Release (2004/11/17)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004 at 7:30 pm
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall

ACO Goes “Underground” Connecting
Painting and Music

ACO kicks-off its second season “underground” with provocative music that explores the relationship between music and visual arts.


Steven Sloane, conductor
Ida Kavafian, violin
Alice Ripley & Matt Bogart, vocalists

MICHAEL DAUGHERTY: Fire and Blood (New York Premiere)
RANDALL WOOLF: Women at an Exhibition for chamber orchestra, electronics, and video (World Premiere)
STEPHEN SONDHEIM: Sunday in the Park with George (selections)

Tickets: $20 & $32
Call the box office at: 212-247-7800
Or visit CarnegieCharge online.

American Composers Orchestra opens its concert season on November 17, 2004 at 7:30pm in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, with the second concert in its groundbreaking new concert series, Orchestra Underground. Challenging conventional notions about symphonic music and the concert experience itself, this installment of Orchestra Underground explores the far-reaching impact of the visual arts on music. The event features the world premiere of Randall Woolf’s multimedia Women at an Exhibition, created in collaboration with independent filmmakers Mary Harron and John C. Walsh; the New York premiere of Michael Daugherty’s powerful Fire and Blood, inspired by Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” murals, with violin soloist Ida Kavafian; Morton Feldman’s De Kooning, and selections from Stephen Sondheim’s poignant Sunday in the Park with George.

The concert offers a special focus on the varied and unexpected ways in which composers have been influenced not only by the finished works of visual artists, but also by their creative process and the limitless potential for the two disciplines to inspire and influence each other. Contrasting themes of alienation-depicting through music the emotional struggle of the self-absorbed painter in Sunday in the Park with George-with those of connection, collaboration and inspiration, as in the works of Morton Feldman, Michael Daugherty, and Randall Woolf, the program provides a compelling look at the interdependent aspects of the vast and continually evolving landscapes of music and visual art.

[To learn more about music inspired by, and created in collaboration, with the visual arts, see Music & Art Beneath the Surface, an essay by Frank J. Oteri]

Michael Daugherty: Fire and Blood (New York Premiere)

Michael Daugherty’s Fire and Blood lives up to its billing as a smoldering concerto for violin and orchestra from a composer known for his embrace of irony and pop icons. Violinist Ida Kavafian, who debuted the work at its world premiere with the Detroit Symphony last year, reprises her performance in this New York premiere. The piece takes its inspiration from four large walls at the Detroit Institute of Arts painted by the Mexican modernist artist Diego Rivera in 1932. Commissioned by Edsel Ford to paint a mural representing the automobile industry in Detroit, it was Rivera himself who predicted the possibility of turning his murals into music, after returning from a tour of the Ford Factories: “In my ears, I heard the wonderful symphony which came from his factories where metals were shaped into tools for men’s service. It was a new music, waiting for the composer&ldots;to give it communicable form.”

The music is in three movements: Volcano, which responds to the fiery furnaces of Rivera’s imagination through the explosive interplay between violinist and orchestra; River Rouge, which depicts through dissonant and haunting melodies the passion and suffering of Rivera’s wife, the artist Frida Khalo; and Assembly Line, which portrays the violinist as factory worker and the orchestra as machine, with a final collaborative interplay of percussion, brass and strings.

Ida Kavafian, violin

Ida Kavafian’s vast repertoire and impressive versatility have gained her a unique position in the music world. Internationally acclaimed as one of the few artists to excel on violin as well as viola, she has appeared as a soloist with leading orchestras both nationally and internationally, including the orchestras of New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Saint Louis, Montreal, Minnesota, Metropolitan (Tokyo), Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and London. She has also performed with her sister, violinist Ani Kavafian, with the symphonies of Colorado, Tucson, San Antonio, and Chattanooga. Together they have recorded the music of Mozart and Sarasate on the Nonesuch label. Her commitment to contemporary music has led to many world premieres by composers as varied as Toru Takemitsu, who wrote a concerto for her, and jazz greats Chick Corea and Wynton Marsalis, with whom she has toured and recorded. She has also toured and recorded with the Guarneri String Quartet, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, of which she is an Artist Member, and was the violinist of the renowned Beaux Arts Trio for six years, during which time they were named “Ensemble of the Year” by Musical America and received a 1998 Grammy nomination.

Randall Woolf: Women at an Exhibition (World Premiere, new version)
Video by Mary Harron and John C. Walsh

Randall Woolf is a “downtown” composer whose compositions combine traditional orchestral instruments, digital processing, electric guitar, electronic and acoustic drumsets and text, creating a richly varied and genre-bending fusion of elements both ancient and futuristic. Women at an Exhibition was commissioned by the Akron Art Museum. Woolf began planning the piece by choosing works from the museum’s collection. When a friend observed that Woolf had chosen mostly images of women, he decided to present his work as a constantly shifting, open-ended statement about women&ldots;how they are seen by men, by society, by each other, and how they see themselves, without ever settling into one point of view. Woolf then assembled a digital soundtrack created from the sounds of women singing in diverse genres, from country and western, to new wave rock, to renaissance madrigals to accompany the orchestra. ACO’s performance marks the world premiere of a new version of the piece for small orchestra.

Collaborating with Woolf in the creation of Women at an Exhibition are filmmakers Mary Harron and John C. Walsh, who produced a video that amplified and extended Woolf’s open-ended ideas about women’s roles. “Randy came to us with about two dozen images he liked from the museum’s collection, and asked that we edit them to his score. We began and proceeded on a strictly intuitive basis. We played with juxtaposing different images, doing varied camera moves on them. What became the content of the shot depended on the particular camera movement and the extent to which the image was obvious from the outset or revealed slowly by pulling out. We tried to let the mood and tempo of the score be our guide,” says Walsh.

Woolf first met husband and wife team, Mary Harron and John C. Walsh, while working on the score to Harron’s American Psycho, a film based on Bret Easton Ellis’s controversial novel. That project, released in 2000, quickly became a cult-classic-a vision of 1980’s American culture, depicting urban life through the eyes of a wealthy young serial killer. Harron studied English literature at Oxford and began her career as a rock journalist during the punk era. During the 1980’s she worked in British television and directed short films and documentaries for the BBC. In the early 1990’s she moved to New York and attracted major critical acclaim with her first feature film, I Shot Andy Warhol, released in 1996. Harron is currently finishing a film for HBO about the 1950’s pinup girl Bettie Page. Walsh premiered his first film, Ed’s Next Move, at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996. Walsh’s second feature, Pipe Dream was released in 2002, starring Mary-Louise Parker. His latest project is a film starring Sigourney Weaver entitled Due Date.

[To find out more about “Women at an Exhibition,” read Looking at Women: an interview with Randy Woolf, Mary Harron and John Walsh by Mic Holwin.


Morton Feldman: De Kooning

Morton Feldman’s strongest influence came from 1950’s New York painters, many of whom became good friends, such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning, Philip Guston and Mark Rothko. Of Willem De Kooning’s work Feldman noted, “It was fascinating to watch De Kooning paint: When you look at his pictures, they all look very, very fast, but he paints very slowly&ldots; In slow motion&ldots; I just couldn’t believe it. Very slow, but it looked vary fast.” Feldman’s friendship and fascination with the painter led director Hans Namuth to approach the composer to create the score for Willem De Kooning, The Painter, a documentary Namuth completed in 1963. Scored for horns, drums, piano, violin and violoncello, the music is a study in contrasted, well-coordinated chords and a free sequence of individual sounds, that works alone or in the context of the film.

Stephen Sondheim: Sunday in the Park with George (selections)

Inspired by the art of Georges Seurat, the nineteenth-century pointillist painter, specifically a painting entitled “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” Sunday in the Park with George won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for drama. Conveying images of the pointillist style through passages of musical minimalism, Sondheim illustrates the unforeseen repercussions of an artist burying himself in his work and alienating himself from his mistress, who eventually leaves him.

Long revered in the theatrical world, Sondheim is now coming into wider recognition for the sensitivity and nuance of his purely musical expression. Sondheim’s musical language, in which melody and harmony are closely argued, retains strong affinities with Ravel and Copland, while making sophisticated use of jazz and dance idioms. An inescapable composer and lyricist of the American musical, Sondheim assimilated its stylistic traditions early in his career, and subsequently developed its potential for innovatory and serious theatrical and musical expression.

[For more on Sondheim see related essay: Sondheim in Two Contexts by Gerald Moshell]

Tickets & Information:

“Orchestra Underground” is November 17, 2004 at 7:30pm in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. Tickets are $20 and $32, and may be purchased through CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, by visiting Carnegie Hall’s website at, or at the Carnegie Hall box office on 57th Street at 7th Ave.


“Orchestra Underground” is presented with the generous support of The Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund.

“Women at an Exhibition” was commissioned by the Akron Art Museum and premiered by the Akron Symphony Orchestra with support from Continental Harmony, which links communities with composers through the creation of original musical works. The program is a partnership of American Composers Forum and The National Endowment for the Arts, with funds provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation and additional support from the Target Foundation. The Akron Art Museum’s project was made possible by the Mirapaul Foundation, the Akron Art Museum Acquisition Fund and Mrs. Cynthia Knight.

Major institutional support for American Composers Orchestra comes from: Alliance Capital Management, Amphion Foundation, The Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund, Arlington Associates, ASCAP, The Bagby Foundation for the Musical Arts, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, Bodman Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, BMI, BMI Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Citigroup Foundation, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Consolidated Edison, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Constans Culver Foundation, Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, Jean and Louis Dreyfus Foundation, FerrellCalvillo Communications, Fidelity Foundation, Fromm Music Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The Estate of Francis Goelet, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Hauser Foundation, Henfield Foundation, Victor Herbert Foundation, Christian Humann Foundation, Jephson Educational Trust, The Jerome Foundation, Helen Sperry Lea Foundation, Meet the Composer, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, JPMorganChase Foundation, The New York Times Co. Foundation, Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation, Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, The Susan and Ford Schumann Foundation, Smith Barney, the Virgil Thomson Foundation, Oakleigh L. Thorne Foundation, Mr. Paul Underwood, The Watchdog and Sonata Charitable Trust, 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.