ACO's 2010-11 concert season is a celebratory year for the orchestra, marked by milestones including conductor George Manahan’s first concerts on the podium as Music Director. Now in its 34th season, ACO pushes the boundaries of what is possible for the orchestra further than ever before, fully embracing experimentation and the process of creation. Playing it UNsafe is ACO’s research and development laboratory for innovative new orchestral music. Expanded from 2008’s pilot program, it will run throughout the season, with opportunities for the public to see the process unfolding at open rehearsals, workshops, and concerts. The 20th annual Underwood New Music Readings and the first Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute Readings continue to expand ACO’s commitment to providing emerging composers unparalleled career-making opportunities. The season is anchored by three Orchestra Underground concerts at Carnegie Hall in Zankel Hall, which will include six world premieres commissioned by ACO and two New York premieres.
The season features works by John Luther Adams, Douglas J. Cuomo, Ryan Francis, Wang Jie, Jerome Kitzke, Alvin Singleton, Christopher Trapani, Claude Vivier, Jacob Druckman, and Charles Ives. ACO's music director George Manahan will conduct the entire season.
ACO's Orchestra Underground
Orchestra Underground is ACO’s subversive and entrepreneurial exploration of the orchestra as an elastic ensemble that can respond to composers’ unhindered creativity in experimental and innovative ways. The ensemble has embraced new technology, eclectic instruments and influences, spatial orientation, new experiments in concert format, and multimedia and multi-disciplinary collaborations. Since the opening of Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall’s subterranean state-of-the-art auditorium, Orchestra Underground has played to sold-out audiences, with 50 world premieres and newly commissioned works.
Mystics & Magic features music inspired by the divine, the spiritual, and the unseen. The program includes the world premieres of John Luther Adams’ orchestrated The Light Within (inspired by artist James Turrell’s “skyspace” installation, Meeting, at P.S. 1 in Long Island City, it was originally written for chamber ensemble in 2007), as well as ACO’s 2009 Underwood New Music Readings commission winner Wang Jie’s From the Other Sky. The concert also includes the New York premieres of Alvin Singleton’s BluesKonzert, written for piano soloist Ursula Oppens, and Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child, performed by soprano Susan Narucki. Jacob Druckman’s Nor Spell Nor Charm, written in memory of mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani, completes the program. ACO Music Director George Manahan conducts.
John Luther Adams,
is described as “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century”
by Alex Ross in The New Yorker. For two decades, Adams has composed in a 16-by-24 foot cabin outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. The vastness of that landscape and the natural world undoubtedly influence his music. As Kyle Gann writes, it is “beautiful, shimmering, vast, luminous, ecstatic.” Adams says
The Light Within was inspired by his own “epiphany of light,” which he experienced sitting inside James Turrell’s P.S. 1 installation. Adams is the recipient of the 2010 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University, and in 2011 he will be Fromm Visiting Professor of Composition at Harvard. His next album,
Four Thousand Holes, will be released by Cold Blue Music in fall 2010.
Jacob Druckman won the Pulitzer Prize for the first work he wrote for large orchestra, in 1972. His Nor Spell Nor Charm, from 1990, is an elaboration on a song he composed for DeGaetani in 1989; the title is taken from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The work bears Druckman’s signature colorful and dramatic orchestration. Among Druckman’s other honors were a Fulbright Grant, and two Guggenheim Grants. During his lifetime, he taught at The Juilliard School, Bard College, Tanglewood, Brooklyn College, and Yale.
Jie is the winner of ACO’s 2009 Underwood New Music Readings Commission for emerging composers. Her work,
From the Other Sky, is a multi-media concert opera for three singers and orchestra based on her own short story, which tells the tale of how the Chinese Zodiac animals lost their 13th member – a musical lark. Composer John Corigliano has said of Wang Jie’s music, “She knows how to take a few notes and spin them into a large form – a rare trait in today’s composers.” Born in Shanghai shortly after the Cultural Revolution, Wang Jie was raised during an era of breathtaking economic expansion. She was a piano prodigy by age five, and a scholarship from the Manhattan School of Music brought her to the U.S.
Singleton's work BluesKonzert, for piano soloist and orchestra, receives its New York premiere on this concert. The piece is written for Ursula Oppens and dedicated to the memory of Singleton’s colleague, jazz composer and saxophonist Julius Hemphill, who died in 1995. Like much of Singleton’s music,
BluesKonzert unites the worlds of jazz and European modernism. One of ACO’s artistic advisors, Singleton served as Music Alive Composer in Residence for ACO’s Improvise! festival. A Brooklyn native, he has been both a Fulbright Scholar and a Guggenheim Fellow.
Canadian composer Claude Vivier was the victim of a shocking murder at age 34. He left behind some 49 compositions in a wide range of genres, including opera, orchestral, and chamber pieces. Vivier studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne, but credited a life-changing trip to Bali in 1976 with crystallizing his musical style and attitude toward the artist’s role in society. Lonely Child, for voice and ensemble, was written after this trip. Music critic Paul Griffiths observed, “The harmonic auras are suddenly more complex, and the fantastic orchestration is unlike anything in Vivier’s earlier music, or anyone else’s.”
Soprano Susan Narucki is a frequent soloist with major orchestras and contemporary music ensembles around the globe. She earned Grammy and Cannes awards for her recordings of works by George Crumb on Bridge Records. Her extensive discography includes operas of Louis Andriessen on Nonesuch and the Netherlands Opera production of Claude Vivier’s Rêves D’un Marco Polo on Opus Arte DVD. Her most recent release of songs of Charles Ives with pianist Donald Berman on New World was an Editor’s Choice in BBC Music Magazine. For more info visit: www.susannarucki.net
Ursula Oppens, a founding member of ACO in 1977, is one of the first artists to grasp the importance of programming traditional and contemporary works in equal measure. Her sterling musicianship, uncanny understanding of the composer’s artistic argument, and lifelong study of the keyboard’s resources, have placed her among the elect of performing musicians. In 2008, Ms. Oppens celebrated the 100th birthday of her friend and colleague Elliott Carter, with critically acclaimed performances of his complete works for solo piano.
A Time & Place explores composers’ reactions to specific moments, pinpointed and analyzed, which have inspired them to create something entirely new. Except for Charles Ives’ Central Park in the Dark, each piece performed during this concert will be a world premiere commissioned by ACO, including Douglas J. Cuomo’s Black Diamond Express Train to Hell, Jerome Kitzke’s The Fire at 4 a.m.; Christopher Trapani’s Westering, and Ryan Francis’ Highline, winner of the ACO/LVMH “A Greener New York City” commission.
became a professional guitarist while still in his teens, alternating years of college with years on the road. His numerous film and television credits include the themes for
Sex & The City and NOW with Bill Moyers, but whether writing for film or the concert hall, Cuomo often conceives music for the idiosyncratic voices of specific players. He told
New York Magazine, “If I hadn’t done all this film and television work, I’d be a much less interesting composer.” Cuomo’s
Black Diamond Express Train to Hell is based on a 1927 recording of a sermon by the African-American Reverend A.W. Nix of Chicago, which contains allusions to life in America during the Depression, the history of commercial recordings, and the place of music and religion in the African-American experience. The piece is a double concerto for two soloists: one is a sampled and electronically manipulated recording (performed by Cuomo) and the other is the cellist Maya Beiser.
Ryan Francis is the only composer to twice receive The Juilliard School’s top compositional honor, the Palmer-Dixon Prize (2005, 2008). His music has been described variously as “shimmering,” “focused,” and “rhythmically sharp-edged,” by
The New York Times. In addition to writing for ACO, Francis has been commissioned by the Metropolis Ensemble, Wordless Music, Axiom, and the New York Youth Symphony. His collaboration with Ricardo Romaneiro (ACO’s 2010 Underwood New Music Readings Audience Choice Award winner), an electro-acoustic remix of Stravinsky’s
The Rite of Spring, was performed last year on the outdoor concert series Celebrate Brooklyn and broadcast by NPR. Francis’ complete works for piano, recorded by Vicky Chow, will be released by Tzadik this year. His new piece for ACO,
Highline, is inspired by New York’s new park built on abandoned elevated train tracks on the west side of Manhattan, which, as Francis says, “points to a future that reaches equilibrium between our city’s industrial past and a more environmentally-sustainable future.”
Charles Ives pursued what is perhaps one of the most extraordinary and paradoxical careers in American music history. Businessman by day and composer by night, Ives's vast output has gradually brought him recognition as the most original and significant American composer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the composers’ words, Central Park in the Dark is a depiction “of the sounds of nature and of happenings that men would hear some thirty or so years ago (before the combustion engine and radio monopolized the earth and air), when sitting on a bench in Central Park on a hot summer night.” In addition to depicting nature, Ives incorporated popular tunes of the day into the work.
Jerome Kitzke’s music thrives on the spirit of driving jazz, American Indian song, and Beat Generation poetry, where freedom and ritual converge. It is direct, dramatic, and visceral — always with an ear to the sacred ground. Since his first work in 1970, he has thought of himself as a storyteller as well as a composer. The Fire at 4 a.m. is a piece about metaphorical and literal fires. Kitzke says, “One is the creative fire I had to tap for a few years in the early 90’s when the only time of day I could compose was 4 a.m., to accommodate a day job. The literal and more relevant meaning connects to the hundreds of ceremonial fires I have built and tended, usually at 4 a.m.” The three sections of the work (Mato
Tipi, Pepper Creek, and Fort Robinson) are each about a place where Kitzke built
and tended fires.
Christopher Trapani was born in New Orleans, and has lived and studied in London, Paris, and
Istanbul. Beginning in September 2010, he will live in New York and pursue
doctoral studies at Columbia University. According to Trapani, his formative
musical encounters include trumpet lessons at age nine, a guitar purchased from
a pawn shop at 12, and piano lessons from age 14. In 2004, Trapani was a
participant in ACO’s New Music Readings. His new work, Westering is inspired by music
associated with the concept of “the west” country and western guitar timbres, West African balafon music, and above
all music from California: the just intonation ratios and plucked-string
instruments of Harry Partch, Los Angeles folk/rock (Joni Mitchell’s chains of
consonant harmonies, Jeff Lynne’s superimposed layers of strummed guitars), as
well as psychedelic rock from San Francisco. The composer-soloist plays a
hexaphonic guitar an electric guitar fitted with a hexaphonic pickup that sends out a
separate signal for each string to a computer for live processing.
Cellist Maya Beiser has captivated audiences worldwide with her virtuosity, eclectic repertoire, and relentless quest to redefine her instrument’s boundaries. Over the past decade, she has created new repertoire for the cello, commissioning and performing many works written for her by today’s leading composers. She has collaborated with composers Tan Dun, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen, and Mark O’Connor, among many others. Beiser
is a graduate of Yale University. She was the founding cellist of the Bang on a
ACO’s season-long Playing it UNsafe initiative is the first and only professional research and development laboratory to support the creation of cutting-edge new American orchestral music through no-holds-barred experimentation. Playing it UNsafe does away with the expectations often associated with orchestral premieres that can squelch composers’ creative impulses – limited rehearsal time, restrictive instrumental possibilities, pre-conceived programmatic or thematic ideas for concerts, and most importantly – the overwhelming pressure on composers to do something “safe” so as not to “fail.” Playing it UNsafe alters this landscape by treating the creation of a new orchestral work as an interactive and collaborative process, rather than just the delivery of a musical “product.” This year, Playing it UNsafe will include a unique incubation process of workshops, public readings, collaborative feedback, and laboratory performances of music, many of which will be open to the public. l.
& Saturday, June 3 & 4, 2011
In what has become a rite of passage for aspiring orchestral composers, up to eight composers from throughout the United States will be selected to receive a reading of a new work, and one composer will be selected to receive a $15,000 commission for a work to be performed by ACO during an upcoming season. Each participating composer receives rehearsal, reading, and a digital recording of his or her work. Review and feedback sessions with ACO principal players, mentor-composers, guest conductors, and industry representatives provide crucial artistic, technical, and conceptual assistance. To date, more than 100 composers have participated in the New Music Readings, including such award-winning composers as Melinda Wagner, Derek Bermel, Randall Woolf, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Sebastian Currier, and Jennifer Higdon. The readings are free and open to the public.
& Monday, June 5 & 6, 2011
The Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University and ACO will present the first-ever Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute Readings, the culmination of a process that begins with a week-long Intensive held on the Columbia University campus in July 2010 and led by Center for Jazz Studies director George Lewis.Several JCOI Intensive participants will submit applications to participate in the JCOI Readings on June 5 and 6, 2011. Four to six promising composers will be selected to create new works for orchestra and to work further with mentor composers and conductors in developing these works.
ACO’s annual Composers OutFront! series puts composers on the stage, bringing audiences closer to the creative process and making connections between composers’ roots as performers and their music for the concert hall. The series presents composers who will have major works performed by ACO during the concert season. In keeping with ACO’s eclectic musical programming, featured composers come from diverse backgrounds in jazz and improvised music, rock and pop, classical, and world music. Composers OutFront! events take place throughout the city in unusual spaces including community centers, museums and galleries, libraries, and other non-traditional venues for classical music. Dates locations to be announced soon.
Subscriptions for the Orchestra Underground concerts in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall are available for $111 or $141 and can be purchased at CarnegieCharge 212-247-7800, www.carnegiehall.org, or at the Carnegie Hall Box Office. Single tickets are priced at $40 or $50, and go on sale to the public September 10, 2010.
The Underwood New Music Readings on June 3 and 4, 2011, and the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute Readings on June 5 and 6, 2011, at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre are open to the public, free of charge. No reservations are required.
Major support of American Composers Orchestra is provided by The Achelis Foundation, Amphion Foundation, Arlington Associates, ASCAP, ASCAP Foundation, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, BMI, BMI Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, 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, Jephson Educational Trust, John and Evelyn Kossak Foundation, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc, Meet The Composer, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Virgil Thomson Foundation, Paul Underwood Charitable Trust, 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 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.