Canzonas Americanas marries two postmodern forces - composer/clarinetist Derek Bermel and contemporary chamber band Alarm Will Sound. This marks Bermel's follow-up to his Grammy-nominated Voices album of large orchestral works. The title track Canzonas Americanas was commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Gustavo Dudamel.
American Record Guide, March / April 2013 This most recent record by Alarm Will Sound is typical of the ensemble in its precision and clarity. They are one of the leading new music groups in the US. Convincing and effective performance of music with this much variety and scope by Alarm Will Sound is not only remarkable, but it brings Bermel's demanding music to the height of its potential.
World music from varied perspectives bound to impress
Derek Bermel is a truly unique composer with a highly eclectic vision. From his earliest work at MIT, he has sought a style of music that his its origins in several different worlds. An excellent example is the jazzy and Latin tinged "Canzonas Americanas" that opens this set. This four movement twist on Latin styles and Pan-American themes was written for the LA Philharmonic "Green Umbrella" series and is great fun to listen to. The work clearly shows some of the influences of Bermel's collaborations and studies with such artists as Paquito D'Rivera and Wynton Marsalis as well as the Brazilian caxixi master Julio Goes. This wholly engaging little suite is followed by "Three Rivers" which is an earlier work and uses some African style rhythms and quirky melodies to depict three rivers, evocative of Pittsburgh or maybe an imaginary confluence like the strains in the piece. "At the End of the World" is a short, simple and beautiful setting of a poem by Nicole Krauss, sung here wonderfully by Kierra Duffy. Bermel's fascination with African rhythm and Ghanian melodic fragments shows itself nicely in "Hot Zone" Bermel's studies in Ghana collide in a most entertaining way with jazz. "Continental Divide" is the oldest work in the collection and dates from when the composer was studying with Louis Andriessen and is inspired somewhat by the writings by Stephen Hawking about an expanding universe. The rhythmic layering in this work is pretty dense and the sound of the piece is a bit "darker" than the others but there are bursts of tone color and clarity that give the work great complexity (according to booklet notes, this is a very challenging piece) The disc closes with the four movement "Natural Selection", a fascinating exploration of human condition on poems by Wendy Walters and Naomi Nye. The styles range from night club to gospel to Native American folk song and are sung quite effectively by baritone Timothy Jones. Derek Bermel is a multi-talented composer-performer (also a very fine clarinetist) and his music is both wholly unique and very nearly indescribable. This collection is performed exceptionally well by the amazing new music ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, conducted by Alan Pierson and I recommend it strongly. I cannot imagine that anyone would not find something in this composer's voice to be fond of.
Submitted on 12/17/12 by Dan Coombs
Derek Bermel /Alarm will Sound/Canzonas Americanas/cantaloupe
Derek Bermel new CD Canzonas Americanas is distinctly American and full of compositional chops. Rarely does a composer have such a tool box of styles and skill at his disposal (Itís Bolcom on Quaaludes). His contrapuntal writing is top notch as well as ubiquitous, while his harmonic language veers between Copland Gershwin to Jazz big band, to any number of ethno-appropriations, to lots of bitonalities and parallel minor 2nds. There is a Nancarrow complexity in the multi-tiered rhythms as well as many splashes from the post-serial, academia contingent. If one was to place him in the NYC uptown-midtown-downtown spectrum, his amazing skill puts him at a Starbucks in Columbia University but in reality, his sheer accessibility puts him one block north of Lincoln Center.
Although a cynic might be dismissive of his pastiche structures and the aggressive persuasiveness of his musicality, people in the know, do know!... this is a person to watch. As the grim reality of life seeps into his aging consciousness, and he doesnít win the Pulitzer etc., this composer could be the future American Schnittke or Shostakovich.