Minimalist Premiere by Alarm Will Sound (MP3)

Chamber music with a daring sparseness

The great contemporary-classical ensemble Alarm Will Sound continues to share recordings of material it performed at the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival last summer. Previously covered here was Liza White’s Bernstein/North-esque “Step!” Uploaded earlier this week was “We Were All,” a chamber orchestra work by composer Yotam Haber that calls for voices and, as delineated in the score, a keyboard with the following qualities: “preferably synth with an electric piano sound that has an 80s retro quality.”

The keyboard isn’t the only participant here with a retro quality. There is, to the pulsing rhythms and emotionally distant chant-like singing, something reminiscent of Steve Reich of that same era, especially his wonderful Tehilim. Distinguishing Haber’s piece is a daring sparseness. It may be scored for a mid-size ensemble, 16 total instruments and voices combined, but at any given moment it sounds more like only two or three might be playing, and even then the demands placed on them are more about a virtuosity of attention and rhythmic restraint than about anything remotely like show-stopping flair.

Track originally posted for free download at More on Alarm Will Sound at More on Haber at, including the complete score of “We Were All” as a PDF (from which the above image is excerpted). The work was commissioned by the Adele and John Gray Endowment Fund. The recording was made live on July 16, 2011.

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