Alarm Will Sound

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Alarm Will Sound
Alarm Will Sound at Sacrum Profanum 2011, Photo credit Michael Clayville.jpg
Alarm Will Sound at Sacrum Profanum 2011, Photo credit Michael Clayville
Background information
Origin Rochester, New York
Genres Classical, Experimental, IDM
Years active 2001-present
Labels Cantaloupe Music
Nonesuch Records

Alarm Will Sound is a 20-member chamber orchestra that focuses on recordings and performances of contemporary music. Its performances have been described as "equal parts exuberance, nonchalance, and virtuosity" by the Financial Times[1] and as "a triumph of ensemble playing" by the San Francisco Chronicle.[2] The New York Times said that Alarm Will Sound is "one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene."[3]

Alarm Will Sound's repertoire ranges from European to American works, from the arch-modernist to the pop-influenced. The group has worked with contemporary composers, premiering pieces by Steve Reich,[4] John Adams,[5] Tyondai Braxton,[6] David Lang,[7] Anthony Gatto, Cenk Ergün, Aaron Jay Kernis, Michael Gordon,[8] Augusta Read Thomas, Stefan Freund, John Orfe, Caleb Burhans, Dennis Desantis and Wolfgang Rihm.


From 2004 to 2007, they were musical artists-in-residence at Dickinson College. ASCAP recognized Alarm Will Sound with its Concert Music Award in 2006 for "the virtuosity, passion and commitment with which they perform and champion the repertory for the 21st century."[9]

Alarm Will Sound's 2005 album Acoustica (released July 2005 on Cantaloupe Music) features acoustic arrangements of music by Aphex Twin. Its first two recordings were of music written by Steve Reich.

Their 2009 album a/rhythmia, released on Nonesuch Records is an eclectic mix of rhythmically complex music by Benedict Mason, Michael Gordon, György Ligeti, Mochipet, Johannes Ciconia, Conlon Nancarrow, Harrison Birtwistle, Josquin des Prez, and Autechre.

In 2010, the group collaborated with Dirty Projectors to develop and perform The Getty Address in its new identity as a live performance piece at Lincoln Center, Disney Hall and the Barbican Centre. Music that Dirty Projectors front-man Dave Longstreth created on a computer by meticulous and complicated sampling, looping and layering was translated and arranged by Matt Marks, Alan Pierson, and Chris Thompson for 23 musicians of both bands.

Since 2010, the group has been the ensemble in residence at the Mizzou International Composers Festival in Columbia, Missouri. As the resident ensemble, they have premiered 8 works each year by the festival's resident composers and works by the festival's guest composers, including Derek Bermel, Martin Bresnick, Anna Clyne, Donnacha Dennehy, Daniel Kellogg, Zhou Long, Nico Muhly, Roger Reynolds, Steven Stucky, and Augusta Read Thomas.

In 2011 at Carnegie Hall, the group presented 1969, a multimedia event that uses music, images, text, and staging to tell the compelling story of great musicians—John Lennon, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciano Berio, and Leonard Bernstein—striving for a new music and a new world amidst the turmoil of the late 1960s. 1969’s unconventional approach combining music, history, and ideas has been critically praised by the New York Times (“...a swirling, heady meditation on the intersection of experimental and commercial spheres, and of social and aesthetic agendas.... a consistent wonder.”),[10] and the LA Times (“They exploded musical genres, made history come alive and demonstrated that art—original, vivid, reckless—can lift the grim clouds of current events, if only for two hours.”)[11]

Canzonas Americanas, their 2012 release on Cantaloupe features music by Derek Bermel whose eclectic approach draws on the musical traditions of Europe, North and South America, and Africa. The San Francisco Classical Voice says about Alarm Will Sound, "It’s hard to imagine another ensemble that could handle the vast range of musical ingredients — including rock, Conlon Nancarrow–style layered rhythms, jazz, and especially world music influences ranging from Brazilian choros to West African balafon — that inform this wildly eclectic new document…" [12] The Guardian says, "Bermel tends to build his music layer by layer, creating exhilaratingly complex instrumental textures, which Alarm Will Sound realise with great panache."[13]

Alarm Will Sound began their St. Louis Season in 2013 to complement their existing touring schedule and bring to the midwest the work they do around the country and abroad. The goal being to grow a local audience for contemporary performing arts. In St. Louis, AWS has presented concerts at The Sheldon Concert Hall, the Touhill Performing Arts Center and The Pageant.[14]

In the 2013-2014 season, Alarm Will Sound partnered with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and became artists-in-residence at the institution. Their season at the museum includes a performance entitled "The Permanent Collection," a concert of integral works for the sinfonietta; "All Steve Reich," featuring the NY premiere of Radio Rewrite; "Twinned," a collaboration with John Heginbotham, a Brooklyn-based choreographer who worked with Mark Morris; and "I Was Here I Was I," an opera with music by Kate Soper, and libretto by Nigel Maister, performed in and around the Temple of Dendur.

The ensemble performed with Björk in March, 2015 at Carnegie Hall to kick-off her world tour for her album Vulnicura. [15]

Members of the ensemble began playing together while studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and have diverse experience in composition, improvisation, jazz, popular styles, early music, and so-called world music.

Current members[edit]

  • Erin Lesser – flute
  • Christa Robinson - oboe
  • Elisabeth Stimpert – clarinet, sax
  • Bill Kalinkos – clarinet, sax
  • Michael Harley – bassoon, contrabassoon, voice, keyboards
  • Matt Marks – horn, keyboards, electronics, composer
  • Jason Price – trumpet, electronics
  • Michael Clayville - trombone
  • Christopher Thompson - percussion
  • Matt Smallcomb - percussion
  • John Orfe – keyboards, composer
  • Courtney Orlando – violin, voice, keyboards, accordion
  • Caleb Burhans – violin, viola, voice, mandolin, banjo, electric guitar, composer
  • Nadia Sirota - viola
  • Stefan Freund – cello, composer
  • Miles Brown – bass
  • Alan Pierson – Artistic Director, conductor, keyboards
  • Gavin Chuck – Managing Director, composer
  • Nigel Maister – Staging Director
  • Jason Varvaro – Production Manager



Guest appearances[edit]


External links[edit]