Composers Festival Spotlight: Alarm Will Sound

Continuing with our series of posts focusing on various participants in the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival, today we catch up with the latest from Alarm Will Sound.

As the resident ensemble for the Festival since it began in 2010, AWS plays a crucial role in bringing to life the new works created by the resident composers. Not many groups would be willing or able to take on the challenge of premiering eight new pieces in one night with limited rehearsal time, but Alarm Will Sound has accomplished the task each year of the MICF with consummate skill and flair.

Former in 2001 by former students at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, Alarm Will Sound (pictured) is a 20-member ensemble “dedicated to the creation, performance, and recording of today’s music. It is an advocate for innovative work by established and emerging composers, especially works that incorporate theatrical and multimedia elements by choreographers, visual artists, designers, and directors. It fosters the education and professional development of young musicians through residencies, master classes, readings and workshops. With the goal of cultivating a diverse and sophisticated audience, the ensemble brings intelligence and a sense of adventure to the rich variety of musical expression in the contemporary world.” You can read a detailed history of the group here.

Alarm Will Sound’s connection to the University of Missouri School of Music began with Stefan Freund, associate professor of composition and music theory at Mizzou who’s also the cellist for AWS. In addition to serving as the resident ensemble for the Mizzou International Composers Festival since its inception, AWS maintains an active schedule of touring and recording throughout the year.

Earlier this year, they presented the American premiere of Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite in a concert at Stanford University, as well as a program of Reich’s music at the Guggenheim in New York City. Their performance at Carnegie Hall in April featured a program of works written specifically for AWS, including the world premiere of Tyondai Braxton’s Fly By Wire. (You can see a couple of videos related to the Reich premiere, and a conversation between Braxton and AWS’ Michael Clayville, in the embedded windows at the bottom of this post.)

Other recent NYC gigs have included a show for the fifth anniversary of Le Poisson Rouge, playing the music of violinist and guitarist Caleb Burhans; and a set at the annual Bang On A Can new music marathon.

AWS also spent time this past year strengthening their ties to the state of Missouri by presenting a three-concert season in St. Louis, with two performances at the Sheldon Concert Hall and a revival of their multi-media production 1969 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

Before the St. Louis performance, AWS took 1969 to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, the alma mater of a number of its members. (You’ll find a video made in conjunction with that concert at Eastman, plus a soundcheck rendition of the Jimi Hendrix version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” featured in the show, below.)

And if all that weren’t enough, AWS also found time in 2013 to release Canzonas Americanas, an album of music by former MICF guest composer Derek Bermel that has received an enthusiastic reception from critics.

Plans for another St. Louis season in 2013-14 already are well underway, with concerts scheduled in October and February at The Sheldon and more to be announced. In another important “first” for the group, AWS also will serve next year as artists-in-residence for 2013-14 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

At the MICF, in addition to premiering eight new pieces at the Festival’s grand finale on Saturday, July 27, Alarm Will Sound will perform a completely different program on Thursday, July 25 at the Missouri Theatre.

That concert will feature Living Toys by Thomas Ades and Stefan Freund’s electronica-inspired Unremixed, as well as works written specifically for Alarm Will Sound by 2013 MICF guest composers Augusta Read Thomas and Daniel Kellogg.

For the latest from Alarm Will Sound, you can follow them on Twitter and/or “Like” them on Facebook.

You also can hear most of the music Alarm Will Sound has premiered at past Mizzou International Composers Festivals via SoundCloud. Audio files from 2010 are here; the tracks from 2011 are here; and 2012’s files are here.

Alarm Will Sound performs Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite, March 16, 2013 at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall.

Alarm Will Sound at Stanford – Steve Reich and Alan Pierson in Conversation

Tyondai Braxton and Michael Clayville discuss “Fly by Wire”

1969 at Eastman School of Music

Miles Brown and Payton MacDonald perform “The Star Spangled Banner” during a dress rehearsal for 1969 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

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