Spotlight on Alarm Will Sound

The inaugural Mizzou New Music Summer Festival is fortunate to have Alarm Will Sound (pictured) as our resident ensemble.

They’ll kick off the festival with a concert at the Missouri Theater and Center for the Arts on Monday, July 12, and will work with our eight emerging composers throughout the week, culminating in the world premiere of their new works at the concluding concert on Sunday, July 18.

Their performances have been described as “equal parts exuberance, nonchalance, and virtuosity” by the London Financial Times and as “a triumph of ensemble playing” by the San Francisco Chronicle.  The New York Times says Alarm Will Sound is “the future of classical music” and “the very model of a modern music chamber band,” and ASCAP recognized their contributions to new music with a 2006 Concert Music Award for “the virtuosity, passion and commitment with which they perform and champion the repertory for the 21st century.”

Alarm Will Sound’s repertoire includes European and American works “from the arch-modernist to the pop-influenced.”  They work closely with contemporary composers, which makes them especially well suited for their role working with emerging composers at the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival.

The group has commissioned and premiered pieces by Steve Reich, David Lang, Anthony Gatto, Cenk Ergün, Aaron Jay Kernis, Michael Gordon, Augusta Read Thomas, Stefan Freund, Wolfgang Rihm, Payton MacDonald, John Orfe, Gavin Chuck, Dennis DeSantis and Caleb Burhans.

Alarm Will Sound can be heard on four recordings, including Acoustica, which features live-performance arrangements of music by electronica guru Aphex Twin; Reich at the Roxy, a surround-sound DVD/CD recording of a live concert of music by Steve Reich performed in the famed New York nightclub; and their most recent release, 2009’s a/rhythmia. You can hear samples from those recordings here.

The 20 members of Alarm Will Sound began playing together while studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York,  combining their diverse experience in composition, improvisation, jazz and popular styles, early music, and world musics.

Their connection to the University of Missouri is cellist and composer Stefan Freund (pictured), who serves as Associate Professor, Composition & Music Theory and as a faculty member for the Mizzou New Music Initiative.

The other members of Alarm Will Sound are Miles Brown (bass),  Caleb Burhans (violin, viola, voice, electric guitar, composer),  Gavin Chuck (managing director, composer), Michael Clayville (trombone), Michael Harley (bassoon, voice, keyboards),  Bill Kalinkos (clarinet, sax), Jackie Leclair (oboe), Payton MacDonald (percussion, tabla, composer),  Nigel Maister (staging director),  Matt Marks (horn, keyboards, electronics), Courtney Orlando (violin, voice, keyboards, accordion), John Orfe (keyboards, composer), Alan Pierson (artistic director, conductor, keyboards), Jason Price (trumpet, cracklebox, electronics), John Pickford Richards (viola, accordion), Elisabeth Stimpert (clarinet, sax),  Chris Thompson (percussion) and Jason Varvaro (production manager).  You can read more about each member of the ensemble on the Alarm Will Sound website.

Before they come to Columbia in July, Alarm Will Sound will perform in two concerts at The Barbican in London.  On June 24, the group performs at Wilton’s Music Hall, the world’s oldest music hall, playing electronica by Aphex Twin and Autechre, the Beatles’ iconic experimental tape work, Revolution 9, and John Orfe’s Chamber Symphony.  On June 25, the group will perform The Getty Address at the Barbican with indie-rockers Dirty Projectors.

You can see and hear a couple of Alarm Will Sound performances –  and get a sense of their impressive and eclectic musical range – in the embedded video windows below. The first clip is their rendition of  “Four” by the electronic music act Aphex Twin (aka Richard James), arranged by Jessica Johnson and Payton MacDonald, and performed on  July 22, 2009.  Below that, there’s a performance of maverick composer Conlon Nancarrow‘s “Player Piano Study No. 2A,”  arranged by Gavin Chuck and recorded November 19, 2008 at the Moscow Art November Festival.

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