Facts and Fictions

One of the most inspiring aspects of writing for Alarm Will Sound is being part of the enormous breadth of the work they do. They concurrently engage with many different composers and with varying presentational ideas, it’s simply breathtaking. Articulately-limbed Alan Pierson, conductor, first approached me to write for the band, and having seen him conduct I knew I wanted to give him a special role in the context of leading the orchestra. Just a matter of how.

“Facts and Fictions”, my new piece, will premiere in St. Louis at the The Sheldon Concert Hall on May 10, alongside other new creations, presented by Alarm Will Sound. There are new pieces by DJ and producer King Britt as well as by composer Marcos Balter. There will also be new music from drummer, colleague and friend Tyshawn Sorey. Can’t wait to hear all this music. The band is astounding.

Written for 16 musicians and conductor, the band is divided into four ensembles of four players each. Each of the sub-groups has some autonomy as to how they perform the material. After an initial tutti, the music is written as a series of ‘panels,’ in which each group has an orchestration of similar musical material. The panels can be played simultaneously, in phases, or in complete rub against the other ensembles and sets of material. The idea is to allow for endless discovery within the emerging materials. It is also to open up an avenue for real time intervention for Alan, and give the ensemble members some freedom in decision making.

Terry Winters
Untitled, 2011
Graphite on paper
11 x 8 1/2 inches
27.9 x 21.6 cm

I got the idea for the ‘panels’ from a project done by the artist, Terry Winters. Last spring, for The Drawing Center’s 2018 Gala, Winters created a dynamically generated animation that was projected on the wall at the IAC building. The projection featured 78 of Winters’s drawings from his Drawing Center exhibition, Facts and Fictions. The drawings were projected in such a way that one would appear for about 15 seconds then slowly fade away as another drawing came into focus. This created endless variations in the overlap and cycling of the drawings. At the time, I was already beginning to wrestle with this piece, and the visual stimulus triggered me to find a model for the new work.

Terry Winters
Untitled, 2016
Graphite and colored pencil on paper
20 x 28 inches
50.8 x 71.1 cm

The rehearsals last week were exhilarating. The ensemble members dug in to the loam of improvising with the energy and feeling. Alan tried about 25 different ways of re-combining the panels. I know that the rehearsals and premiere in May will conjure up many more avenues. It’s written for the players/improvisers — written in a new and different way. Hearing them play makes me proud to be part of a continuum of composition for improvisers.

It was a bittersweet week as they were also playing the works of their gone too soon colleague Matt Marks. The rehearsal pieces I heard were brilliantly orchestrated and funny. It was a powerful tribute to a great artist and composer and it was an honor to watch and hear. Knowing how close Matt was to all of them made the music even more poignant. I hope these works have a long and influential life.

Dave Douglas, New York, March 2019