American Composers Orchestra Announces Orchestra Underground: American Accounts, 3/22


American Composers Orchestra (ACO) presents Orchestra Underground: American Accounts on Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. The concert, led by ACO Music Director & Conductor George Manahan, explores uniquely American stories – both in musical content and in the background of the composers – and features works by Aaron Copland, Milton Babbitt, Gabriel Kahane, and Michael Daugherty. (The premiere of Ian Williams' new piece, previously announced as being part of this concert, has been postponed.)

American Accounts features the world premiere of a new work commissioned by ACO from Brooklyn-based composer/singer/songwriter Gabriel Kahane – his Crane Palimpsest is a meditation on the Brooklyn Bridge that takes as its starting point the words of Hart Crane and features the composer as both singer, guitarist, and pianist. The concert also includes the New York premiere of Michael Daugherty's Trail of Tears, an ACO co-commission which chronicles the tragic internment and march of native Americans to reservations in Oklahoma, with Amy Porter as the flute soloist. Milton Babbitt's From the Psalter, commissioned by ACO in 2002, and reprised on this program in memory of the composer's passing last year, features soprano Judith Bettina. Aaron Copland's jazz-fueled 1950 Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, with ACO's Creative Advisor Derek Bermel as the clarinet soloist, completes the program.

Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra remains the only orchestra in the world dedicated exclusively to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. To date, ACO has performed music by more than 600 American composers, including 200 world premieres and newly commissioned works. 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.

Gabriel Kahane: Crane Palimpsest
(World Premiere, ACO/Jerome/NYSCA commission). For more information and audio:

Composer and performer Gabriel Kahane is a musical polymath, invested equally in the worlds of concert, theater and popular music. Launched by his 2006 song cycle Craigslistlieder – heard frequently in august concert halls and dirty bars alike – Kahane's rapid ascent as a composer of concert works came into focus in the 2010-2011 season, which witnessed the premieres of three commissioned works: The Red Book, a string quartet for the Kronos Quartet; a hybrid cello sonata/song cycle for cellist Alisa Weilerstein and himself; and a large chamber work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

As a performer, Kahane moves with ease between musical realms. His self-titled debut album, featuring performances by Sam Amidon, Sufjan Stevens and Chris Thile, was released in 2008 and was followed up by a second LP in the fall of 2010. Among his various credits as a performer, he has appeared with Rufus Wainwright on Elvis Costello's Spectacle, sung lieder with pianists Jonathan Biss and Jeremy Denk, and has, as a pianist, joined bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff in recital throughout Europe.

Crane Palimpsest is a meditation on the Brooklyn Bridge, juxtaposing settings of stanzas from Hart Crane's poem, To Brooklyn Bridge, with songs set to Kahane's own lyrics in response to the Crane text. Kahane explains, "I've literalized the idea of 'the bridge' in the sense that two distinct musical vocabularies are in play and cross paths; the first being the more formal language heard in the introduction and first several stanzas of the Crane, the second being the vernacular or pop-based harmonic language in the songs with my own words."

Michael Daugherty: Trail of Tears
(New York Premiere, ACO co-commission). For more information and audio:

Michael Daugherty is one of the most commissioned, performed, and recorded composers on the American concert music scene today. With music rich with cultural allusions and bearing the stamp of classic modernism, Daugherty has been hailed by The Times (London) as "a master icon maker" with a "maverick imagination, fearless structural sense and meticulous ear." Daugherty first came to international attention when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performed his Metropolis Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1994. In 2011, the Nashville Symphony's Naxos recording of Daugherty's Metropolis Symphony and Deus ex Machina was honored with three Grammy Awards, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

Daugherty has received numerous awards, distinctions, and fellowships for his music, including: a Fulbright Fellowship, the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, and the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His recordings can be heard on Albany, Argo, Delos, Equilibrium, Klavier, Naxos and Nonesuch labels.

Of his flute concerto Trail of Tears, Daugherty says, "One of the tragedies of human history is the forced removal of peoples from their homeland for political, economic, racial, religious, or cultural reasons. In America, the forced removal of all Native Americans living east of the Mississippi River began with the passage of President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830. In 1838, 15,000 Cherokee men, women, and children were forcibly taken from their homes by the U.S. Army and placed in stockades and camps in Tennessee. From November 1838 to March 1839, the Cherokee, with scant clothing and many without shoes, were forced to make an 800-mile march for relocation in Oklahoma during the bitter cold of winter. Suffering from exposure, disease, and starvation, nearly 4,000 Cherokee died during the five-month march known as the 'Trail of Tears.' My flute concerto is a musical journey into how the human spirit discovers ways to deal with upheaval, adversity and adapting to a new environment."

Amy Porter, flute
Amy Porter first leapt to international attention winning the Kobe International Flute Competition in Japan, which led to invitations to perform throughout the world. She is a touring concert artist who performs recitals in the major concert halls of Asia and the United States. Porter has been heard in recital on National Public Radio, highlighted on PBS Live From Lincoln Center and featured on the magazine covers of Flute Talk Magazine in the USA, The Flute Magazine in Japan and Muramatsu Flute Magazine in Japan. Porter has four world premieres written for her – The Shadow Of Sirius Concerto by Joel Puckett, David Sampson's Undercurrents for solo flute, Christopher Caliendo's Sonata No. 8 The Ghost Sonata for flute and piano, as well as Michael Daugherty's Trail of Tears.

Milton Babbitt: From the Psalter
(ACO commission)

The compositional and intellectual wisdom of Milton Babbitt has influenced a wide range of contemporary musicians. A broad array of distinguished musical achievements in the dodecaphonic system and important writings on the subject have generated increased understanding and integration of serialist language into the eclectic musical styles of today. Babbitt was also renowned for his great talent and instinct for jazz and his astonishing command of American popular music. An extensive catalogue of works for multiple combinations of instruments and voice along with his pioneering achievements in synthesized sound made Babbitt one of the most celebrated contemporary composers. He was a founder and member of the Committee of Direction for the Electronic Music Center of Columbia-Princeton Universities and a member of the Editorial Board of Perspectives of New Music. Milton Babbitt was the recipient of numerous honors, commissions, and awards, including a Mac Arthur Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize Citation for his "life's work as a distinguished and seminal American composers." Babbitt was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Babbitt's From the Psalter for soprano and orchestra joins Psalm 13 with two stanzas each from Psalms 40 and 41, as realized in verse by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586). Babbitt wrote of the piece, "The syntax of the poetry may sometimes appear intricate, even convoluted; an occasional word is 'archaic' (at least, for most of us), and familiar words occasionally are employed unfamiliarly, but the verses of this remarkable poet, essayist, and courtier are never ultimately obscure, but elegant, original, and even memorable."

Judith Bettina, soprano
Soprano Judith Bettina, hailed for her proficiency in a wide range of musical styles, has appeared as guest soloist with such orchestras as the Houston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Munich Philharmonic. She has appeared with chamber groups throughout the United States and Europe, including appearances with the Bach Chamber Soloists, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Continuum, Bard Music Festival, New York Philmusica, Parnassus, Speculum Musicae, The Geneva Music Festival, Ensemble 21, Boston Musica Viva, San Francisco Contemporary Chamber players, the Monadnock Music Festival, and the Library of Congress. Highly acclaimed for her performances of contemporary music, Bettina has had works written for her by Mel Powell, Tobias Picker, Christopher Berg, Chester Biscardi, David Rakowski, Richard Karpen, and David Olan. She has premiered works by Charles Wuorinen, Milton Babbitt, Lori Dobbins, Richard Danielpour, George Tsontakis, and Vivian Fine. Bettina's recent performances have included Tobias Picker's Symphony No. 2: Aussöhnung and the premiere of Trest sonetos de amor, Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, and Edison Denisov's La vie en rouge. Bettina premiered From the Psalter with ACO in 2002.