Alarm Will Sound will perform Ligeti at the Sheldon Concert Hall on February 12th at 8pm and the Missouri Theatre on February 13th at 8pm.
György Ligeti’s music is filled with drama because his life was dramatic. By mere luck, he narrowly escaped Nazi extermination in a Jewish labor camp. Even liberation of Hungary by the Soviets eventually turned into another oppression he had to flee. Trapped by geopolitics, he was continually haunted by visions of webs, of malfunctioning, menacing machines, of confined spaces, while he yearned for freedom, expression, and the open spaces of a creative life.
His work embodies these dreams and nightmares. Melodies intertwine to form dense webs, conflicting rhythms tick like a roomful of clocks gone awry, and the tiny spaces between notes are packed with charged activity. Ligeti fit these musical ideas into experimental sounds, shapes and forms that made him one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century.
Alarm Will Sound’s production will tell Ligeti’s story through a blend of music, text and imagery. Centered on his Chamber Concerto and Piano Concerto, the performance will make the connection between biography and music, explore the relationship of politics and art, and shed light on a unique artistic imagination.
The production will feature John Orfe as soloist in the Piano Concerto. Ghost Ice (a.k.a. Jeremy Kannapell), an experimental electronic artist from St. Louis, will create a sound installation that opens the show.
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.”
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This is our world premiere performance at the Mizzou International Composers Festival in 2012.
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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.
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