Penn Live Arts 21/22 Season Opening Reflects on the Environment

September 17, 2021

Penn Live Arts opens its 2021-22 season with Alarm Will Sound’s outdoor performance of John Luther Adams’ Ten Thousand Birds, a Philadelphia premiere, at the Morris Arboretum on September 25. The performance, which explores the connections between nature and music, will be preceded by On the Environment, the season’s film series kickoff of two feature and two short films that address climate change from a variety of perspectives.

“We’re thrilled to kick off our first season as Penn Live Arts, in collaboration with our terrific partner Morris Arboretum,” said Penn Live Arts Executive and Artistic Director Christopher Gruits. “This timely environmental focus through the lens of film and music is just the beginning of an amazing year—a new identity that will take us beyond the walls of the Annenberg Center, the return of live audiences, welcoming back incredible artists, and the official beginning of a two-year celebration of the Annenberg Center’s 50th anniversary. We can’t wait to take the first step into this exciting new chapter.”

Alarm Will Sound and Ten Thousand Birds

The “unusually versatile, reliably exhilarating new-music ensemble” (The New York Times) Alarm Will Sound makes its Penn Live Arts debut, returning to Philadelphia after a 12-year hiatus with the local premiere of Ten Thousand Birds by Pulitzer Prize and Grammy® Award-winning composer John Luther Adams. This experiential, open-ended collection of pieces is based on native birdsong, encompassing a range of colors and instrumentation and newly informed by actual migration patterns tracked at the Morris Arboretum. The audience roves freely around the space and the performers, experiencing the music from many perspectives as human creativity and natural phenomena blur.

There will be two performances of Ten Thousand Birds Saturday, September 25, at 1 PM and at 4 PM, at Bloomfield Farm at Morris Arboretum, 100 Northwestern Avenue. Rain date: Sunday, September 26, at 1 PM and 4 PM. For more information and to purchase tickets please visit

Alarm Will Sound is “one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene” (The New York Times). A 20-member band committed to innovative performances and recordings of today’s music, it has established a reputation for performing demanding music with energetic virtuosity. With classical skill and unlimited curiosity, Alarm Will Sound takes on music from a wide variety of styles. “Stylistically omnivorous and physically versatile” (The Log Journal), its repertoire comes from around the world, and ranges from the arch-modernist to the pop-influenced. Since its inception, Alarm Will Sound has been associated with composers at the forefront of contemporary music. The group itself includes many composer-performers, which allows for an unusual degree of insight into the creation and performance of new works. 

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. In 2013-14, Alarm Will Sound served as artists-in-residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Alarm Will Sound may be heard on fourteen recordings including its most recent, The Hunger, and the premiere recording of Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite. Acoustica, its genre-bending, critically acclaimed album, features live-performance arrangements of music by electronica guru Aphex Twin.

On the Environment

Landfall (2020) examines what happens when recovery efforts and global capitalism collide in Puerto Rico while Titixe (2018) shows the deep links between the loss of a beloved family member, the loss of cultural tradition, and consequently, the deterioration of an agricultural environment. Two short films, The Lake and The Lake (2019) and When the Lionfish Came (2015), highlight the impact of the obliteration of cultural and environmental resources. These short films are available free only with purchase of an On the Environment feature film.

The Penn Live Arts film series is created in consultation with Curator-at-Large for Film, Maori Karmael Holmes, Artistic Director and CEO of BlackStar Projects, who notes “On the Environment features work responding to the pressing concern of the impact of climate change and shifting political alliances on our environment. Connecting these films to the multi-genre programming curated by Penn Live Arts gives us the opportunity to more clearly highlight the impact of the obliteration of cultural and environmental resources.”

All film showings will be virtual. The viewing window will be September 16-26. Access information will be provided in advance. Visit Penn Live Arts’ FAQs page for additional details. For more information and to purchase access please visit

Maori Karmael Holmes is a curator, filmmaker and writer. She founded BlackStar in 2012 and serves as its Artistic Director and CEO. She has organized programs in film at a myriad of organizations including Anthology Film Archives, Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), The Underground Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. As a director, her works have screened internationally including her feature documentary Scene Not Heard: Women in Philadelphia Hip-Hop (2006). She has also directed and produced works for, Visit Philadelphia, and singer-songwriter India.Arie. Her writing has recently appeared in The Believer, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, and How We Fight White Supremacy: A Field Guide to Black Resistance. Maori received her MFA in film & media arts from Temple University and her BA in history from American University. She currently serves on the board of American Documentary (POV), the advisory boards of Ulises, Vidiots, and Lightbox Film Center. Maori is a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow and serves as Mediamaker-in-Residence at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, Curator-at-Large at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and a Creative Executive with Blackbird.