From the July 25, 2016 performance at the Cleveland Museum of Art. "Ten Thousand Birds" is based on the songs of birds that are native to, or migrate through the area in which the piece is performed. 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.”
Alarm Will Sound's interpretation, designed by Alan Pierson, of "Ten Thousand Birds" follows the cycle of a day, starting with bird songs heard in the morning, then afternoon, evening, night, and return to morning.