by video commentary and profound early recordings of traditional Irish folk ballads mined from various archives including those of Alan Lomax.

In 2013-14, Alarm Will Sound served as artists-in-residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. During that season, the ensemble presented four large ensemble performances at the Met, including two site-specific productions staged in museum galleries (Twinned, a collaboration with Dance Heginbotham and I Was Here I Was I, a new theatrical work by Kate Soper and Nigel Maister), as well as several smaller events in collaboration with the Museum’s educational programs.

In 2011, at Carnegie Hall, the group presented 1969, a multimedia event that uses music, images, text, and staging to tell the compelling 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 turmoil of the late 1960s. 1969‘s unconventional approach combining music, history, and ideas has been critically praised by the New York Times (“…a swirling, heady meditation on the intersection of experimental and commercial spheres, and of social and aesthetic agendas.”)

Alarm Will Sound has been presented by Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, (le) Poisson Rouge, Miller Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Kitchen, the Bang on a Can Marathon, Disney Hall, Kimmel Center, Library of Congress, the Walker Arts Center, Cal Performances, Stanford Lively Arts, Duke Performances, and the Warhol Museum. International tours include the Holland Festival, Sacrum Profanum, Moscow’s Art November, St. Petersburg’s Pro Arte Festival, and the Barbican.

The members of the ensemble have also demonstrated our commitment to the education of young performers and composers through residency performances and activities at the Community Music School of Webster University, Cleveland State University, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Missouri, Eastman School of Music, Dickinson College, Duke University, the Manhattan School of Music, Harvard University, New York University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For more information and to join the mailing list, visit Alarm Will Sound’s website at

About Alan Pierson, Conductor and Artistic Director

alan pierson
Photo Credit: Alan Pierson

Alan Pierson has been praised as “a dynamic conductor and musical visionary” by the New York Times, “a young conductor of monstrous skill” by Newsday, “gifted and electrifying” by the Boston Globe, and “one of the most exciting figures in new music today” by Fanfare. In addition to his work as artistic director of Alarm Will Sound, he is Principal Conductor of the Dublin-based Crash Ensemble, has served as Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and has guest conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the London Sinfonietta, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Steve Reich Ensemble, Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble ACJW, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, the New World Symphony, and the Silk Road Project, among other ensembles. He is co-director of the Northwestern University Contemporary Music Ensemble, and has been a visiting faculty conductor at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and the Eastman School of Music. Mr. Pierson has collaborated with major composers and performers, including Yo Yo Ma, Steve Reich, Dawn Upshaw, Osvaldo Golijov, John Adams, Augusta Read Thomas, David Lang, Michael Gordon, La Monte Young, and choreographers Christopher Wheeldon, Akram Khan and Elliot Feld. Mr. Pierson received bachelor degrees in physics and music from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a doctorate in conducting from the Eastman School of Music. He has recorded for Nonesuch Records, Cantaloupe Music, Sony Classical, and Sweetspot DVD.

About Ten Thousand Birds

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. Most recently in Sila: Breath of the World and Become Ocean (for which he won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and Grammy) he 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.”

Ideally suited for pandemic circumstances, Ten Thousand Birds has an open, modular structure: each page of music can be combined in varied ways. Our 70-minute interpretation, designed by Alan Pierson, follows the cycle of a day, starting with bird songs heard in the morning, then afternoon, evening, night, and return to morning. It also uses space by moving the performers around the venue as they play, and encouraging the audience to walk around to experience the music from many perspectives.

Meaning of work for pandemic:

  • Outdoors in space
  • Connecting people with nature
  • Finding peace in the world and bringing us into wide open communal spaces

Alarm Will Sound performs the work in an open-space setting (whether indoors or outdoors) where performers and audience move freely around the space and each other. In that way, the piece is analogous to a walk in which you discover birds and other natural sounds. The connection between nature and music is enhanced by this unconventional, open setting because the experience would be transformative in subtle yet profound ways: as the bird-song sources become music, the open setting becomes an artistic space, blurring the lines between human creativity and natural phenomena.

Alarm Will Sound premiered Ten Thousand Birds to inaugurate the Public Media Commons in St. Louis, where it was recognized by St. Louis Magazine as one of the best events of 2014.

“I don’t make peace with the immensity of the world – I find peace in the immensity of the world. Nothing comforts me more than to feel small, insignificant, vulnerable, evanescent, mortal. That’s close to the heart of religious experience for me,” said John Luther Adams, composer of Ten Thousand Birds. “That may sound weird, but that’s what I want to connect with through music. That’s what I hope, at times, the music does for you as a listener. It just reminds you of those things, invites you to wake up and pay attention.”

We are inseparable from this profoundly sensuous world that we inhabit. In fact, the whole shape of the human mind is formed in response to light and wind and sounds and birdsongs and leaves. I’m enough of an ecologist in that sense, I guess, to believe that really we don’t create anything. We could argue it becomes a game of syntax. Is there such a thing as abstract thought, or not? My point is that just about everything that we imagine, we’re inventing or creating, is really just an echo, just a response to creation itself.

“John’s music is about creating musical communities that connect us to one another other, and to the Earth. This kind of community has never been more deeply needed than it is now,” said Alan Pierson, artistic director of Alarm Will Sound. “And so, bringing his work into the world at this moment — as we ourselves take our first careful steps out of lockdown — is deeply meaningful and joyful for all of us in Alarm Will Sound.”

The reason that music is worthy of a lifetime of devotion is that it’s so much bigger than I am. It’s so much bigger than I can ever expect to understand. It’s my life’s work and I still have no idea what music is.

Note: In the event of poor weather conditions, all concerts will be re-scheduled for the following day, Sunday at 1 and 3PM. Please check our website for this updated information. 

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