Annie Gosfield made her name by composing percussive and highly rhythmic contemporary music often employing sounds such as industrial noises and radio static. So she was a natural choice to create the score for Yuval Sharon’s experimental opera “War of the Worlds,” a musical adaptation of Orson Welles’ controversial 1938 “fake news” radio broadcast, based on the H.G. Wells classic about an alien invasion.
The opera received its world premiere at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Nov. 12 and will return for two more performances on Nov. 18.
“The genesis of the project was doing something involving public art and World War II air-raid sirens,” Gosfield said in a telephone interview. “When I lived in Los Angeles in the 1980s, I was completely fascinated by them and how they would go unnoticed.”
For Gosfield, 57, part of the challenge of “War of the Worlds” was building an arsenal of otherworldly sounds: “There’s also quite a bit of static, the sound of the radio going a bit haywire, and jammed radio signals,” she said. “Taking something that is not considered music and lending it a high degree of refinement — tuning it, even though it might not be traditionally tuned, changing the level and getting the pitch where I want — is important to me.”
The Grammy-winning, Israeli-born soprano Hila Plitmann plays the alien, singing an eerie and sinister wordless role.
It was Gosfield’s idea to have Sigourney Weaver of the “Alien” film franchise emcee the concert inside the hall, which is performed by the L.A. Philharmonic New Music Group led by Christopher Rountree. Reports of the unfolding invasion gradually emerge from three outdoor “siren sites” — complete with refurbished World War II air-raid sirens — where speakers will broadcast “news” of the invasion.
“We have the sense of people on the street being the eyes and ears of the people in the concert hall,” Gosfield said. “We’re playing with pitches…