Review: 'Alarm Will Sound' at CSU

By Mike Telin

The opportunity for young composers to work directly with professional musicians is crucial to their development. Each year, as part of Cleveland Contemporary Players Artist in Residency Series, students at Cleveland State University are able to work directly with some of the leading artists and ensembles in the world of contemporary classical music. Over the past few years, Andrew Rindfleisch, CSU professor of composition and director of the series, has brought the Slee Sinfonietta, the Jack Quartet, and pianist Jenny Lin to the CSU campus for residencies that have include workshops, master classes and lectures. Additionally, students have the chance to hear their compositions performed by visiting artists.

The most recent residents were the award-winning, New York City-based ensemble, Alarm Will Sound. On Monday, March 30 in CSU’s Drinko Recital Hall, the 17-member group under the direction of artistic director Alan Pierson presented a free public concert that featured works written for AWS by Charles Wuorinen, Sean Friar, Aphex Twin, Steve Reich, Andrew Rindfleisch, and Clint Needham.

The evening got off to an energetic and high volume start with Charles Wuorinen’s Big Spinoff (2011). The 10-minute work is an arrangement of Wuorinen’s earlier Spinoff for violin, bass and conga drums, which the composer adapted for the AWS forces.

The concert marked the second time AWS has performed Sean Friar’s whimsical In the Blue (2013). Lasting roughly 15 minutes, the piece is filled with quick accented notes tossed among the string, wind, and percussion sections. Following a slow section, the volume begins to build and ends with powerful sustained chords by the full ensemble.

AWS Ended the first half of the concert with its most frequently performed composition, Aphex Twin’s Cock/Ver 10 (2001) arranged by AWS cellist Stefan Freund. The piece is one of the first of Aphex Twin’s electronica that was arranged for the group’s “Acoustica” project. It includes parts for two drum sets — one a traditional trap-set and the other a mounted bass and kick drum. A blow-horn even makes an appearance. Like the two preceding works, this too is a high-energy, full-volume piece.

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