American Composers Orchestra to Premiere Five Works In THE QUEST: EPIC JOURNEYS At Carnegie Hall

The program features the New York premiere of Augusta Read Thomas's Sun Dance-In memoriam Oliver Knussen, plus much more.

By: Sep. 27, 2023

American Composers Orchestra to Premiere Five Works In THE QUEST: EPIC JOURNEYS At Carnegie Hall American Composers Orchestra (ACO) will premiere music by hundreds of today's top composers, and no two concerts are alike. On Thursday, November 9 at 7:30pm in Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall presents the ACO conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni in Click Here a wide-ranging musical testament to humanity's bold endeavors that asks "What is a 'Quest' in this day and age? New works by Augusta Read Thomas, George Lewis, Jack Hughes, Guillermo Klein, and Nina C Young each explore personal and abstract forms of human "Epic-ness."

ACO Artistic Director Curtis Stewart poses, "Whether it be a journey of identity, faith, or adventure - we each embody elements of that spirit of becoming. This music is an invitation and creative space to tap into those moments of vulnerability - just for a moment, to dare to see our own lives as Quests in the making."

The program features the New York premiere of Augusta Read Thomas's Sun Dance-In memoriam Oliver Knussen, originally written to precede Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, in a reduced orchestral version commissioned for ACO; a world premiere by George E. Lewis, one of the leading exponents of experimental music today; a world premiere by composer and jazz pianist Guillermo Klein, developed via ACO's EarShot CoLABoratory residency program; the world premiere of Nina C. Young's multimedia rendering of a famed (and ultimately doomed) expedition to the North Pole with narration by baritone Sidney Outlaw and video design by R. Luke Dubois; and a world premiere by Cleveland-based composer Jack Hughes.

The Quest: Epic Journeys opens with the New York premiere of Augusta Read Thomas's piece, which unfolds a labyrinth of musical interrelationships and connections that showcase the orchestra. Thomas shares, "Music for me is an embrace of the world, a way to open myself to being alive in the world - in my body, in my sounds, and in my mind. I care deeply about musicality, imagination, craft, clarity, dimensionality, an elegant balance between material and form, and empathy with the performing musicians as well as everyone who works in the presenting organizations."

In George E. Lewis's Weathering, the composer was inspired by classic depictions of human struggle in American music, as found in Amy Beach, Charles Ives, Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins, Elliott Carter, Duke Ellington, and many others. Public health researcher Arline Geronimus calls "weathering" a continuous fight-or-flight vigilance and stress response in reaction to an unrelenting anti-Blackness that can be experienced at any time, transcending class position, with lingering effects long after the experience is over. Nonetheless, the targets of the abuse are expected to respond "stoically." Lewis shares, "Weathering (the music) is about the sound of that struggle, part of a larger call for new histories, new subjectivities, and a new identity for classical music. I am hoping that this music will provoke not stress, but empathy, since diverse forms of weathering affect us all. "

Preceding intermission, ACO performs the world premiere of Guillermo Klein's The Kingdom, inspired by the composer's reading of The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrère. Klein shares, "In the book, the author explores the mysterious source of the impulse to believe. He mixes personal experiences with historical research of early Christianity, blending scholarship with speculation." In this composition, the music has a recurrent motif that dialogues between different forms of harmonic resonance, persistent rhythms that emerge and migrate - an overall sense of immersion, contemplation, and reflection drives this work.

As part of ACO's EarShot CoLABoratory program, Klein workshopped his piece with ACO musicians in June through collaborative working sessions leading up to the world premiere. Klein explores the notion of faith in "The Kingdom," using harmonics spectrally extrapolated from rich sonic textures to create hidden melodies within various orchestral permutations - testing the listener's belief in their existence. CoLABoratory sessions explored harmonic possibilities with the strings, pulling out combinations of sonorities in various registers to accomplish the spectral theory.

The world premiere of Nina C. Young's Out of whose womb came the ice, co-commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra and Carnegie Hall, is a five-part multimedia composition featuring visual design by R. Luke Dubois. The piece is inspired by a famed expedition to the North Pole by Sir Ernest Shackleton and his ship, Endurance, following their journey from the time the crew leaves its port through the ship's entrapment in Antartica's pack ice. The vocal solo, performed by baritone Sidney Outlaw, focuses on the crew's perception of the Endurance in relation to their surroundings. Young says, "She goes from being simply a ship, to a lifeline and memento that connects them to the world they left behind. Once she sinks, they are truly left alone. The visuals and electronics offer narrative elements drawn directly from documents of the journey: journal entries of the crew and images by the expedition's official photographer Frank Hurley."

Closing the program is the world premiere of Jack Hughes's Three Ways of Getting There, an ACO Underwood Commission awarded to Hughes following his participation in ACO's EarShot Readings in 2019. The work is composed of three interconnected movements incorporating a prominent pattern that guides the flow of the music. Hughes shares, "When composing, I work with simple energetic patterns that give rise to a work's harmonies, melodies, rhythms, and overall form." While the surface level of this music is constantly in flux, the deep background rhythms are steady and unchanging.

Program Details

Thursday, November 9, 2023 at 7:30pm
American Composers Orchestra Performs The Quest: Epic Journeys
Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall | New York, NY
Tickets: Tickets start at $40. Available at CarnegieCharge (212) 247-7800,, or at the Box Office on 57th Street and Seventh Avenue.
Link: Click Here

Augusta Read Thomas - Sun Dance-In memoriam Oliver Knussen (NY Premiere) [6']
George Lewis - Weathering (World Premiere/ACO Commission) [15']
Guillermo Klein - The Kingdom (World Premiere/EarShot CoLABoratory Commission) [10']
- Intermission -
Nina C. Young - Out of whose womb came the ice (World Premiere, co-commissioned by ACO and Carnegie Hall) [28]'
Sidney Outlaw, Baritone; R. Luke Dubois, Video Design
Jack Hughes -Three Ways of Getting There (World Premiere/ACO Underwood Commission) [10-12']

American Composers Orchestra
Vimbayi Kaziboni, Conductor

About American Composers Orchestra

In 1977, a collective of fearless New York City musicians came together to form the American Composers Orchestra (ACO), an ensemble dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. Over more than 40 years committed to artistry, creativity, community, and equity, ACO has blossomed into a national institution that not only cultivates and develops the careers of living composers, but also provides composers a direct pipeline to partnerships with many of America's major symphony orchestras.

In addition to its annual season, presented by Carnegie Hall since 1987, the ACO serves as a New York City hub where the most forward-thinking experimental American musicians come together to hone and realize new art by developing talent, established composers, and underrepresented voices, increasing the regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music.

ACO produces national educational programs for all ages, and composer advancement programs to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders - all dedicated to American composition.

To date, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including over 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Recent and notable commissioned composers include John Luther Adams, Andy Akiho, Clarice Assad, Carlos Bandera, Courtney Bryan, Valerie Coleman, Dai Wei, Du Yun, inti figgis-vizueta, Marcus Gilmore, Vijay Iyer, Yvette Janine Jackson, Joan La Barbara, Steve Lehman, Tania León, Paula Matthusen, Trevor New, Mendi + Keith Obadike, Ellen Reid, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Carlos Simon, Henry Threadgill, and many more.

Now encompassing all of ACO's composer advancement initiatives, EarShot is the first ongoing, systematic program for developing relationships between composers and orchestras on the national level. Through orchestral readings, CoLABoratory fellowships, consortium commissions, publishing, and professional development, EarShot ensures a vibrant musical future by investing in creativity today. Serving over 350 composers since inception, ACO Readings in NYC began in 1991, and since 2008, national Readings have been offered in partnership with orchestras across the country in collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA, and American Composers Forum. EarShot Readings composers have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Rome Prizes.

ACO has received numerous awards for its work, including those from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra's outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded ACO its annual prize for adventurous programming 35 times, singling out ACO as "the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States." ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Audience Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council. Learn more at

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The commission of Three Ways of Getting There by Jack Hughes is generously funded by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Underwood.
Guillermo Klein's The Kingdom is developed via ACO's EarShot CoLABoratory program, generously underwritten by TD Charitable Foundation and Altman Foundation.

American Composers Orchestra is grateful to the many organizations that make its programs possible including Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Altman Foundation, Amphion Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, AmazonSmile Foundation, ASCAP Foundation, Mandell and Madeleine Berman Foundation, BMI Foundation, BMI, Inc., Cheswatyr Foundation, Deutsche Bank Americans Foundation, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Ford Good Neighbor Committee, Francis B. Goelet Charitable Trust, Fromm Music Foundation, Steven R. Gerber Trust, Howard Gilman Foundation, Jephson Educational Trusts, The Lotos Foundation, MacMillan Family Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Morgan Stanley, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, New Music USA's Organization Fund, Pacific Harmony Foundation, Rexford Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sphinx Venture Fund, TD Charitable Foundation, Turrell Fund, Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Corporate gifts to match employee contributions are made by Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Triton Container International Incorporated of North America, and Neiman Marcus.

Public funds are provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

EarShot is a program of American Composers Orchestra completed in partnership with American Composers Forum, the League of American Orchestras, and New Music USA. The program is made possible with lead support from Altman Foundation, Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting, Mellon Foundation, Sphinx Venture Fund, TD Charitable Foundation and Fromm Foundation, additional support is provided by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, and the League of American Orchestras with support of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.


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