American Composers Orchestra Announces Orchestra Underground: Time Travels, 1/18
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by BWW News Desk
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) performs its second concert of the 2012-13 concert season, Orchestra Underground: Time Travels, on Friday, January 18, 2013 at 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. The concert, led by ACO Music Director George Manahan, features music that explores the concept of time – its mutability, importance, and role as an organizing principle. Lukas Foss' 1960 masterwork, Time Cycle, is the centerpiece for the program, with soprano Jennifer Zetlanas the soloist. The evening also includes the world premiere of composer and sopranoKate Soper's now is forever: I. Orpheus and Eurydice for Voice and Orchestra featuring the composer as soloist, the world premiere of Kyle Blaha's Triptych, and the US premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Zhou Long's Bell Drum Towers.
Lukas Foss' Time Cycle examines the multiple significances of time through a collection of poems and texts including "We're Late" by W.H. Auden, "When the Bells Justle" by A.E. Housman, an excerpt from a 1922 entry in the diaries of Franz Kafka, and "O Mensch! Gib acht!" from Friedrich Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra. Kate Soper's new piece for ACO also sets poetry, this time by American poet Jorie Graham from her 1987 book The End of Beauty. Soper's now is forever explores the instant in which Orpheus turns back to look at Eurydice in that familiar myth. Zhou Long's Bell Drum Towers is inspired by the bells and drums used during the Ming and Qing Dynasties in China to tell time. Kyle Blaha's new work, Triptych, is in three movements, each of which explores a different aspect of composition – harmony, melody, and texture – through the lens of time and shifting tempi.
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. Orchestra Underground embraces new technology, eclectic instruments and influences, altered 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 over 75 world premieres and newly commissioned works.
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 more than 200 world premieres and newly commissioned works.
A true Renaissance man, Lukas Foss (1922-2009) was a rare musician, equally renowned as a composer, conductor, pianist, and educator. As a composer, Foss eagerly embraced the musical languages of his time, producing a body of over one hundred works that Aaron Copland described as including "among the most original and stimulating compositions in American Music."
Foss' Time Cycle was premiered by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein in 1960. Time Cycle is a landmark of the American avant-garde, one of the most influential works of the 20th century. It marked a turning point in Foss' compositional approach. He said, "I was at UCLA. I was professor of composition, and I wanted to get my students away from the tyranny of the printed note. So I invented a form of non-jazz ensemble improvisation. It was meant to change my students; well, it changed me."
Jennifer Zetlan, soprano
Kate Soper (b. 1981) is an Ann Arbor-born, New York-based composer with a diverse background. She was a composer participant in the 2011 Underwood New Music Readings, and was also a featured performer during SONiC, ACO's massive 2011 new music festival. Soper is a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Cambridge MA, and is Managing Director and vocalist for Wet Ink. She is a recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship and winner of the 2012 Lili Boulanger Prize. She has also received awards from the Koussevitsky Music Foundation, the Fromm Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Chamber Music Amerca, and the Music Theory Society of New York State. She has been commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Tanglewood Music Center/Boston University Tanglewood Institute, the Museum of Biblical Art, Yarn/Wire, Alarm Will Sound, The Knights, and Dinosaur Annex, among others. As a singer with experience in Western Classical, Indian Carnatik, pop and folk singing, she performs frequently in her own works as well as those of her colleagues.
Kate Soper is ACO's Music Alive: New Partnerships resident. Soper describes her piece as, "expanding a moment out into a universe of speculation about the nature of time and the unreliability of desire . . . In dealing with this text I'm trying to find a way to paint the still core at the center of both the poem and the moment it describes – the single slice of time in which the chain of events (Orpheus turning to look at Eurydice and her consequent banishment back to Hades) has just flickered into possibility but is not quite inevitable."
Kyle Blaha: Triptych
Kyle Blaha (b. 1981) received his D.M.A. in May 2011 from Juilliard and his B.M. from Eastman School of Music. He has studied composition with Darrell Handel, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Samuel Adler, Philip Lasser, and Robert Beaser. The artistic director of the Making Score composition program with the New York Youth Symphony, Blaha is also on the faculty at the European American Musical Alliance Program in Paris. He has received multiple ASCAP Young Composer Awards and awards for study in Germany, including a Fulbright grant and a D.A.A.D. grant. His work has been premiered by the Juilliard Orchestra and the New York City Ballet Choreographic Institute, and he has received commissions from the New York Youth Symphony, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, and the New Juilliard Ensemble.
Blaha says of his new work, "Using time as an inspiration, all three movements begin with the same harp material, which develops into three contrasting movements. I was interested in exploring how the same pitch and rhythmic material could be incorporated into three different tempi and various textures, while also falling within a standard three-part musical form."
Zhou Long: Bell Drum Towers
Zhou Long (b. 1953) is internationally recognized for creating a unique body of music that brings together the aesthetic concepts and musical elements of East and West. Deeply grounded in the entire spectrum of his Chinese heritage, including folk, philosophical, and spiritual ideals, he is a pioneer in transferring the idiomatic sounds and techniques of ancient Chinese musical traditions to modern Western instruments and ensembles. Among the ensembles that have commissioned him are the Bavarian Radio, BBC, Kansas City, Honolulu, California Pacific and Singapore Symphonies; the Brooklyn, Tokyo, China Philharmonics; the New Music Consort; Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble; the Kronos, Shanghai, Ciompi, and Chester string quartets; Ensemble Modern; PRISM Saxophone Quartet; New York New Music Ensemble; Chanticleer; Opera Boston; Beijing Music Festival; and musicians Yo-Yo Ma, Lan Shui, Long Yu and Leonard Slatkin. In 2011 Zhou Long was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his first opera, Madame White Snake. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance and also serves as music director of Music From China (NYC).
Zhou Long says of the new piece, "Bells and drums were musical instruments in ancient China. Later they were used to tell time and became watches for the officials and common people as well . . . Although today the bell and drum towers have lost their function of telling time, these silent towers always fascinated my curiosity and imagination of hear the lingering of the ancient bells and drums sometimes from hazy wind, sometimes as a peal of thunder. In Bell Drum Towers, I am exploring my fantasy, the pulse of the drums beating. Gradually, new patterns develop, each time in a faster tempo, building to a climax that brings the presto wind-like section. Finally, the hazy wind rang the lingering bells."