News & Events

(post)folk: Histories in Contemporary Music

We return to Carnegie's Zankel Hall on April 27 to perform collected stores:(post)folk. The concert is one in a series curated by David Lang. (post)folk focuses on music with "imagined folk backgrounds," in other words, music that sounds like it's old but isn't necessarily.

On the concert is Grá agus Bás by Donnacha Dennehy a piece that we will perform with the traditional Irish singer Iarla O'Lionárd. The piece is inspired by a number of sean-nós songs (sean-nós is a type of unaccompanied Irish vocal music; translated as the “old style” or “old tradition,” it is transmitted from generation to generation orally.) The work explores themes of love and death in a non-narrative form. While it has elements of folk it is actually a contemporary work of the composer's imagination.

Also on the program is the US premiere of No. 42 "In the Alps" by Richard Ayres. For this piece the composer created his own folk story based on a girl growing up in Alps. Ayres describes the work, subtitled “an animated concert,” as a melodrama in three acts, “separated by interludes describing how three animals experience time passing in relation to a musical tempo.” Ayres continues:

"[No. 42 (In the Alps)] combines many of the subjects that fascinate me: the relationship of text narrative and musical narrative, the history of opera, early cinema, the theatrical practices of the nineteenth century, along with the folk and popular music of the Alpine region… Like any self respecting melodrama the text and music combine to depict or imply a wide ranging theatrical adventure, in this piece starting at the Creation (or the big bang), a lonely existence, scenes of rustic village life, some carpentry, many mountain goats, unrequited love, and ending in a quest destined to fail."

We will be joined once again by Kiera Duffy for this monumental piece. Kiera is featured on our album Canzonas Americanas.

We also have the great fortune of having two new works written specifically for this concert. One is by Kate Moore, an Australian composer living in the Netherlands. Kate has had works performed by some of the most esteemed new music ensembles in the world. The other new composition is by Kaki King, American guitarist and composer. She is known for her use of extended techniques on the guitar and she'll join us on this new piece.

It's sure to be an incredible time. Get your tickets now!

Back to St Louis, This Time a New Venue

On April 1, Alarm Will Sound returns to St. Louis to perform music of Aphex Twin, Steve Reich, Tyondai Braxton and John Orfe at The Pageant, the area's premiere mid-size venue. Typically home to pop bands on tour, we are bringing the new music we play to a venue that is new to us. It's also an opportunity to reach a new audience who already appreciates the depth and complexity of Aphex Twin's electronica, or who knows Tyondai's work through the Battles, but who may not know the connections between contemporary classical music and EDM and indie rock.

The music of Aphex Twin shows that dance music doesn't have to be the typical "four on the floor" composition; rather, it is as sonically and rhythmically complex as anything we play. Steve Reich's Radio Rewrite also recognizes that imagination and creativity cross the conventional borders of genre by reworking the music of Radiohead. Tyondai's Fly By Wire uses synthesized and acoustic sounds to create a work straight out of our modern, machine-driven world. John Orfe's Dowland Remix brings Renaissance composer John Dowland's melancholy "Flow My Tears" into a present-day context of the dance music genre. Inventive musical thinking spans every style and we aim to prove that at The Pageant.

This performance is the third in our St. Louis Season this year. We return after a successful collaboration with Brooklyn-based dance company, Dance Heginbotham at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where we converted an iconic sculpture gallery into a performance space. Our show at The Pageant is another step in bringing the music we play to unexpected places. This is a mission of ours everywhere, but particularly in St. Louis where we want to tap the dynamic and rich musical expression of contemporary life.

New Music USA Grant for "The Hunger"

We are thrilled to announce that we have been awarded a grant from New Music USA for “The Hunger”, a new opera by Donnacha Dennehy for Alarm Will Sound, Dawn Upshaw and Iarla O’Liónard. The work is based on diaries and personal accounts from the period of the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-52). A departure from the conventions of the orchestra pit, the work will integrate the players into the action and storytelling on stage.

The Great Famine was a time of major upheaval—at least one million people died, and another million emigrated—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 Dennehy's "The Hunger" are personal, contemporaneous stories that open a new dimension on the tragedy of the famine.

The principal text will be Asenath Nicholson's astonishing "Annals of the Famine in Ireland" that recounts in vivid detail the unfolding famine she directly experienced. Nicholson was a formidable and unique character. Born in Vermont in 1792, she founded a boarding house in the 1830s for the poor and homeless in New York City. There she noticed that the most desperate came from Ireland.

Eager to discover why, she left New York for Ireland to see for herself. She traveled the country, often on foot, to observe first-hand the devastating effects of the famine. Nicholson’s account is extraordinary because of her transgressive sympathy; she directly quotes from the peasants, and actually stayed in their cabins, something that no other commentator did.

Dotted throughout the opera will be actual recordings of ordinary people singing traditional Irish songs contrasting with personal accounts of contemporary economists addressing the complexity of governance vs. laissez-faire economic policy in the context of a situation where this ideological battle results in catastrophic results.

"The Hunger" will take advantage of Alarm Will Sound's uniquely extended performance skills and visionary collaborators to create an unconventional operatic experience. It promises to find an audience looking for adventurous and meaningful artistic experience on a topic rich with meaning.

Features

Our newest album: music of Derek Bermel

Bermel artwork

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.

Who We Are

Alarm Will Sound is a twenty-member group dedicated to the creation, performance, and recording of today's most innovative music.

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Featured Recording

Francisco Cortés-Álvarez’s Laundry Revolution

This is our world premiere performance at the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival in 2010.

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Member Spotlight

Jason Varvaro

Jason Varvaro

Jason broke his ankle a few weeks before entering middle school and was forced to make his first life-altering decision… Basketball or music? 20 years later, he still involved in the music industry and the Boston Celtics are patiently waiting for him to change his mind while he’s still in his prime.

His journey took him to Boston-Karlsruhe-Boston-Santa Barbara, before he finally settled to live in Montreal with his wife Jennifer, son Rémi and my daughter Naela, where the winters are (really!) long and cold, but he loves the smell of burning firewood coming from the chimneys.

In his free time, he plays Footbag and Freestyle Frisbee and is always looking to Spread the Jam! He loves fresh produce, especially mangoes. Dot, Hatcher and Kent are among his current favorites.

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