A Conversation With 'Alarm Will Sound' Artistic Director Alan Pierson

By Mike Telin

Since forming in 2001, the clever, innovative contemporary music ensemble Alarm Will Sound has gone on to become one of the most successful composer-musician collectives touring today. The group is the resident ensemble at the Mizzou International Composers Festival at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Each year the festival features eight world premieres by emerging composers.

On Monday, March 30 at 8:00 pm in Drinko Recital Hall Cleveland State University, Alarm Will Sound will present a concert featuring works by Charles Wuorinen, Sean Friar, Aphex Twin, Steve Reich, Andrew Rindfleisch, and Clint Needham. The performance is presented by the Cleveland Contemporary Players Artist in Residency Series at CSU. In addition to Monday’s concert, the ensemble will present two reading sessions of new works by CSU composition students.

“We’re happy to be back to Cleveland,” said Alan Pierson, Alarm Will Sound’s artistic director, during a telephone conversation. “The last time we were there was in 2009 for a concert on the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Performing Arts Series. We’re especially excited about this concert because all the pieces on the program were written for us.” And as you would expect from this versatile ensemble, their program will include an eclectic mix of musical styles.

“I don’t believe Steve Reich's Radio Rewrite has ever been played in Cleveland,” Pierson said, adding, “we’re excited that he wrote it for us. On a completely different side of the aesthetic landscape will be Charles Wuorinen's Big Spinoff.” Pierson explained that the piece is an arrangement of an earlier work titled Spinoff for violin, bass and conga drums, which they loved so much they thought it would be great to have it adapted for the ensemble. “We called Charles and asked him for permission to have the piece arranged for us,” Pierson recalled. “Charles said that he not only loved the idea, but he would like to be the one to do it. We were thrilled, and his arrangement is a fantastic, wild piece. What’s funny is that Wuorinen and Reich are actually friends who in New York, but their music is worlds apart.”

Monday’s program will also include works by two Cleveland-based composers: Andrew Rindfleisch's Vesper Voices and Clint Needham's Urban Sprawl. “We’re looking forward to giving the world premiere of Andrew’s piece and recording it on Tuesday,” said Pierson. “We wanted to perform Clint’s piece because he was a resident composer a couple of years ago at the Mizzou Festival. It’s a really fun piece that draws on the world of Copland, which is a huge part of American music. You do hear that influence in the piece, but Clint has drawn on that style and used it in a contemporary way.” 

To read the rest of the conversation, head over to ClevelandClassical.com.
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