Ten Thousand Birds // A musical artwork from the UNSW New Music Collective

painting of two birds on an abstract background




We recommend listening to this with headphones for the full, nuanced and layered experience. Enjoy! 


20 birds, 3 frogs and 14 musicians at home with their phones.

Join us at sunset on ​an ordinary Tuesday in this extraordinary time as the UNSW’s New Music Collective brings the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams' Ten Thousand Birds into vivid, warbling, chirping, mesmerising, bustling and iridescent life. 

Working from the isolation of their homes, the collective transforms this immersive, luminescent piece, based on musical transcription of bird-song, into an hour-long music artwork. Divided into 6 movements, they'll take you on an audio-visual adventure that spans the full cycle of the sun, from Morning to Midday, Afternoon, Evening, Night and second Morning. Listen out for the chirping of the white-throated sparrow in the Morning, the woodpeckers' cacophonous chorus in the Afternoon, the mysterious and eerie owls calling in the Night, and the resplendent red-winged blackbirds announcing the new day when the Morning light returns again.

Featuring some of UNSW's most talented, imaginative and adventurous musicians, this music video will bring together the sights and sounds of this experience, at a time when many of us yearn for communion with the natural world.  

Ten Thousand Birds has only been performed in Australia once before, and is typically performed in large open spaces with the audience able to wander among the performers, who themselves are improvising their sequence of bird-calls in response to each other. No two performances are ever the same.

While working from home, the collective have taken on the challenge of capturing the energy, connectivity and spontaneity of this work in a digital performance space. 

The currently evolving visuals are themselves part of the experiment with the performers each crafting vignettes as part of their own musical realisation of the score.

To connect with this experiment we invite you to tune in to the live launch of the video, scheduled so you can watch ​and listen while surrounded by the changing light of the setting sun. UNSW New Music Collective director and internationally-acclaimed pianist Dr. Sonya Lifschitz will host the evening live. As the six movements of Ten Thousand Birds unfold Sonya will share insights and anecdotes about the work, the composer and the creative process, along with excerpts of the score and student artwork made in response to this piece.

Register for this event to receive a reminder and click the ‘WATCH LIVE’ link at 5pm ​on Tuesday 19 May.

We look forward to sharing this experience with you then.

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New Music Collective 

Sonya Lifschitz // Piano/Artistic Director
Adina Hertz // Voice
Alistair Johnston // Tenor Saxophone
Ben Curry-Hyde // Clarinet/Bass Clarinet/Creative Associate
Bryony Pyke // Trombone/Artwork
Cassandra Ly // Creative Associate
Emma Korell // Alto Saxaphone/Soprano Saxaphone
Gabrielle Goodman // Clarinet/Creative Associate
Jenni Murphy // Voice, Woodblock
John Napier // Cello
Kit Spencer // Voice/Creative Associate
Luke Gerber // Electric Guitar/Electric Bass/Glockenspiel/Co-producer
Megan Amos // Flute/Piccolo
Melanie Jha // Voice
Tom Ford // Double Bass

Mark Mitchell // Video Editing
Simon Trevaks // Video Editing 

Produced by the UNSW Creative Practice Lab with the Technical Resource Centre

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Tips to help you have the best viewing experience.

15 - 30 minutes before showtime: 

  1. Ensure you have a steady internet connection to enjoy uninterrupted viewing. To check your internet speed, watch our new video on YouTube. If it plays smoothly, you should be good to go! 
  2. Check your speakers or headphones are working and set to a good level. This is a musical work and we want you to experience it fully. Play a song to test it’s all working!
  3. If at any time your stream drops out, or is jumpy, wait a few seconds and refresh your browser. You can always pause or rewind the broadcast. You can also fast-forward, but only up until the live moment (no time travelling sorry!). 
  4. Let a friend know about the stream so you can chat about it after. 
  5. Grab a drink of your choice and settle in!
  6. Click the ‘WATCH LIVE’ link above. If you have the Microsoft Teams application you can watch using that, otherwise select ‘Watch on the Web instead’. 
  7. Feel free to comment or ask questions in the Q&A panel at any time. The Q&A panel can be opened by clicking the icon in the top right of your window. 

Note: Live stream starts 10 minutes prior to scheduled start time so you have time to set up.

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Image: Birds painted by New Music Collective member Bryony Pyke 

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