What happens when five of today's most innovative American musical thinkers pour their creative energies into no-holds-barred experiments designed to stretch the limits of what is possible with an orchestra?
continues below with new installments on Dan
Trueman and Jonathan
The "UNsafe" composers are Anna Clyne, Jonathan Dawe, Charles Mason, Ned McGowan and Dan Trueman. Playing it Unsafe begins on Wednesday, April 23 with a public rehearsal of the new works, and culminates in New York on Friday, April 25 at 7:30 PM, with a laboratory performance at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. A repeat lab performance will take place at Philadelphia's International House, presented by the Annenberg Center, on Sunday, April 27. ACO's entrepreneurial Orchestra Underground ensemble will be led by the intrepid conductor Jeffrey Milarsky.
The five composers and their new works-in-progress were selected from nearly 200 proposals received in the nation-wide call for ideas to challenge conventional notions about orchestral music. Playing it UNsafe was created to encourage composers to experiment and stretch their own musical sensibilities; and to test and stretch the possibilities for the Orchestra itself.
The composers' newly developing works are as diverse as they are innovative: Dan Trueman is composing a piece for an orchestra of instruments and laptop computers; Anna Clyne is creating a multimedia work with laptop musician Jeremy Flower and computer-graphics artist Joshue Ott, deploying a theremin and laptops in a new way; Charles Mason re-examines the nature of time and space in the concert experience in his new piece; Ned McGowan explores extremes of register, timbre and texture in a new work for contrabass flute and orchestra; and Jonathan Dawe mixes hip-hop, Middle-Eastern music, and fractal geometry in a work-in-progress based on the Armide story.
Playing it UNsafe was designed to address the pressures and limitations composers can encounter when composing for orchestra-a situation that can inhibit risk-taking creativity and encourage a play-it-safe approach. "Playing it UNsafe is an opportunity to try out new ideas, extend to the orchestra working methods conceived in other musical settings, establish new collaborations with artistic partners, or showcase a new piece in development," says ACO's artistic director Robert Beaser.
Michael Geller, ACO's executive director, is "thrilled to be able to put Playing it UNsafe into action. The orchestra's new long-range strategic plan, approved in 2007, included this laboratory idea, so Playing it UNsafe represents another step in our continuing efforts to imagine the orchestra of the future and create new opportunities for today's composers."
Playing it UNsafe features Orchestra Underground, ACO's groundbreaking smaller flexible orchestra that seeks to redefine orchestra music by embracing the gamut of musical styles, unusual instrumentations and spatial orientations of musicians, technological innovations, and multimedia/multidisciplinary collaborations. Since its launch in 2004, ACO's Orchestra Underground has commissioned and premiered over twenty cutting-edge new works and played to sold-out houses at Zankel Hall.
London-born Clyne is a composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music. Her work, which includes collaborative projects with cutting-edge choreographers, filmmakers, visual artists and musicians, has been commissioned and performed throughout the U.S. and internationally. Recent honors include commissions from Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Roulette/Jerome Foundation, awards from ASCAP and SEAMUS, performances by the American Composers Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and a residency with the Los Angeles-based Hysterica Dance Company. Anna Clyne holds a first-class Bachelor of Music degree with honors from Edinburgh University and a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music. She currently resides in New York.
New York-based multidisciplinary artist Joshue Ott creates cinematic visual improvisations, often performed live and projected in large scale. Working from hand-drawn forms, which he then manipulates with superDraw, a software instrument of his own design, Ott composes evolving images that reside somewhere between minimalism, psychedelia, and Cagean chance. Ott's work has recently been featured in exhibitions at Paris's Le Cube, the Playgrounds Audiovisual Art Festival in the Netherlands in 2007, and the 2006 Ars Electronica Animation Festival. He has performed at Live Cinema Nights: Silver Lake Film Festival, in Los Angeles; as part of the Boston Cyber Arts Festival; and at venues throughout New York City.
Jeremy Flower is an active participant in the underground electronic music worlds of Boston and New York. He has performed with the Atlanta Symphony, Jamie Haddad, Mark Dresser, Gustavo Santaolalla, and David Krakauer in venues such as Carnegie Hall, LA's Disney Hall, Lincoln Center's Rose Theater, the Santa Fe Opera and Cleveland's Severance Hall. Collaborating with Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov, Flower helped to create the laptop parts for the 2006 Grammy-nominated song cycle Ayre and one-act opera Ainadamar, which won two Grammys in 2007. Flower and Golijov recently completed the film score for Francis Ford Coppola's newest movie, Youth Without Youth, and are now collaborating on a new composition for WNYC Radio with accordionist Michael Ward-Bergemann.
Born in the United States in 1970 and living in the Netherlands since 1994, McGowan has built his career by collaborating closely with ensembles such as the Axyz Ensemble, Calefax, the Zephyr Quartet and Hexnut. After finishing studies in flute at the San Francisco Conservatory and the Cleveland Institute of Music, he moved to Amsterdam to continue his research. Over the course of eight years, he studied flute and composition in Amsterdam and The Hague, exploring a wide range of subjects-from extended techniques to Carnatic forms and rhythms, from jazz improvisation to West African drumming. In 2007, his specific fascination with Carnatic music led to an extended stay in India studying performance, rhythm, and composition.
Charles Mason writes music for architectural spaces. With Additions, he will add the mobile listening experience to the concert hall listening experience and expose the acoustic architecture of the concert hall and lobby by strategically placing musicians in various public places before the concert. Audience members arriving at the concert hall will be treated to layers of the composition so that by the time they hear the work in its formal performance, they will have already heard basic elements of the piece. Mason will also add designed digital sound to the orchestra, expanding the apparent acoustical space of the concert hall itself and the colors of the orchestra.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Charles Norman Mason has been composing and living in the city of Birmingham for the last 17 years. He won the 2005-2006 Samuel Barber Rome Prize Fellowship in composition. Masons other awards include International Society for Bassists Composition Competition, Premi Internacional de Composició Musical Ciutat de Tarragona Orchestra Music prize, National Endowment of the Arts Artist Fellowship, Dale Warland Singers Commission Prize, BMI Young Composers Award, and Bourges Electro-Acoustic Composition Competition. His music has been performed throughout the world including the Aspen Summer Music Festival, Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico, and new music festivals in Prague, Bucharest, Bulgaria, and Sao Paulo. Mason is executive director of Living Music Foundation and chair of music at Birmingham-Southern College where he teaches music composition.
Mr. Trueman has been active as an experimental instrument designer and is a co-founder of PLOrk. He is also a member of interface, an electronic-improvisation ensemble, and Trollstilt, a fiddle and guitar duo. While many of his compositions are for his own ensembles, he also composes for other ensembles. A collection of his chamber works have been recorded on the Bridge Records CD Machine Language. A CD/DVD of his evening-length Five (and-a-half) Gardens (for So Percussion and Trollstilt, with animated paintings) will be released in March 2008 by So Percussion's new label, Shhh Productions. Five (and-a-half) Gardens has been presented at the Whitney Museum, the Third Practice Electro-Acoustic Festival, and elsewhere.
The Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk) is a newly established ensemble of computer-based musical meta-instruments. Each instrument consists of a laptop, a multi-channel hemispherical speaker, and a variety of control devices (keyboards, graphics tablets, sensors, etc.). The students who make up the ensemble act as performers, researchers, composers, and software developers. In the first year of PLOrk's existence, composers and performers from Princeton and elsewhere developed new pieces for this unprecedented ensemble, including Paul Lansky (professor of music at Princeton), Brad Garton (director of the Columbia Computer Music Center), PLOrk co-founders Dan Trueman and Perry Cook, and several graduate students. The eight members of PLOrk participating in Playing it UNsafe are Cameron Britt, Perry Cook, Rebecca Fiebrink, John Fontein, Michael Hammond, Janet Kim, Yuhwon Lee, and Jascha Narveson.
Jonathan Dawe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1965 and studied at the Oberlin Conservatory and The Juilliard School with Milton Babbitt. Upon receiving his doctorate at Juilliard in 1995, he joined the faculty. His music embodies a mix of modernist nuance and baroque imagery, spanning grand orchestral forces to delicate chamber music combinations. His The Flowering Arts for orchestra, commissioned by James Levine and The Boston Symphony Orchestra, premiered in January 2006 in four performances in Symphony Hall. Hailed as "a powerful premiere" (The Boston Globe), the work was commissioned to celebrate the orchestra's 125th-year anniversary.
Milarsky received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Peter Mennin Prize for outstanding leadership and achievement in the arts. He regularly conducts The Juilliard Orchestra, with whom he has premiered more than 150 works of Juilliard student composers over the past fifteen years. He is also on the pre-college percussion faculty at Juilliard.
As an active chamber and orchestral musician, Mr. Milarsky performs and records regularly with The New York Philharmonic, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, The American Composers Orchestra, The Stamford Symphony, and Concordia. He has recorded extensively for Angel, Bridge, Teldec, Telarc, New World, CRI, MusicMasters, EMI, Koch, and London records.
'Playing it UNsafe' & ACO's New Strategic Plan
With its emphasis on provocative new work, new compositional voices, and challenges to orchestral conventions, Playing it UNsafe grows directly out of a new strategic vision embraced by ACO. Last year, ACO's board approved a new long-range plan that makes the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. The plan envisions an expansion of ACO's new music readings and professional development activities for young composers, the development of a national network to foster the creation and development of new orchestral work, an increased focus on innovation through activities which serve as a 'laboratory' for the development of new work, the creation of a new music festival, and increased dissemination of its work. Playing it UNsafe is the first publicly visible step in the new plan.
& Admission Info
Tickets for the the April 25, 7:30pm Lab-Performance at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall 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.
Tickets for the April 27, 7:30pm Lab-Performance at International House, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia are $25 and are available by calling Penn Presents at 215-893-3900, or online at www.pennpresents.org.
Playing It UNsafe is dedicated to the memory of ACO's longtime board member Peter S. Heller. Mr. Heller knew the challenges of being a composer first-hand. He loved new music and cared deeply about creating new opportunities for American composers and their music.