American Composers Orchestra

about the concert

Sunday, May 24, 1998 at 3 PM at Carnegie Hall

Tan Dun brings Brash New New York Composers Together

Tan Dun, conductor
Derek Bermel, clarinet; Susan Botti, soprano

Michael Gordon: Romeo (U.S. Premiere )
Hard-driven minimalism for orchestra from one of the Bang on a Can Festival founders.

Derek Bermel: Voices for Clarinet & Orchestra (World Premiere, ACO Commission)
A clarinetist/composer who embraces world music, jazz and the European avant-garde.

Todd Levin: Swirl (New York Premiere)
Post-modern music for the television generation.

Tan Dun: Red Forecast, Orchestra Theatre III (U.S. Premiere)
A multimedia work for soprano, orchestra, video, and taped audio news from a revolutionary Chinese-American composer.

 

Pre-Concert Discussion with the composers and ACO Artistic Advisor Robert Beaser at 1:45 pm. Free to all ticket holders.

Tickets: $40, $35, $20, $13 and $9.

For Tickets Call CarnegieCharge: 212-247-7800

8am-8pm 7 days a week. Or visit the Box Office: Mon.-Sat. 11am-6pm, Sun. noon-6pm.Pre-Concert talk with the composers at 1:45pm


Tan Dun, the Chinese-American composer and conductor, who has made a sensation this season (Marco Polo at City Opera, Symphony 1997 for the reunification of Honk Kong with China) will lead the American Composers Orchestra in a program that features the U.S. Premiere of Tan’s multimedia Red Forecast (Orchestra Theatre III), as well as new works by three brash thirty-something New York composers, Sunday, May 24, 1998 at 3pm at Carnegie Hall. This is a high energy “in your face” music, by contemporary composers influenced by rock, jazz and world musics as much as symphonic tradition. In addition to Tan’s Red Forecast, a music-video piece whose subject is the Vietnam War era, the concert offers the U.S. Premiere of Romeo by Michael Gordon (of Bang on a Can fame), the New York Premiere of Todd Levin’s Swirl and the world premiere of Voices for Clarinet & Orchestra, by Derek Bermel, featuring the composer as soloist. Tickets are available by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800.

Tan Dun, emmigrated from China, and like his composer colleagues on this program, now thrives in the pressure-cooker/melting pot of New York City. Though each of these young composers has a unique voice, their work has in common the pulse of life at the “crossroads of the world.” Each has a firm “academic” grounding, but also a healthy disrespect for the status quo--a very New York desire to tell it like it is. You might call it “urban orchestral assault music” everything from folk traditions to jazz to muzak to street music, video imagery, pop culture, percussion tracks, and not occasionally sheer volume to convey its message.

Red Forecast is a 45-minute multimedia work for soprano, orchestra, video, and taped audio news. It is part of Tan Dun’s Orchestral Theatre series, which according to the composer, “had its origins in some musings about the place of music in the world, and of humanity in society and in nature,” says Tan. “Music which clearly separates the role of performer from listener, of orchestra from audience, seems usual to modern concert-goers. Actually, such isolation began only a few hundred years ago, while the history of music as an integral part of spiritual life, as ritual, as shared participation, is as old as humanity itself. The idea of an ‘orchestral theatre’ gradually came to me as a way of finding this lost unity and bringing the performing arts back to the audience,” he adds.

Tan’s collaborators in Red Forecast are soprano Susan Botti and video artist Mike Newman. Botti is a vocalist who has made a mark in avant-garde circles not only because of the flexibility and range of vocal techniques she employs, but also for the dark and often disturbing dramatic element she brings to her work. She sang the role of “Water” in Tan’s Marco Polo. About her, The New York Times has written, “it was hard to know what to admire most about Botti: her music, her singing, or the theatrical flair and imagination she brought to both.” Mike Newman is a prominent video artist who favors collage format work. For Red Forecast he interweaves archival footage from the 1960s that includes historical events and figures as well as home movies and scenes of domestic life. Later the video moves to scenes of light, nature and serenity. Throughout Red Forecast the video montage provides ironic commentary to the music. Not since Philip Glass and Godfrey Reggio collaborated on Koyaanisqatsi has there been a more moving blend of music and moving image.

Michael Gordon is well-known to New York audiences as one of the founders and artistic directors of the Bang on a Can Festival, whose marathon concerts meld the experience of a rock concert and a chamber music recital. His music has been called “audacious and brilliant.” Gordon received his formal training at Yale University where he studied with Martin Bresnick. His compositions embrace rigorous minimalism, modality, pop culture and bold direct sound. Most of his work is for amplified chamber ensemble, and he has also developed several video operas. The ACO’s performance of Romeo written in 1992 gives U.S. listeners their first chance to hear Gordon’s only work to date scored for “traditional” symphonic forces.

The Village Voice says Tod Levin “has a tremendous talent for vividly rhythmic postminimal textures.” Yes, and in Swirl, being given its New York premiere by ACO, there is that--but the music also sounds vaguely like something you might hear emanating from your television set if you happen to fall asleep and wake up at 3am to 1970s reruns. Or, you might say it sounds something like a poetry reading at a downtown cafe, except for the fact that there is one heck of a backup band in the mix. An astute observer and life and pop-culture, Levin is fascinated by what he calls, “the magical time of adolescence.” Levin’s music employs familiar sounds and rhythms from commercial music, combining them with narration, which more often than not is autobiographical. But Levin insists, “my music is not ironic, tongue-in-cheek or even kitsch...There is more a sense of tragedy to it—of symbolism.”

Composer/clarinetist Derek Bermel draws upon a diverse array of influences which mix freely in his compositions. Trained at Yale and the University of Michigan, where he studied with William Bolcom, he also studied ethnomusicology focusing on traditional music of Israel and Africa. Today he cites jazz pianist Thelonius Monk and composer György Ligeti as his principal influences. The New York Times has called Bermel the clarinetist “a truly exceptional talent.” And it is this talent along with his compositional craft which ACO invited Bermel to display by offering him a commission. The result of that commission, Voices continues Bermel’s fascination with the grotesque and theatrical in music, with ideas often springing from words, spoken or sung. “Derek is a fabulous all-around musician with a unique perspective,” says Francis Thorne, a composer and former jazz pianist who is also the American Composers Orchestra’s founder and President. “I’ve had a wonderful time getting to know Derek...we’ve even jammed together,” Thorne added. [Interview with Derek Bermel]

The American Composers Orchestra is the nation’s only orchestra dedicated exclusively to performing symphonic works by American composers. Through its concert series at Carnegie Hall, recordings, radio broadcasts, educational programs, new music reading sessions, and commissions, the ACO identifies today’s brightest emerging composers, champions this country’s prominent established composers as well as those lesser-known, and increases regional and national awareness of the infinite varieties—stylistic, geographic and ethnic—of American orchestral music. Since its founding in 1977, the Orchestra has programmed 400 works by 343 American composers, including 108 world premieres and 87 commissions, generating more new American symphonic works than any other orchestra. Recordings by ACO are available on ARGO, CRI, Point, MusicMasters, and New World Records.

Major support of the American Composers Orchestra is from Alliance Capital Management L.P., AT&T Foundation, Mr. Thomas Buckner, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, The Booth Ferris Foundation, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mr. Francis Goelet, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, J.P. Morgan & Co., and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund. This concert is also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional funding comes from Meet the Composer, Inc., with support from ASCAP, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, JP Morgan & Co, and the Virgil Thompson Foundation.

Tickets for ACO’s Sunday, May 24, 1998 concert at Carnegie Hall are $40, $35, $20, $13 and $9, and are available through CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. The concert begins at 3pm. A pre-concert talk with composers Tan Dun, Derek Bermel, Michael Gordon, Todd Levin and ACO’s Artistic Advisor, Robert Beaser, is free to ticket holders and begins at 1:45pm.Dennis Russell Davies, conductor

 

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