News & Events

Contemporary History: Traditional Irish Singing Meets Contemporary Irish Music

Internationally acclaimed soprano Dawn Upshaw and Iarla Ó Lionáird, known as a member of the Irish music “supergroup” The Gloaming and for his own project Afro Celt Sound System, will be the special guest artists when Alarm Will Sound presents the world premiere of the full score of Donnacha Dennehy's The Hunger at 8:00 p.m., Thursday, December 11 at the Sheldon Concert Hall.

The Hunger is based on diaries and personal accounts of those who directly witnessed and suffered through the Great Famine in Ireland. Parts of the work have been played previously by AWS at The Sheldon and at the Mizzou International Composers Festival, but the December 11 concert will be the first time The Hunger will be performed in its entirety. The production also includes video of present­ day thinkers like 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.

Known for a diverse repertoire that ranges from Baroque and opera to contemporary works composed specifically for her, Upshaw has received five Grammy Awards and in 2007 was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (the so­called "genius grant"). Described as "a generative force in concert music," she has premiered more than 25 new works in the past decade, collaborating closely with composers and musicians such as Gilbert Kalish, the Kronos Quartet, James Levine, and Esa ­Pekka Salonen. Ó Lionáird’s recordings as a solo artist and with The Gloaming and Afro Celt Sound System have sold millions of copies worldwide, and he is considered one of the leading practitioners of the Irish singing tradition known as Sean nós (”old style”). He has collaborated previously with Donnacha Dennehy and the Irish new music group Crash Ensemble on a new work entitled Grá agus Bás, which he premiered in 2007 and subsequently presented on a world tour and a recording for the Nonesuch label. Dennehy, a native of Dublin and a co­founder of Crash Ensemble, is a professor of Composition at Princeton University, and is considered one of the leading contemporary composers in Ireland. He previously visited in Missouri in 2012, serving as a guest composer for the Mizzou International Composers Festival in Columbia.

Tickets for Alarm Will Sound's performance of The Hunger are $35 for orchestra seating, $30 for the balcony, and are on sale now through at 314-­534-­1111 or at TheSheldon.org.

Features

Our Newest Album: Radio Rewrite

Radio Rewrite artwork

From the Nonesuch Records website:

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.”

Highlights from our 2014-2015 Season

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!

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.

Featured Recording

Yotam Haber’s We Were All

This is our world premiere performance at the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival in 2011.

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Member Spotlight

Matt Marks

Matt Marks

Matt Marks spends his time playing horn in AWS and other new music ensembles; composing operatic and chamber works for vocalists, instruments and electronics; arranging and performing music for preschool-aged kids; obsessively watching an endless list of cult films; walking his goldendoodle Lucy around Brooklyn; loving the cold weather; and consuming lots of whiskey, beer, and red wine.

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