Alarm Will Sound

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Perhaps Cage’s greatest music-theater work, Song Books is a collection of instrumental compositions, songs, electronic music, and theater pieces that can be combined in countless way. Song Books exemplifies an astonishing range of musical styles that is increasingly relevant to the contemporary musical world and that resonates with the breadth of Alarm Will Sound's programming. The ensemble's original production—created by director Nigel Maister and Cage scholar Rob Haskins—reimagines Cage's 1970 text as a contemporary, smart, and dramatic theatrical and musical event.

Cage wrote the work in the astonishingly short time of three months for a Paris premiere; he performed alongside Cathy Berberian and Simone Rist. Shortly after the premiere, Cage confessed to the French philosopher Daniel Charles, that he was taken aback by the work’s
aesthetic breadth, comparing it to a brothel; in fact, he had included in it pieces that were written entirely according to his own taste rather than with his customary use of chance operations. Eventually, Cage embraced the work’s variety, viewing it as a further development in his ongoing commitment to the avant-garde: it supplied the touchstone for all his later activity in art, music, and writing, which he described a multiplicity of overlapping creative streams, each one largely unforeseen and unexpected.

Song Books requires an unusual kind of performer: part virtuoso, part rock star, part visionary: an artist who eagerly cultivates the incredible variety of musical experience and expression in our time. Alarm Will Sound has made its reputation on such ground-breaking work. Their recent multimedia production 1969 at Carnegie Hall was hailed by the New York Times as “a consistent wonder” and Time Out New York said, “their dazzling music-theater piece demonstrated why Alan Pierson and his Alarm Will Sound players are not just extraordinary musicians but also next-generation thinkers.” Their performance of Song Books–also a multimedia, theatrical production–will both elaborate John Cage’s provocative legacy and extend it for audiences today.

“a consistent wonder”
The New York Times