American Composers Orchestra Continues 40th Anniversary Season With DREAMSCAPES
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) continues its 2017-2018 season, under the leadership of Artistic Director Derek Bermel, Music Director George Manahan, and President Edward Yim, with Dreamscapes, on Friday, April 6, 2018 at 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall (57th St. and 7th Ave.).
Dreamscapes is a global celebration of musical dreams, fusing jazz, world, and classical music. It features the world premieres of The Bad Plus founding member Ethan Iverson's first orchestral work, Concerto to Scale with the composer as the piano soloist, and Steve Lehman's Ten Threshold Studies, both commissioned by ACO; and the New York premieres of Clarice Assad's Dreamscapes featuring violinist Elena Urioste, TJ Anderson's Bahia Bahia, and Hitomi Oba's September Coming, which was first read at the Buffalo Philharmonic EarShot Readings led by ACO after Oba's participation in ACO's 2015 Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute.
This season ACO launched its Commission Club, through which members invest in the lifespan of a commission: from the composer's first kernel of artistic inspiration to the realization of the music as a printed score, the early rehearsals, and through the premiere performance. In 2017-2018, ACO's Commission Club has supported Ethan Iverson as he created Concerto to Scale.
Dreamscapes Concert Program:
- CLARICE ASSAD: Dreamscapes for violin and chamber orchestra (New York Premiere)
- STEVE LEHMAN: Ten Threshold Studies (2018, World Premiere, ACO Commission)
- ETHAN IVERSON: Concerto to Scale for piano and orchestra (2018, World Premiere, ACO Commission)
- TJ Anderson: Bahia Bahia (1991, New York Premiere)
- HITOMI OBA: September Coming (2016, New York Premiere)
ACO's 2017-2018 season, titled Dreamscapes, has featured ten world, U.S., and New York premieres by a diverse set of composers. ACO has continued its concerts at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall (December 8, 2017 and April 6, 2018) while expanding its presence in New York to include a 40th Birthday Concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center (November 7, 2017) and as part of the 2018 PROTOTYPE Festival (January 12-14, 2018) in Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce's Fellow Travelers. ACO continues to take its commitment to fostering new work beyond the stage in its annual Underwood New Music Readings (June 21 and 22, 2018) for emerging composers, now in its 27th year, and through EarShot, the National Orchestra Composition Discovery Network, which brings the Readings experience to orchestras across the country
In 2018-2019, ACO continues its commitment to the creation, performance, preservation, and promotion of music by American composers, with programming that reflects the infinite ways American orchestral music illustrates geographic, stylistic, gender, and racial diversity. ACO's concert at Zankel Hall on November 2, 2018 features the world premiere of Valerie Coleman's Phenomenal Women, inspired by Maya Angelou's poem and book, Phenomenal Woman. The concerto for wind quintet and orchestra will be performed by the Imani Winds with ACO, with each member featured in a solo interlude influenced by a different phenomenal woman - activist Malala Yousefai (oboe serenade), Brazilian Olympic Gold medalist Rafaela Silva (clarinet in choro style), athlete Serena Williams (bassoon virtuoso cadenza), Michelle Obama (flute with urban/jazz elements) and Hillary Clinton (horn fanfare). The concert also features the world premiere of Alex Temple's Three Principles of Noir with singer Meaghan Burke, a piece with a time-traveling science fiction narrative centered around a Chicago historian who travels back in time to the 1893 World's Fair. This is ACO's second commission from Alex Temple. The orchestra premiered her Liebeslied in 2011 during the opening concert of its SONiC festival that year. Joan Tower's Chamber Dance, written in 2006 for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, completes the program. Chamber Dance treats the orchestra like a chamber music ensemble, and weaves together solos, duos, and other combinations of instrumentalists, creating, as Tower puts it, "an ensemble that has to 'dance' well together." On April 11, 2019 at Zankel Hall, ACO will give the U.S. premiere of Du Yun's Where We Lost Our Shadows, a new multidisciplinary work for orchestra, film, and vocalists, co-commissioned by ACO, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Southbank Centre, and Cal Performances. This is ACO's second commission from Du Yun, who created her piece Slow Portraits during ACO's coLABoratory research and development program in 2013. Du Yun is composing Where We Lost Our Shadows in response to film captured by Ramallah-based Palestinian visual artist Khaled Jarrar, which documents the refugee crisis in Europe. The piece will be performed by ACO with singer Helga Davis, Pakistani Qawwali singer Ali Sethi, and percussionist Shayna Dunkleman, with visuals by Jarrar. The concert also includes Gloria Coates' Symphony No. 1, "Music on Open Strings," from 1973, and Morton Feldman's 1980 work Turfan Fragments, inspired by a series of fragments of knotted carpets from the third and sixth centuries which were discovered in the Silk Road region.
To date, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works. This season explores the overarching theme of dreams as an inspiration for both music itself and community created through music - celebrating ACO co-founder Francis Thorne's dream of an orchestra to champion the American composer; iconic composer Philip Glass' dream for the next generation; and the American dream of inclusiveness reflected in the infinite ways American orchestral music illustrates geographic, stylistic, gender, and racial diversity.
Ethan Iverson is best known as a founding member and pianist of The Bad Plus, a game-changing collective with bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King. The New York Times describes the group as, "better than anyone at melding the sensibilities of post-60's jazz and indie rock." With The Bad Plus, Iverson has collaborated with Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell, and the Mark Morris Dance Group and created a faithful arrangement of Stravinky's The Rite of Spring and a radical reinvention of Ornette Coleman's Science Fiction. In 2017, Iverson composed and arranged Pepperland for the Mark Morris Dance Group and curated a major centennial celebration of Thelonious Monk at Duke University. With Mark Morris Dance Group he played Robert Schumann's chamber music with Yo-Yo Ma; for the release of The Rest is Noise he toured with Alex Ross and performed examples of 20th-century repertoire. Iverson describes his piano concerto for ACO, Concerto to Scale, as being of, "modest dimensions but of sincere intent."
Clarice Assad is a Brazilian-American Grammy-nominated composer, pianist, vocalist, bandleader and educator. A versatile musician of depth and imagination, she has been commissioned by Carnegie Hall, Orquestra Sinfônica de São Paulo, the Albany Symphony, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the New Century Chamber Orchestra, the BRAVO! Vail Music Festival and the La Jolla Music Festival, among others. Her works have been recorded by some of the most prominent names and groups in classical music today, including Yo-Yo Ma, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Eugenia Zuckerman, Chanticleer and Liang Wang. Assad is a founding member of the Chicago-based music and poetry publishing company Virtual Artists Collective and VOXPloration, an award-winning research based outreach program and workshop for children and adolescents on spontaneous music creation, composition, and improvisation. Her piece Dreamscapes for violin and chamber orchestra is based loosely on Assad's research on the subject of rapid eye movement (REM) and lucid dreaming. The piece follows a storyline based on notes Assad made about her own dreams, and depicts her struggle to have a pleasant dreaming experience against the strong subconscious draw of negativity.
TJ Anderson was born in 1928 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania and received degrees from West Virginia State College, Penn State University, and a Ph.D. in Composition from the University of Iowa. He also holds several honorary degrees. He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia where he is devoted full time to writing music. He studied composition with George Ceiga, Philip Bezanson, Richard Hervig, and Darius Milhaud. Anderson is well known for his orchestration of Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha, which premiered in Atlanta in 1972. His first opera, Soldier Boy, Soldier, is based on a libretto by Leon Forrest, and was commissioned by Indiana University. His opera Walker was commissioned by the Boston Athenaeum with a libretto by Derek Walcott and his opera Slip Knot is based on a historical paper by T.H. Breen with libretto by Yusef Komunyakaa. Anderson has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Arts, the Djerassi Foundation, the National Humanities Center (their first composer), and a scholar-in-residence at the Rockefeller Center for the Creative Arts, Bellagio, Italy. Other honors include an honorary membership in Phi Beta Kappa, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, and a Rockefeller Center Foundation grant. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2005. His piece Bahia Bahia was written in 1990 as part of his Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and is dedicated to the Brazilian composers Alda and Jamary Oliveira. It represents impressions of popular music Anderson heard on two visits to Brazil in 1976 and 1988, and was premiered in 1998 by the North Carolina Symphony. ACO presents its New York premiere.
Described as "one of the transforming figures of early 21st century jazz," by The Guardian and as a "creator of intricately detailed contemporary classical works," by The New York Times, Steve Lehman is a composer, performer, educator, and scholar who works across a broad spectrum of experimental musical idioms. Lehman's music has been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), So Percussion, Kammerensemble Neue Musik Berlin, the JACK Quartet, the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Talea Ensemble, and by the pianist Marilyn Nonken. His recording Mise en Abîme was chosen as the No. 1 Jazz Album of 2014 by NPR Music and The Los Angeles Times. The recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, Lehman is an alto saxophonist who has performed and recorded nationally and internationally with his own ensembles and with those led by Anthony Braxton, Vijay Iyer, George Lewis, Jason Moran, Georgia-Anne Muldrow, Meshell Ndegeocello, and High Priest of Anti-Pop Consortium, among many others. He describes his new piece for ACO, Ten Threshold Studies, as, "making use of elastic rhythms and shadowy spectral harmonies to explore the nature of hearing and perception in modern day music."
Saxophonist and composer Hitomi Oba completed her master's degree at the University of California, Los Angeles in Music Composition after receiving her bachelor's degree in Ethnomusicology/Jazz Studies. Her projects include a sixteen-piece jazz orchestra called Jazz Nexus and an electro-acoustic pop duo, Nova. Her second jazz album, Negai, received a prestigious Swing Journal 42nd Annual Jazz Disc Award. Her commissions include works for the Los Angeles Asian American Jazz Festival, Kenny Burrell's Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited, the Jon Jangtet, and the Indian classical/jazz collaborative Aditya Prakash Ensemble. Oba is one of the co-founders of the new music collective LA Signal Lab, premiering and recording stylistically diverse new music with a focus on integrating improvised and pre-composed music. She teaches jazz saxophone and music theory at UCLA. Her piece, September Coming, explores ways to express the momentum and gestures of improvisational language through the orchestra, using orchestration to further enhance the spirit of improvised material. The concepts explored in the piece were inspired by the workshops, discussions, and music from the 2015 ACO Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute Intensive. The first version of September Coming was read at the 2016 Buffalo Philharmonic EarShot Readings, conducted by Stefan Sanders, made possible by ACO and Earshot.
Amusingly hailed by The Washington Post as "a drop-dead beauty who plays with equal parts passion, sensuality, brains and humor," Elena Urioste was recently selected as a BBC New Generation Artist and has been featured on the cover of Symphony magazine. She has given acclaimed performances with major orchestras throughout the United States, including the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras; Boston Pops; New York and Buffalo Philharmonics; and the Chicago, San Francisco, National, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Austin, Charleston, Richmond, and San Antonio Symphony Orchestras. Abroad, she has appeared with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, BBC Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Edmonton Symphony, Würzburg Philharmonic, and Hungary's Orchestra Dohnányi Budafok and MAV Orchestras. She has regularly performed as a featured soloist in Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium and has given recitals in such distinguished venues as the Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Konzerthaus Berlin, the Sage Gateshead in Newcastle, Bayerischer Rudfunk Munich, and the Mondavi Center at the University of California-Davis. This season sees debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, IRIS Orchestra, and England's Philharmonia and Opera North orchestras; return engagements with the Delaware and Asheville Symphony Orchestras; and three separate concerto and chamber music appearances in Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. As first-place laureate in both the Junior and Senior divisions of the Sphinx Competition, Urioste debuted at Carnegie Hall's Isaac Stern Auditorium in 2004 and has returned frequently as soloist. She received first prizes at the Sphinx and Sion International Violin Competitions; an inaugural Sphinx Medal of Excellence presented by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; and spreads in Latina and La Revista Mujer magazines. Urioste is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music where she studied with Joseph Silverstein, Pamela Frank, and Ida Kavafian. She completed graduate studies with Joel Smirnoff at The Juilliard School.
Grammy-nominated composer-clarinetist Derek Bermel has been hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. An "eclectic with wide open ears" (Toronto Star), Bermel is acclaimed for music that is "intricate, witty, clear-spoken, tender, and extraordinarily beautiful [and] covers an amazing amount of ground, from the West African rhythms of Dust Dances to the Bulgarian folk strains of Thracian Echoes, to the shimmering harmonic splendor of Elixir. In the hands of a composer less assured, all that globe-trotting would seem like an affectation; Bermel makes it an artistic imperative." (San Francisco Chronicle).
His engagement with myriad musical cultures has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language. In addition to his role as Artistic Director of American Composers Orchestra, he is also Director of Copland House's CULTIVATE emerging composers' institute, served for four-years as Artist-in-Residence at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study and is Curator of the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music (Bowdoin International Music Festival). Recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator and creator, his work has been performed by renowned artists worldwide. His commissioners have included the Pittsburgh, National, Saint Louis, New Jersey, Boston, and Pacific Symphonies, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles, New Century, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, eighth blackbird, the Guarneri and JACK Quartets, Seattle and La Jolla Chamber Music Society, Music from Copland House and Music from China, FIGURA (Denmark) Ensembles, Midori, ASKO/Schoenberg Ensemble and Veenfabriek (Netherlands).
As The Boston Globe wrote, "There doesn't seem to be anything that Bermel can't do with the clarinet." As a performer he has worked with a dizzyingly eclectic array of artists, including as soloist alongside Wynton Marsalis in his own Migration Series, commissioned by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and American Composers Orchestra. Bermel's clarinet concerto Voices premiered at Carnegie Hall, with the composer as soloist, and he has performed the critically acclaimed work with more than a dozen orchestras, including the BBC Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and at the Beijing Modern Music Festival. His performance of Voices with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project led to a Grammy-nominated recording for Best Soloist with Orchestra. Founding clarinetist of the acclaimed Music from Copland House ensemble, Bermel's chamber music appearances also include performances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Borromeo, Pacifica, and JACK quartets; festivals including Moab, Fontana, Cape Cod, and Salt Bay; the Cliburn Series at the Modern, Carmel and Albuquerque Chamber Music Series, Garth Newel Center, Seattle Town Hall, and Louisville Chamber Music Society. He has collaborated on several film scores, and with artists such as playwright Will Eno, installation artist Shimon Attie, choreographer Sheron Wray, poet Wendy S. Walters, and hip hop legend Yasiin Bey (Mos Def).
Bermel's many honors include the Alpert Award in the Arts, Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, New Music USA's Trailblazer Award, and Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri.
ACO's Music Director, the wide-ranging and versatile George Manahan, has had an esteemed career embracing everything from opera to the concert stage, the traditional to the contemporary. He is also the Music Director of Portland Opera (OR), previously served as Music Director of New York City Opera for fourteen seasons, and has appeared as guest conductor with the Opera Companies of Seattle, Santa Fe, San Francisco, Chicago, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opera National du Paris and Teatro de Communale de Bologna and the National, New Jersey, Atlanta, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis Symphonies, and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. In 2013, Manahan was awarded the Alice M. Ditson Award for his outstanding commitment to the work of emerging composers, and was honored four times by the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) for his commitment to 20th-century music during his tenure as Music Director of the Richmond Symphony (VA).
Dedicated to the music of our time, he has led premieres of Tobias Picker's Dolores Claiborne, Charles Wuorinen's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, David Lang's Modern Painters, Hans Werner Henze's The English Cat, Terence Blanchard's Champion, the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner, and Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman's Grammy Award winning Ask Your Mama, a collaboration with soprano Jessye Norman, The Roots, and Orchestra of St. Luke's. Recent seasons have included appearances at Santa Fe Opera, Rose Theater at Lincoln Center in a concert performance of Gluck's Alceste featuring Deborah Voigt, Music Academy of the West, and the Aspen Music Festival. The Live from Lincoln Center broadcast of his New York City Opera production of Madame Butterfly won an Emmy Award.
Manahan's discography includes the Grammy-nominated recording of Edward Thomas' Desire Under the Elms with the London Symphony, and Steve Reich's Tehillim on the EMI-Warner Brothers label. He is Director of Orchestral Activities at the Manhattan School of Music as well as a frequent guest conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promotion of music by American composers. ACO makes the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. Through concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues, recordings, internet and radio broadcasts, educational programs, New Music Readings, and commissions, ACO identifies today's brightest emerging composers, champions prominent established composers as well as those lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting geographic, stylistic, and temporal diversity. ACO also serves as an incubator of ideas, research, and talent, as a catalyst for growth and change among orchestras, and as an advocate for American composers and their music. ACO programs seek to innovate and experiment, educate students and the public, and open the orchestra to diverse new influences and audiences.
To date, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Among the orchestra's innovative programs have been SONiC, a nine-day citywide festival in New York of music by more than 100 composers age 40 and under; Sonidos de las Américas, six annual festivals devoted to Latin American composers and their music; Coming to America, a program immersing audiences in the ongoing evolution of American music through the work of immigrant composers; Orchestra Tech, a long-term initiative to integrate new digital technologies in the symphony orchestra; Improvise!, a festival devoted to the exploration of improvisation and the orchestra; coLABoratory: Playing It UNsafe, a new laboratory for the research and development of experimental new works for orchestra; and Orchestra Underground, ACO's entrepreneurial cutting-edge orchestral ensemble that embraces new technology, eclectic instruments, influences, and spatial orientation of the orchestra, new experiments in the concert format, and multimedia and multi-disciplinary collaborations.
Composer development has been at the core of ACO's mission since its founding. In addition to its annual Underwood New Music Readings and Commission, ACO also provides a range of educational and professional development activities, including composer residencies and fellowships. In 2008, ACO launched EarShot, a multi-institutional network that assists orchestras around the country in mounting new music readings. EarShot programs have included the Detroit, Berkeley, La Jolla, Nashville, Memphis, Columbus, Colorado, San Diego Symphonies, the New York Philharmonic, New York Youth Symphony, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Recently, EarShot introduced an initiative to provide career development and commissions for emerging female composers, and launched an online archive featuring audio excerpts, program notes, and score samples by more than 140 composers whose works have been performed through the EarShot Network. The Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, launched in 2010, supports jazz artists who desire to write for symphony orchestra. For more information visit www.EarShotnetwork.org.
Among the honors ACO has received are special awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra's outstanding contribution to American music. ACO was the 2015 recipient of the Champion of New Music Award given by American Composers Forum. ASCAP has awarded its annual prize for adventurous programming to ACO over 35 times, singling out ACO as, "the orchestra that has done the most for American music in the United States." ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Community Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council. ACO recordings are available on ARGO, CRI, ECM, Point, Phoenix USA, MusicMasters, Nonesuch, Tzadik, New World Records, InstantEncore.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. ACO's digital albums include Playing It UNsafe (March 2011), Emerging Composers Series: Vol. 1 (February 2012), Orchestra Underground: X10D (June 2012), Orchestra Underground: Tech & Techno (July 2014), and SONiC Double Live (July 2016), a collection of premiere performances from its groundbreaking SONiC festival. ACO has also released Orchestra Underground: A-V, a groundbreaking album of multimedia works available for free streaming at www.vimeo.com/channels/orchestraunderground.
More information about American Composers Orchestra is available online at www.americancomposers.org.