Posts Tagged “Alarm Will Sound”

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A bit past the halfway mark in Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll comes a passage marked “Lebhaft” (lively tempo). It begins with a bright, energetic horn fanfare that is quickly answered by bird calls in the flute and clarinet. The flow of the piece makes it sound like Siegfried – Wagner’s son as much as his character – has awoken from gentle slumber to find himself in the woods. But there was nothing like that sensation when Alarm Will Sound played the original sinfonietta version last Friday to open their “The Permanent Collection” concert, which itself opened their new residency at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Limor Tomer is remaking the Met into the most interesting performance space in the city, with programming that rivals that of Miller Theatre and the use of the gallery spaces for live music. Alarm Will Sound has some great programming on tap, including an all Steve Reich concert November 16, but Alan Pierson and the group choose to set their first concert in the museum’s physical collection by showing the roots of their ensemble. Pierson hints at something of an argument about the sinfoniette being the prototypical new music ensemble, which is sort of true and sort of not – it depends on what year you’re look from, and which direction you turn your attention.

Wagner was certainly making new music in the nineteenth century, but that’s not what the Idyll is. It’s one of his loveliest works, but the aesthetic is entirely different than that of the new music movement that began around a hundred years ago. The music is about cadences, modulations between chords and tempos and the gestural language used to effect those. That’s where the expression is, and Alarm Will Sound is steeped in the aesthetic of non-narrative expressive language. They strung along the notes, played nicely, but had nothing much to say about the actual music. It had me searching for my recording of Glenn Gould conducting an intellectually critical and lovely take with the same forces.

Thomas Adés Living Toys is more in their style, but only superficially. I’m not a fan of the music, or his work in general. I find his composing masks an ordinary romantic sensibility in a lot of bravura hand-waving material that, if it doesn’t amount to something ordinary, amounts to little at all. There is a mismatch between the density of musical activity and the density of thinking. It suffered in inevitable comparisoin with all the great pieces from John Zorn I heard last month, music that is overwhelming with both detail and musical, aesthetic and intellectual meaning. But Adés is more old music in new music clothes.

Truly new, and truly excellent, were Ligeti’s Chamber Concerto and Ragtime Dances 1 and 4 by Charles Ives. These works are at the heart of Alarm Will Sound’s purpose, music that explores the possbilities of the future and that was written with experimental values at the fore. Ligeti’s work comes from his cloud phase, a period when he heard music as something like a collection of webs, gossamer strends connecting to each other across distances and forming sections that fill in space with a tantilizing wispiness. This was a beautiful, concentrated performance, the music clearly excites the players’ interest and concentration, everything focussed and spooky. The Chamber Concerto doesn’t tell stories, and it displays instrumental prowess in subtly challenging ways, the results tickle the bass of the skull in rare ways.

The Ives’ dances are rarely played or recorded, which is a shame because they are brilliant and practical, distilled and sharply written examples of his art and his importance. Ives was always pinning popular tunes to his pieces, but there’s something about hearing him create and lay out his own ragtime beat that is revelatory. True to form, he fractures it deliberately and exuberantly, and like a pinata, the yield is delight, joy and real, substantial satisfaction.

Q2 will have the concert archive available to stream, check their site for availability

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Congratulations to Alan Pierson. Effective immediately, the conductor, composer, and director of Alarm Will Sound will join the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra as their new Artistic Director.

It’s no secret that the Brooklyn Phil has been facing significant challenges of late. During the recession, they’ve endured straightened finances and had to curtail their programming. Pierson is part of an effort to reboot it as a lithe unit, an “urban orchestra.”

The ongoing plan is that the Phil will reconnect with the community and widen its reach by having a presence in a number of different locales throughout the borough. This seems similar in some ways to the recent model of the New Jersey Symphony, which gives concerts throughout the Garden State and has made educational outreach and community engagement a significant part of its profile.

Let’s hope that this approach helps the Brooklyn Philharmonic to remain lively in its programming and solvent in its finances! Oh, and lest any new music devotees are concerned, fear not: Pierson will still remain in his current position with Alarm Will Sound.

Yesterday, Pierson released the following statement about his new appointment:

Dear friends, supporters, and fans of the Brooklyn Philharmonic,

It is a great honor to be given an opportunity to help build the future of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. This is an extraordinary time to be making music here, with Brooklyn’s ever-increasing cultural richness and diversity fostering a fantastically fertile artistic environment. In re-imagining the role of the Brooklyn Phil, we want the orchestra to connect with the Borough’s population through events that celebrate and reflect its diverse communities.

The Philharmonic’s 2011-12 re-launch will see us performing in communities throughout the Borough, rather than at one single venue. Each program will bring the Phil together with artists of the community in original and exciting collaborations. My hope is that this work will be stimulating not only to people living in these neighborhoods, but to the broader New York concert-going public and the larger musical community as well.

The Philharmonic has an exceptional history of groundbreaking music-making over more than 50 years, and I’m excited to help lead it into this next era. While plans for our new season are already underway, we’re always looking for new ideas — please feel free to contact us at info@brooklynphilharmonic.org if you have programming ideas you’d like to share. And keep watching this website for news and updates as plans progress for the Brooklyn Phil’s re-launch this fall.

With warm wishes,
Alan Pierson
Artistic Director
Brooklyn Philharmonic

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