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Features

Alarm Will Sound presents Modernists


Terror is often the first response to unfamiliarity, and some of the boldest forays into the unfamiliar have launched under the banner of Modernism. Listening to new sounds can be akin to watching a horror movie—with ears covered rather than eyes—but given time, what was once disturbing can become intriguing.

Alarm Will Sound ventures into the outer reaches of propriety on Modernists. The album is bookended by tributes to two masterworks of modern recorded sound that have been arranged for the ensemble: “Revolution 9” by The Beatles (arranged by Matt Marks) and “Poème électronique” by Edgard Varèse (arranged by Evan Hause). Each piece is strange and otherworldly in its own way, with a provocative history of upsetting as many, if not more, listeners than they have won over.

The 23-piece band led by Alan Pierson, AWS Artistic Director, also performs work written for the ensemble by Wolfgang Rihm, Charles Wuorinen, AWS pianist John Orfe, and Augusta Read Thomas (whose “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour” features vocal performances by Kirsten Sollek and Caleb Burhans).

As the Denver Post has noted, “Alarm Will Sound has grabbed the future of classical music and made it now—merging styles, erasing boundaries, championing experimentation and obviously having fun along the way.” This joyful and adventurous spirit fuels the beating heart of the Modernists album.

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Featured Recording

Liza White’s Step!

This is our world premiere performance at the Mizzou International Composers Festival in 2011.

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Member Spotlight

Caleb Burhans

Caleb Burhans

Caleb almost went to Indiana University for college but he decided on Eastman partly because he didn’t like that IU had the highest-paid basketball coach in the country. His life could have turned out pretty differently if Bobby Knight made a little less money back in the late 90s. But Eastman it was.

As a 17-year old, Caleb had a thing for Ligeti’s music so he emailed Alan before he got to Eastman to ask for an audition with Ossia to play on their Ligeti concert. He was late to the first rehearsal because he was getting his nose pierced, but he soon became a regular. Just before graduating, he terrified his conservative grandmother by telling her he wanted to move to NYC to live paycheck to paycheck as a freelance musician. Now he’s doing exactly that (although maybe not living quite paycheck to paycheck) as a freelance violinist, violist, countertenor, composer, and improviser.

Caleb started singing in a boys’ choir at age 9 then quickly picked up several instruments. At 10, he wrote his first piano piece in C major. The only early composition he’ll live up to now is a piece for 2 violins that he wrote on his first day back to school as a high school sophomore called What a Shame. It was quite a shame that summer was over.

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