Not many orchestras can claim to keep pace with electronic music’s more erratic bastions. But in an article from the New York Times titled “How Do You Teach People to Love Difficult Music,” artistic director and conductor of Alarm Will Sound Alan Pierson seems to offer advice on doing just that. “One of the things that Alarm Will Sound has been interested in from the beginning is creating performances that feel like experiences instead of concerts,” Mr. Pierson said. “The starting point isn’t the music we want to play as much as the story we want to tell.” These decidedly human arrangements showcased not only the vast intricacies of electronic music composition, but also the biopower required to reshape them into an age-old tradition.
In preparation for upcoming community performances at Buffalo’s Artpark Amphitheater, Alarm Will Sound shared sneak peaks to new arrangements of Aphex Twin’s “T69 Collapse” and Jlin’s “Black Origami.” These exciting additions to an already impressive repertoire were broken down and workshopped in rehearsal, giving listeners a rare glimpse into the musical alchemy necessary to translate synths and breaks into strings and winds. Much like isolating a track in a studio or digital audio workstation (DAW), individual members were given space to shine among their cohort as each orchestral piece was calibrated for the whole.
At the core of these arrangements is a fidelity to narrative and craft reminiscent of Pierson’s comments above. Musical genres such as IDM and footwork evolved in response and reaction to advances in technology, capital, and culture that allowed artists to explore previously uncharted realms of tone and tempo. From the early days of Detroit’s techno pioneers pushing back against the assembly lines of automakers by deploying 808’s on the dancefloor, to mastering complex softwares like Abelton and Logic to wrestle new tracks into the world, artists continue to grapple against ever-encroaching mechanization. In response, Alarm Will Sound prefers to translate extremely challenging machine music through the deeply human lens of the modern classical tradition.
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