Alarm Will Sound launches Alarm System, a program to expand the circle of musical artists from a variety of backgrounds creating great music for the ensemble. In the first year of the program, Alarm Will Sound is collaborating with Medeski Martin and Wood, Valgeir Sigurđson, and Adult Fur. These artists represent diverse musical styles and creative methods, ranging from experimental jazz to electronica, studio production to funk jams, and algorithmic composition to open improvisation. Chris Thompson, a performer/composer in Alarm Will Sound says, “It's exciting to imagine what these artists will create for Alarm Will Sound without the restriction that their work start its life as a traditional printed score and parts. Instead, the first step will be bringing the ensemble to the artist’s music-making method, whatever that may be.” The works from this season's collaborations will be premiered in Colorado in February and St Louis in May.
Internationally acclaimed soprano Rachel Calloway and Irish folk legend Iarla Ó Lionáird will be the special guest artists when Alarm Will Sound presents the world premiere of Donnacha Dennehy's The Hunger at 8:00 p.m., Thursday, December 11 at the Sheldon Concert Hall. The production also includes video of present-day thinkers Noam Chomsky and Paul Krugman who consider the effects of governance and economics that led to the famine and their implications for inequality in our own time.
The Hunger takes as a starting point diaries and personal accounts of the Great Famine in Ireland. This was a time of major upheaval, the historical significance of which is well accounted for. Less well developed are accounts of those who directly witnessed and suffered through it. At the heart of The Hunger are personal, contemporaneous stories that open a new dimension on the tragedy.
The opera also addresses the complex issues of governance and economic policy by complementing these personal, historical voices with video interviews with contemporary economists and political philosophers. The opera is therefore not merely historical, but addresses current socioeconomic problems laid bare in our recent global economic crisis.
Nonesuch releases Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Steve Reich’s album Radio Rewrite on September 30, 2014 (in the UK, October 6). Co-commissioned for and recorded by Alarm Will Sound, the title piece references two songs by the English band Radiohead. Alan Pierson conducts this premiere recording of Radio Rewrite, which was composed in 2012. The album also includes recordings of Electric Counterpoint (1987) and Piano Counterpoint, which is a 2011 transcription by Vincent Corver of Reich’s 1973 Six Pianos; the works are performed, respectively, by Radiohead’s guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, and pianist Vicky Chow, who is a member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Radio Rewrite is available to pre-order now in the Nonesuch Store.
Reich says of his new piece: “Over the years composers have used pre-existing music (folk or classical) as material for new pieces of their own. Radio Rewrite, along with Proverb (Perotin) and Finishing the Hat—Two Pianos (Sondheim), is my modest contribution to this genre.” He continues, “Now, in the early 21st century, we live in an age of remixes where musicians take audio samples of other music and remix them into audio of their own. Being a composer who works with musical notation I chose to reference two songs from the rock group Radiohead for an ensemble of musicians playing non-rock instruments: ‘Everything in Its Right Place’ and ‘Jigsaw Falling into Place.’”
Reich and Greenwood met in Krakow in 2010 during a festival of Reich’s music, where Greenwood gave a performance of Electric Counterpoint that its composer liked very much. (Greenwood has since performed it many more times, including during a London tribute to Nonesuch’s 50th anniversary at the Barbican Centre.) Reich says, “When I returned home I made it a point to go online and listen to Radiohead’s music and the two songs mentioned above stuck in my head. It was not my intention to make anything like ‘variations’ on these songs, but rather to draw on their harmonies and sometimes melodic fragments and work them into my own piece. As to actually hearing the original songs, the truth is—sometimes you hear them and sometimes you don’t.”
Electric Counterpoint was commissioned by BAM for guitarist Pat Metheny. It is the third in a series of pieces (first Vermont Counterpoint in 1982 for flutist Ransom Wilson followed by New York Counterpoint in 1985 for clarinetist Richard Stolzman) with a soloist playing against a pre-recorded tape of themselves. In Electric Counterpoint the soloist pre-records as many as ten guitars and two electric bass parts and then plays the final eleventh guitar part live against the tape.
Reich says Piano Counterpoint “is an arrangement of Six Pianos in which four of the six piano parts are pre-recorded and the last two are combined into a more virtuosic single part played live. For these last two parts to be played by a single pianist it was necessary to move some of the melodic patterns up an octave giving the piece an increased sparkle and intensity. The amplification of the live player along with the pre-recorded playback adds additional electricity. Combined with the practicality of needing only a solo pianist, this arrangement can be heard as improving on the original.”
Alarm Will Sound is excited to announce just some of the highlights from its upcoming 2014-2015 season!
Two nights of "Nonesuch Records at BAM." In celebration of 50 years of Nonesuch Records's commitment to outstanding, unique artists, AWS will perform an evening of the music of Steve Reich including Radio Rewrite and an evening of the music of John Adams including his seminal Chamber Symphony.
St. Louis Season. For the third year, Alarm Will Sound will present multiple exciting and adventurous concerts in St. Louis including a performance to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the city, the concert world premiere of The Hunger by Donnacha Dennehy, and another collaboration with the students and faculty at the Community Music School of Webster University.
Sacrum+Profanum in Krakow, Poland. Alarm Will Sound will return to Krakow to present a concert of the music of Steve Reich at this incredible festival.
Medeski, Martin and Wood with Alarm Will Sound in Colorado. AWS and MMW will present an evening of daring collaboration and thrilling improvisation in Denver and Boulder.
World premiere of Mind Out Of Matter by Scott Johnson at Peak Performances at Montclair State University. This is a major new evening-length work pairing the sampled voice of philosopher and Darwinian Daniel Dennett with Scott Johnson's music.
If you are moved by adventurous new sounds please take a second to donate to help us continue our mission to play music for the contemporary world.
These are just a few of the exciting projects to look for next season. Keep and eye and ear out for even more!
We have been playing the music of Derek Bermel for several years, returning to it time and again because its eclectic influences are rich and varied. Canzonas Americanas, released on Cantaloupe Music, brings the stylistic variety of his work together in one album, capturing the many musical traditions of North and South America that are part of Derek's—and our—world.
“Derek Bermel synthesizes the diverse musical languages of his time into a unique, thoroughly individual American voice that is tuneful and rich, engaging and sophisticated,” says Alan Pierson, our Artistic Director. “Canzonas Americanas establishes Derek as a composer firmly in an American tradition like Copland, Ives, Gershwin, and Ellington before him.”
We are joined by the remarkable Luciana Souza whose voice evokes a Latin dreamscape in the last movement of the title track. Timothy Jones performs the song collection Natural Selection with theatricality. And Kiera Duffy adds her soprano to the arresting At the End of the World.
When Alarm Will Sound started playing together way back in 2001, the classical music world looked a lot different than it does today. News then was all about how orchestras were failing and how classical music was no longer relevant to today’s world. Now fourteen seasons later, we are thankful to see an increasingly vital and active new music community springing up all across the country. The audience has spoken, and they demand new music created and performed by the musicians of our time!
We’d like to think that we had something to do with that—and we know that our audience certainly did! We are asking for your help to continue building the community of new music. Your donation will help us bring our unique brand of high energy performances to audiences around the world.
Your support also helps Alarm Will Sound to develop new initiatives that engage new audiences. For example, this year we will launch Alarm System which fosters long-term musical collaborations between our musicians and artists from other traditions like jazz and electronic music, and Music Today which enables ongoing mentoring relationships with pre-college music students at the Community Music School in St. Louis.
We would like to show our appreciation for your gift of $150 or more by sharing with you our latest recording, Steve Reich's Radio Rewrite. With you gift $60 or more we will send you your choice of an Alarm Will Sound T-Shirt. Your tax-deductible donation will go to work immediately to support Alarm Will Sound’s many musical and educational activities.
Thank you for being a fan, attending our shows, and supporting the new music community through your contribution. We look forward to seeing you again soon!
This is an excerpt of our world premiere performance.
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Beth met the other members of what would become Alarm Will Sound while pursuing her Master’s degree in clarinet and music education at Eastman. She fondly remembers her first concert with the new music ensemble, Ossia, as Alan conducted Ian Quinn’s Passacaglia.
After graduating from Eastman, Beth won an orchestral job in Texas, but found the experience to be about as fulfilling as a regular office job. She jumped at the opportunity to rejoin fellow Alarm Will Sound musicians when they began their residency at Dickinson College in the small town of Carlisle, PA. She lived with other Alarm Will Sound members in a farmhouse during the three-year residency which they liken to being on a reality television show. Beth was lucky enough to remain on the ‘show’ for all three seasons and has remained in PA. She now teaches at Dickinson College, Harrisburg University, Messiah College and Kutztown University while maintaining an active freelance career.
Beth’s involvement in Alarm Will Sound is one of the highlights of her career. It is more than just an ensemble, she says, it’s a new way of approaching music. She also enjoys the sharing of knowledge that happens with the ensemble gets together as it greatly influences her teaching and overall musicianship.
Read articles by our members, get behind-the-scenes reports about our projects, and share your thoughts at Alarmists, our blog.