Alarm Will Sound rules!

July 11, 2011

Alarm Will Sound is enjoying our third year as the resident ensemble for the Mizzou New Music Festival. Stefan Freund and the University of Missouri hosts the festival, as well as Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield. We are deeply grateful for Rex and Jeanne’s support. They are visionaries in many areas and are quickly turning Missouri into a center of creative activity for contemporary classical music.

We’re here for two weeks. We’ve just finished the first week at Rex and Jeanne’s gorgeous 1,000-acre retreat where we’ve been rehearsing. My days have been fantastic: I wake up and compose for a few hours, then do my workout of the day, then rehearse for about six to eight hours with AWS, then hang with my buddies, then go practice and read for a while, then bed. Perfect.

I’m involved with three concerts next week: Super Marimba as part of an AWS chamber concert, a concert of eight new pieces by our guest composers, and the AWS concert, which includes world premieres of my new piece METADRUM and a piece by fellow-AWS member Matt Marks. Matt’s piece is a messed-up doo-wop tune. It is funny, elegant, and heartfelt. My remarkable colleagues in AWS not only play their instruments on the piece, but many of them sing as well. They sound incredible. Matt has a solo voice part and he’s totally convincing.

My piece is about 20 minutes long and it’s very intense. I’ve tried to create a powerful ritual experience for the audience. The title METADRUM refers to the drumming that permeates most of the piece. At times it is like a double percussion concerto with me and the phenomenal Chris Thompson as soloists. At other times the entire ensemble turns into a giant drumming machine. It’s a tough piece. It demands a high level of stamina and energy from the players. There are very few groups who have the chops to handle it. I’m fortunate to be working with such amazing players.

Alarm Will Sound is without a doubt one of the best musical ensembles in the world. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky star that I get to share the stage with these musicians. Not only do we play great music at a high level, but we discuss our repertoire and our projects democratically. Although we have an Artistic Director (Alan Pierson) and a Managing Director (Gavin Chuck), most of the artistic decisions are made by the group as a whole. It can be a laborious way to operate, but the result is consistently brilliant performances that display a level of courage and daring that is entirely unique. There are many ensembles that play music at a high level, but I can’t think of another one in this genre that puts together such original and compelling programs.

Alarm Will Sound rules.

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