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Alarm Will Sound—”one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene” (The New York Times)—continues to revitalize music-making during the COVID-19 pandemic with “VIDEO CHAT VARIATIONS,” a new series of remote performances that respond to the quirks of video chat platforms. The series will launch in August 2020 with two visionary, multi-faceted artists, both MacArthur “Genius” Award winners: Meredith Monk (8/1), and Tyshawn Sorey (9/12). This new project comes on the heels of Alarm Will Sound Artistic Director Alan Pierson’s ingenious tech version of John Luther Adams’ Ten Thousand Birds, produced at home under quarantine.
Instead of trying to correct the frustrating idiosyncrasies of video chat platforms, Alarm Will Sound and the Video Chat Variations composers are embracing quirks like delay, latency, jitter, and glitching to discover their beauty and expressive power. The goal is to transform video chat from a stop-gap, content-delivery medium into meaningful artistic material that will capture and therefore outlast the pandemic.
The series opens on Saturday, August 1 at 9:00 p.m. (EST) with a First Performance of Anthem by the legendary artist Meredith Monk. Anthem is inspired by the Buddhist concepts of interdependence and cause and effect. Using what is inherent in the video-chat medium, Monk offers a spacious and expansive composition that encourages us to move forward with an awareness of these relationships, accepting that delay and different senses of time are part of our current reality. Alarm Will Sound has a long history with Meredith Monk, dating back to their 2005 Carnegie Hall performance of Monk’s work, Night. This Video Chat Variation is a free event and part of the Mizzou International Composers Festival.
Then on Saturday, September 12, Alarm Will Sound premieres Autoschediasms by Tyshawn Sorey. Sorey’s “Autoschediasms” are live compositions: works composed in the moment, challenging the distinction between improvised and composed music. In this video-chat Autoschediasms, Sorey uses his unique language of visual gestures, text directives, and autonomous prompts to collaboratively create a piece with Alarm Will Sound in real time over video chat. He explains: “I always think compositionally. Much of what I do is craft even when I spontaneously create something. The performers must do the same and they’re equally responsible for the result. At no point can one performer take this process of making music for granted.”
Alarm Will Sound intends to commission more composers to partake in Video Chat Variations as time progresses. This fall will feature luminaries like David Lang, as well as emerging voices in experimental classical music.