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When Alan Pierson (S.B. 1996 in music and physics) was an undergraduate, he was a formidable presence on the MIT music scene as performer, conductor, composer and producer of musical events. In 1996 he won a Laya and Jerome B. Wiesner Student Award for his outstanding achievement in, and contributions to, the arts at MIT.
Now pursuing his doctorate at the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music, Pierson returns to MIT as director of Alarm Will Sound, a contemporary music ensemble of 25 Eastman School students and graduates. The group will perform a concert juxtaposing the music of Hungarian composers and lifelong friends Gyï¿½ï¿½rgy Kurtï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½g and Gyï¿½ï¿½rgy Ligeti on Friday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium.
"MIT influenced me to go into music by creating an artistic environment where I really felt I was able to be myself and do things musically that I found deeply satisfying," said Pierson. "While I didn't come to MIT expecting to go into music, it gradually became clearer that this was where things were headed."
Ligeti's "Piano Concerto" showcases the young virtuoso Shai Wosner, who has performed as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony and has already played Ligeti's concerto at the Ars Musica festival in Brussels. Malina Rauschenfels, a graduate student at the Juilliard School, tackles Kurtï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½g's "Ligatura for Double-Bowed Cello," playing with two bows simultaneously. Pianist John Orfe, himself an acclaimed composer, is featured in Kurtï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½g's "Quasi una Fantasia..." The concert also features MIT students as guest performers in Kurtag's piece that calls for a "gong choir."
Ligeti, known for "frenetic, edge-of-your-seat works" is best known for his contributions to the score of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Kurtï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½g's music is marked by a highly unusual, ritualized use of the performance space, with instruments and players placed throughout the hall. In this concert, performers move throughout the auditorium and ensembles are placed in different areas for a seamless flow from one piece to the next.
Alarm Will Sound's 2001 debut recording on Nonesuch Records was hailed as "a triumph of ensemble playing" (San Francisco Chronicle).
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 13, 2002.