As the composer John Luther Adams once said of his work in an interview, “It began with birds.” The earliest piece in what Mr. Adams calls his active catalog is “songbirdsongs,” written from 1974 to 1980. In nine movements lasting just under an hour it places the listener in the middle of the natural world, the controlled chaos of birds, water and wind.
Mr. Adams’s music — much of it inspired by the landscape of Alaska, where he has lived since the 1970s — has been programmed with increasing frequency in New York, including not one but two performances of his monumental percussion work “Inuksuit” this year. But it seems that “songbirdsongs” had never been performed in the city before Saturday afternoon, when the young ensemble Le Train Bleu, formed by the conductor and flutist Ransom Wilson, played it in an expanded version for six piccolo players and five percussionists at Galapagos Art Space.
With the players arranged throughout the hall, it was a strange, thrilling immersive experience. There isn’t a clear narrative to the piece, but there are scenes that sound somehow familiar: a nocturnal episode in which the sharp, bright birdcalls mellow into owl hoots; a terrifying scherzo that could be a storm or a hunt; a shimmering finale sunrise (or sunset).
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