Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Where nature meets immersion: a performance from New Music Delaware 

Arts and CultureWhere nature meets immersion: a performance from New Music Delaware 

BY JORDANNA GARLAND
Managing Arts and Culture Editor




This Saturday, students and faculty will have the opportunity to experience various sounds of nature in an immersive performance from New Music Delaware, the university’s faculty ensemble. 

The group will be performing a piece entitled “Ten Thousand Birds,” originally written and composed by John Luther Adams. This free performance, taking place on the Center for the Arts green at 5:30 p.m., will include performers moving about the space and interacting with the audience to provide a unique, one-of-a-kind experience. 

For more than 75 years, New Music Delaware has featured performances with pieces written by up-and-coming and world-renowned composers alike. Although New Music Delaware is a faculty ensemble, students from the School of Music and two non-university musicians will be performing in the event as well. 

First commissioned by the professional ensemble Alarm Will Sound, the hour-long performance of “Ten Thousand Birds” was chosen to be presented to the university by Assistant Professor of Jazz and Alarm Will Sound member, Miles Brown, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The performance was postponed for a few years due to the fluctuation of COVID-19 regulations and restrictions on audience sizes. 

Brown, eager to be playing the string-bass in the performance, explained that there will be sounds from wildlife such as the American bullfrog, red-winged blackbird and blue jays in the performance. 

“The piece, when it was originally sent to us, was just a bunch of bird calls, notated in music,” Brown said. “And the artistic director and conductor of Alarm Will Sound, a man named Alan Pierson, took these things and created an hour-long work that explores the sounds throughout a 24-hour period of the day.” 

The performance cycles the audience through an entire day, shifting from morning to afternoon and evening to night, eventually returning back to the morning. The idea to make the production interactive came from Pierson.

Performing non-traditional compositions is not new for Alarm Will Sound. In their performances, the musicians typically incorporate elements like video, text and movement to extend their approach outside of music itself. 

According to Alarm Will Sound’s website, “Since our earliest days playing together at the Eastman School of Music, we have collaborated with composers, designers, writers, choreographers, videographers — a wide range of compelling experimental artists — in pursuit of undiscovered artistic territory…In every performance, we explore, challenge and reshape familiar musical conventions to create arresting experiences.”

In addition to playing string-bass for the concert, Brown also staged the immersive performance so that the performers know when and where they can enter and when they can walk off into the audience, who are likewise encouraged to engage with the musicians. 

“There are very few concerts that are performed like this,” Brown said. “It’s not just a sit down and listen kind of experience. The audience members can move around, they can interact with the performers, they can basically be part of the piece itself.”

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