What happens when composers mix jazz, classical Indian raga, gamelan, and Irish fiddling music and techniques into orchestral works?
On Friday, February 8, 2008, at 7:30pm in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, American Composers Orchestra continues its decades of experiments and explorations with Culture Shock, the second Orchestra Underground program of the 2007-08 season. The concert will be repeated Sunday, February 10, 2008, at 7:30pm at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.
Culture Shock is a program of works on a collision course with Western and Eastern classical traditions, improvisation and notation, traditional and futuristic ideas, with an ACO Commission and world premiere by Uri Caine; a U.S. premiere and co-commission by Michael Tenzer; a New York premiere by Terry Riley; and an ACO debut of the orchestra version of a work for fiddle and violin by Evan Chambers. Each composer will be a featured performer, and the evening will be led by the well-known contemporary music dynamo David Alan Miller.
The trailblazing Orchestra Underground series, introduced in 2004, is a major part of ACO's ongoing commitment to re-imagine orchestral possibility with forward-thinking music, a wide variety of artistic influences, inventive instrumentation, new technologies and multidisciplinary collaboration.
"The blending, recombination and clash of cultures," says ACO's Executive Director Michael Geller, "is something we encounter every day in America. With this program, 'Culture Shock,' we want to take the orchestra and its repertoire in new directions by focusing on composer-performers who have their feet and their ears firmly planted in more than one musical tradition."
Orchestra Underground is honored to perform with Terry Riley for the New York premiere of the string orchestra version of Remember This O Mind. Composed in 1997, this work represents Terry Riley's singular fusion of Western improvisational techniques for voice and keyboard with the traditional art of classical Indian raga. The composer will be featured on voice and synthesizer.
In 1964 Terry Riley launched what is now referred to as the Minimalist movement with his revolutionary classic In C. This seminal work provided a new concept in musical form based on interlocking repetitive patterns. Its impact was, quite simply, to change the course of 20th-century music, and its influence has been heard in the works of prominent composers such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and John Adams, as well as in the music of rock groups such as The Who, The Soft Machine, Tangerine Dream, and Curved Air.
In 1970, Riley became a disciple of the revered North Indian raga vocalist Pandit Pran Nath, making the first of many trips to India to study with the master. He appeared frequently in concert with the legendary singer as tampura, tabla, and vocal accompanist over the next 26 years until Pran Nath's passing in 1996.
Riley's works have been commissioned and performed by the Kronos Quartet, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the Rova Saxophone Quartet, the Arte Saxophone Quartet, Array Music, Zeitgeist, the Steven Scott Bowed Piano Ensemble, California E.A.R. Unit, guitarist David Tanenbaum, guitar duo Sérgio and Odair Assad, Cello Octet Conjunto Ibérico, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, pianist Werner Bartschi, and the Amati Quartet. Riley's Jade Palace was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the 1990-91 centennial celebration and was premiered there by Leonard Slatkin and the Saint Louis Symphony.
Uri Caine is known for his jazz permutations of music by classical composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, and Bach. In Double Trouble he turns the tables on himself! Caine's solo piano part will be completely improvised, but the orchestra will play from his own fully notated parts. This multi-movement, improvised mini-concerto will showcase Caine's eclectic array of disciplines and influences, which rest firmly in his classical and jazz training.
Early in Caine's career, he played in bands led by Philly Joe Jones, Hank Mobley, Johnny Coles, Mickey Roker, Odean Pope, Jymmie Merritt, Bootsie Barnes and Grover Washington. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied composition with George Rochberg and George Crumb.
Since moving to New York City, Caine has recorded eighteen albums as a leader, some featuring his jazz trio, Bedrock, performing arrangements of Mahler, Wagner, Beethoven, Bach, and Schumann. His most recent is The Uri Caine Ensemble Plays Mozart (Winter & Winter 2006). Caine's live performances include his version of the Diabelli Variations with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the CBC Orchestra in Canada, and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. In 2006 he was named composer in residence for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, premiering his Concerto for Two Pianos and Chamber Orchestra with Jeffrey Kahane in May of that year.
In addition to working with his own trio, Caine has worked in groups led by Don Byron, Dave Douglas, John Zorn, Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco, Clark Terry, Rashid Ali, Arto Lindsay, Sam Rivers and Barry Altschul, the Woody Herman Band, Annie Ross, the Enja Band, Global Theory, and the Master Musicians of Jajouka.
Michael Tenzer has been studying gamelan music for 30 years, and the performance of Resolution/Tabuh Gari for Small Orchestra with two Balinese Drums will feature Tenzer and Balinese gamelan artist I Wayan Sudirana on Balinese drums. This composition, which premieres on January 20, 2008, at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in Vancouver, BC, is the third in a triptych in which Tenzer merges gamelan with Western music but the only one in the triptych that incorporates the Western orchestra. His goal in the work is to merge the two musical cultures without compromising too much of either tradition. In Resolution/Tabuh Gari he imports only Balinese drums into the orchestra so that the orchestra becomes the gamelan for which, as in Balinese tradition, the drums are the brain, heart, and motor. "Tabuh Gari" is a Balinese name for recessional music, thus ending the triptych.
Since the 1980s Tenzer has been one of the leading figures in the international gamelan movement and was the first non-Balinese to compose music performed by the gamelan in Bali. He has regularly produced influential compositions there since 1982, closely integrating the techniques of European modern music and Indian music into Balinese musical structures. His works have been cited by Balinese critics as "an important and unique contribution to our cultural heritage." The creation of his 2006 composition Underleaf, realized in Bali with the Balinese Cudamani gamelan collective and a Canadian ensemble of winds, brass, and piano, is the second in the triptych and is the subject of "Bali by Heart," a documentary commissioned by international TV5.
I Wayan Sudirana was born in Ubud, Bali, in 1980. A graduate of the ISI Balinese Arts Institute and a member of the Cudamani collective, he is one of Bali's most gifted young musicians. He has composed and taught actively all over the island and toured abroad frequently. He has been artist in residence at the University of British Columbia since 2004.
Evan Chambers' Concerto for Fiddle and Violin features two soloists playing the violin in two very different styles: Irish fiddle and classical violin. Rather than pitting the two against each other as in a traditional double concerto, Chambers sets the fiddle player and violinist as two complementary halves of a personality-the soloists and the orchestra support each other and take the lead, in turn, without conflict. At the center of the piece, however, lies an essential tension between the two brands of virtuosity. The work is founded on the contrasts in inflection, timbre, rhythm, and articulation that exist between traditional folk and classical styles at the same time that it strives to integrate them. In this performance, the composer will play the Irish fiddle half of the personality with ACO concertmaster Eva Gruesser as the classical half.
Chambers credits his parents' enthusiastic participation in the American folk music revival of the 1950s as an early influence, and his compositions bear the stamp of his exposure to the edginess and immediacy of folk song and community music-making, readily crossing boundaries and reconciling disparate music worlds. Come Down Heavy, his suite of American folk song settings, draws on memories of his father "beating on the guitar and belting out 'John Henry' in one moment and crashing through the Tchaikovsky violin concerto in the next."
The composer describes his discovery of Irish traditional music in his twenties as a conversion experience and he has since become an accomplished traditional fiddler. His music captures the energy and vocabulary of folk performance and translates it into the language of contemporary classical idioms. The result is music that refers to its traditional roots (Albanian folk, Sufi Qawwali ritual, Irish dance tunes, Polish-American polka, etc.) and consistently honors the source experience even as it presents a synthesis.
Chambers' music has been performed by the Cincinnati, Kansas City, Memphis, New Hampshire, and Albany symphonies and recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the International Luigi Russolo Competition, the Vienna Modern Masters Orchestral Competition, NACUSA, and the American Composers Forum. A suite from his The Old Burying Ground, a song cycle for folksinger, soprano, tenor, and orchestra with newly commissioned poems by Jane Hirshfield, Thomas Lynch, Keith Taylor, Paula Meehan, and Richard Tillinghast, will be performed at Carnegie Hall on February 28, 2008, by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra.
Eva Gruesser has served as concertmaster of American Composers Orchestra since 2000. She has performed throughout North America, Europe and Australia as soloist, chamber musician and concertmaster. She was the first violinist of the Lark Quartet from 1988 to 1996, guest concertmaster with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, and was a member of the Da Capo Chamber Players from 1997 until 2001. She also played in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, performed as soloist with the BBC Scottish Orchestra and was a founding member of the Ensemble Modern in Germany. Ms. Gruesser graduated summa cum laude from the Freiburg Hochschule für Music, and is also a graduate of the Hannover Hochschule für Music and the Juilliard School.
David Alan Miller is highly regarded as a champion and interpreter of American music, new and old. Frequently in demand as a guest conductor, Mr. Miller has worked with most of America's major orchestras, developing especially close relationships with the Minnesota Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has also conducted the orchestras of Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, as well as the New World Symphony and the New York City Ballet, and the Albany Symphony where he has served as Music Director since 1992. His extensive discography includes recordings of the works of Todd Levin with the London Symphony, and music by Michael Daugherty, Kamran Ince, and Michael Torke. His recordings with the Albany Symphony include discs of music by John Harbison, Roy Harris, Morton Gould, Don Gillis, George Lloyd, Peter Mennin, and Vincent Persichetti. He also led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in its recording of Mel Powell's Duplicates: Concerto for Two Pianos, winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize. He is currently completing a disc of major works by George Tsontakis with the Albany Symphony Orchestra for Koch.
Mr. Miller first conducted ACO last year at the 2006 Underwood New Music Readings. Recent highlights include appearances with the Baltimore, Houston, and Milwaukee symphony orchestras, the Louisville Orchestra, the Grand Teton Music Festival, and his third visit to the Estoril Festival, Portugal's leading arts festival. He recently traveled to Australia to lead performances of John Adams' El Niño at the Sydney Opera House. Honors include Columbia University's Ditson Conductor's Award, and the ASCAP Morton Gould Award for Innovative Programming. Mr. Miller holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree in orchestral conducting from The Juilliard School. Mr. Miller lives with his wife and three children near Albany, NY.
Tickets & Info
ACO performs at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall Friday, February 8, 2008, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $36 and $46, and may be purchased through CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, by visiting Carnegie Hall's website at www.carnegiehall.org, or at the Carnegie Hall box office, 57th Street at 7th Ave.
The program will be repeated Sunday, February 10, 2008, at 7:30pm at the Harold Prince Theater at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets for the Philadelphia performance are $25 and are available by calling Penn Presents at 215-893-3900, or online at www.pennpresents.org.
Major support of American Composers Orchestra is provided by ACO's Inner Circle, Amphion Foundation, Argosy Contemporary Music Fund, Arlington Associates, ASCAP, ASCAP Foundation, Bay and Paul Foundations, BMI, BMI Foundation, NY City Council Member Gale A. Brewer, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Citigroup Foundation, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Consolidated Edison, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, EMCArts, Fidelity Foundation, Fromm Music Foundation, GAP Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Greenwall Foundation, The Irving Harris Foundation, The Henfield Foundation, Victor Herbert Foundation, Jephson Educational Trust, Jerome Foundation, The J.M. Kaplan Fund, John and Evelyn Kossak Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Neil Family Fund, The New York Community Trust, The Rodgers Family Foundation, Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, The Susan and Ford Schumann Foundation, Virgil Thomson Foundation, Paul Underwood, The Sonata and Watchdog Charitable Trusts, The Isak and Rose Weinman Foundation and The Helen F. Whitaker Fund.
ACO programs are also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
ACO's residency at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is made possible by The Philadelphia Music Project, an Artistic Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, administered by the University of the Arts.
Derek Bermel is the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with American Composers Orchestra. Music Alive is a national program of the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer.