Release (2004/02/27)

Friday, February 27, 2004 at 7:30pm
Zankel Hall

Orchestra Underground

Steven Sloane, conductor
Andrew Armstrong, piano

LISA BIELAWA: The Right Weather (World Premiere, Commissioned by The Helen F. Whitaker Fund)

LAURIE OLINDER, visual artist
BOB McGRATH, director

Gotham (World Premiere, ACO Commission)
In Collaboration with Ridge Theater and Hypnotic Pictures

Tickets are $20 & $30. Call CarnegieCharge: 212-247-7800

American Composers Orchestra
Launches “Orchestra Underground” debut concert at Zankel Hall February 27

Two world premieres commissioned by ACO — Lisa Bielawa’s The Right Weather and Michael Gordon’s Gotham — take advantage of new hall’s unique facilities

Orchestra Underground, conducted by music director Steven Sloane on Friday, February 27, 2004 at 7:30pm, marks American Composers Orchestra’s (ACO) debut at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. This unconventional, multimedia event is a milestone for ACO, the first concert in an ongoing, ambitious new initiative that will take full advantage of Zankel’s state-of-the-art facilities. Two world premieres have been commissioned especially for this event by important and distinctive young composers:The Right Weather for chamber orchestra and piano by Lisa Bielawa, with pianist Andrew Armstrong; and Gotham, a multimedia collaborative work being created by Michael Gordon with Ridge Theater artists, filmmaker Bill Morrison, visual artist Laurie Olinder, and director Bob McGrath.

Orchestra Underground is the first concert in a new initiative that will challenge conventional notions about symphonic music and the concert experience itself. Our goal is to develop new repertoire and provide a fertile working ground for artists who have not traditionally had access to the orchestral ensemble. Embracing multidisciplinary and collaborative work, novel instrumental and spatial orientations of musicians, new technologies and multimedia, Orchestra Underground is magnificently representative of our new initiative,” says ACO artistic director Robert Beaser. “Orchestra Underground is an opportunity to introduce literature which is desperately needed on the American orchestra scene. ACO was established over 25 years ago, and there are now a lot of pieces of around 15-20 minutes in length written for large orchestra. And American orchestras all over the country are performing American music much more now than before. But where there is a real hole in the repertoire is in works written for small orchestra and chamber ensemble. And this is what we’re hoping the Orchestra Underground series will do: explore new ways of defining the way orchestras present contemporary music,” adds music director Steven Sloane.

Lisa Bielawa: The Right Weather

The Right Weather, by Lisa Bielawa, will be an amalgam of four separate but interrelated pieces for piano solo and chamber orchestra, that “splinters the orchestra into various mongrel forms, borne out of the spatial energy of the Zankel Hall” according to Bielawa. The piece is based on four verbs—“Roam,” “Wait,” “Beckon” and “Start”—excerpted from the following passage in Nabokov’s translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin:

I roam above the sea,
I wait for the right weather,
I beckon to the sails of ships.
Under the cope of storms, with waves disputing,
On the free crossway of the sea
When shall I start on my free course?

Each verb serves as the title for one of the sections of The Right Weather, in what the composer calls a ritual of “spatially and temporally varied use of orchestral/instrumental forces.” Roam is a chamber orchestration of a piece that was completed by Bielawa at the Copland House in 2001. Selected for ACO’s 2002 new music readings for emerging composers, it opens with the solo pianist playing only a few isolated chords. Wait is for piano and drone, a drone that seems to come from the walls of the hall itself, as players place themselves around the outside of the hall. Beckon is scored for layered chamber ensembles, groupings of instruments mapped to the plan of Zankel Hall, each playing without a conductor and cueing off of one another. Start is a fully integrated piece for solo piano and orchestra, in the spirit of the one-movement piano concerto.

“I am fascinated with the expressive power of ‘non-integratedness’ in concert settings,” says the composer. “Our attention as listeners, so often saturated and over-stimulated in our daily lives, is made more acute through the laying-bare of different sound elements. A solo pianist appears but plays only momentarily, when the orchestra is not playing. When he begins to play, the orchestra vacates the stage, only to re-enter later, unseen, on a single note. Then the orchestra appears in small groups through numerous doors around the hall, behind which they have been playing the drone, and play only in self-contained utterances, which call to each other around the audience while the pianist is silent. At last we see the forces together onstage, and our experience of integrated sound is like a deliverance.”

Winner of ACO’s 2002 Helen F. Whitaker Commission, Lisa Bielawa is a recent recipient of the Aaron Copland Award for emerging composers. Her string quartet was recently premiered by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. As a co-founder and producer of the inventive Music at the Anthology, Ms. Bielawa has established herself as a provocative musical creator with a strong dramatic sense.

Andrew Armstrong, piano

Andrew Armstrong photo credit: Peter SchaafPianist Andrew Armstrong is the soloist in The Right Weather. He received the 1993 Van Cliburn Competition’s, Jury Discretionary Award. The youngest pianist entered in the competition, The New York Times wrote that Armstrong was “…the most talented player in the competition… he’s a real musician. We’ll hear more from him,” while the Fort Worth Star-Telegram called him simply, “Fabulous! Fabulous!” In 1996, Armstrong was named a Gilmore Young Artist. He has performed at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center.

Michael Gordon: Gotham

Michael Gordon is well known to downtown music fans as one of the co-founders of Bang on a Can. Gordon’s music combines the intensity and power of rock music with formal composition, and has been performed by artists such as the Kronos Quartet and Ensemble Modern at venues from BAM to Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center, Royal Albert Hall, and festivals from Edinburgh to St. Petersburg. His special interest in adding dimensionality to the concert experience has led to frequent collaborations with artists in other media.

In commissioning Gotham, a 35-minute multimedia portrait of New York City, ACO reunites Gordon with cutting-edge filmmaker Bill Morrison, visual artist Laurie Olinder, and director Bob McGrath of New York’s Ridge Theater. This same team created Decasia, a music/film/projection experience that has received rave reviews from Europe to the Sundance Film Festival.

Gotham will incorporate a film that will be projected throughout the entire length of the piece. Musicians will be positioned to be visible to the audience through the projections, at times seeming to inhabit the world of the film and slides.

Gotham has been inspired by its creators’ affinity for their hometown of New York—a personal portrait of a place as it has come to be known by these artists. It is a piece that finds beauty in the seemingly dirty and mundane details of the city, rather than relying on the knee-jerk reactions its more visible landmarks have come to inspire.Gotham seeks to reclaim New York for those who live and work here, seeing it as a constantly changing source of inspiration and hope.

Archival material will be used to show other personal visions of New York throughout the history of the recorded image. Rather than iconic stock shots, these images will tend toward the small observations of those who have been similarly inspired in the past. Imagery will also reflect the intimate knowledge of the town we live in. Although this world is clearly New York City, it also speaks to any number of urban dwellers in the 21st century. Gotham becomes the physical world through which we navigate.

About Ridge Theater

Ridge Theater has been presenting new theater works since 1987. Born out of the cabaret and performance spaces in Lower Manhattan, Ridge Theater has developed into one of New York’s premier creators of experimental theater and opera. The New York Times featured the company in a 1998 article stating: “Ridge Theater is an avant-garde company with an unbuttoned charm who made a name in experimental theater for staging multimedia spectacles with tidy, Swiss-watch precision.” Ridge Theater’s productions are often large-scale visual and aural works that seek to expand theatrical boundaries. Their productions often utilize diverse elements such as film and slide projections, musical scores, and defined ensemble movement. Ridge Theater has, since its inception, sought to work with innovative collaborators from a variety of related fields who endeavor to invigorate the live theatrical experience.

Among Ridge Theater’s recent productions is Jennie Richee, which received 2001 OBIE Awards for Direction and Collaborative Design. The Chicago Tribune called that production “Technically impressive, with its intricate film and slide projections…staged with a fine feeling for theatrical space by director Bob McGrath…he has conjured up a dreamlike world, in which the actors seem to float.”

Bob McGrath, director

Bob McGrath is the winner of three OBIE awards: Direction, Jennie Richee (2001), Best New American Work, The Carbon Copy Building (2000), and an award for Sustained Achievement. He has directed all of Ridge Theater’s productions. Mr. McGrath was awarded a fellowship from The Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, and has taught at NYU and the Eugene O’Neil Theater Center. He has directed at venues including the American Repertory Theater, The Kitchen, Lincoln Center, La MaMa, ETC., MASS MoCA, The Kampfnagle (Hamburg, Germany), and The Carignano (Turin, Italy). He has worked with writers and composers such as Mac Wellman, Ben Katchor, Susan Sontag, Robert Coover, Julia Wolfe, David Lang, Bang on a Can, and Cynthia Hopkins. As an actor and writer, Mr. McGrath has collaborated on the Scott Saunders films The Headhunter’s Sister (Winner, Independent Spirit Awards, 1998) and The Lost Words.

Laurie Olinder, visual designer

Laurie Olinder has created visual designs for Ridge Theater productions since 1987, including slide design, sets, backdrops, costumes, and props. Most recently, she designed slides for Decasia, an environmental symphony with projections for the 55-piece Basel Sinfonetti in November 2001. She will also be the visual designer for the upcoming Anatomy Theater, a collaboration with Ridge Theater, David Lang, and Mark Dion. She has recently been involved in design work for FEVA (Federation of East Village Artists) dedicated to the future of The East Village Art Community. Ms. Olinder graduated from the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts and attended Cooper Union. She is a recipient of a 2001 NYFA Fellowship, a 2001 OBIE Award for Collaborative Design for Jennie Richee, a MacDowell Fellowship, and in 1998 received an Eliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design in Theater for her work at The American Repertory Theater (Cambridge, MA) with fellow designer Fred Tietz.

Bill Morrison, filmmaker

Award-winning filmmaker Bill Morrison has contributed films to thirteen Ridge Theater productions since 1990, and has been recognized with Bessie (1993) and OBIE (2001) awards along the way. Five of these films are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Among them is his first full-length work, Decasia, which premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, and on the Sundance Channel throughout January 2003. (For more information, visit Morrison was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for filmmaking in 2000, and received grants from Creative Capital and NYFA in 2001.

Steven Sloane, music director & conductor

Steven Sloane is one of the most adventurous and innovative conductors to have emerged in recent years. Through his work with orchestras, festivals, choruses, and opera companies across Europe and in America, Mr. Sloane has won acclaim for his compelling programming, theatrical flair, and impressive technique. His passion for unusual repertoire, interest in eclectic juxtapositions of music of divergent eras and styles, commitment to contemporary works, and willingness to challenge convention have established Mr. Sloane as a bold champion of the future of concert music. [find out more…]

Ticket Info

Tickets for Orchestra Underground are $20 and $30. Tickets may be purchased through CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, by visiting Carnegie Hall’s website, or at the Carnegie Hall box office, 57th Street at 7th Ave.

About ACO

Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. [find out more…]

Major support of American Composers Orchestra is from Alliance Capital Management L.P., Amphion Foundation, ASCAP, The Bagby Foundation for the Musical Arts, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Bodman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, BMI Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Citigroup Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Consolidated Edison, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, Jean and Louis Dreyfus Foundation, Fidelity Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Estate of Francis Goelet, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Greenwall Foundation, The Hauser Foundation, Henfield Foundation, Victor Herbert Foundation, Geoffrey Hughes Foundation, Christian Humann Foundation, Jephson Educational Trust, The Jerome Foundation, Helen Sperry Lea Foundation, Koussevitzky Foundation, Meet the Composer, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, JPMorganChase, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Foundation, The New York Times Co. Foundation, Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Virgil Thomson Foundation, Oakleigh L. Thorne Foundation, and The Helen F. Whitaker Fund. ACO programs are 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.