American Composers Orchestra Continues COLABORATORY: PLAYING IT UNSAFE Initiative, 3/5-4/5
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by BWW News Desk
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) continues its season-long initiative, coLABoratory: Playing It UNsafe, the first and only professional research and development lab to support the creation of cutting-edge new American orchestral music through no-holds-barred experimentation, encouraging composers to do anything but "play it safe." Audiences will have the opportunity to see and hear the composers' works-in-progress at free lab workshops on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 10am at Flushing Town Hall (137-35 Northern Blvd., Flushing, NY), and Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 2pm at The DiMenna Center (450 W. 37th St., NYC). coLABoratory culminates on Friday, April 5, 2013 at 7:30pm with a concert featuring all of the new works at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, conducted by ACO Music Director George Manahan.
The composers participating in coLABoratory this season are Du Yun, Troy Herion, Raymond J. Lustig, Judith Sainte Croix, and Dan Visconti, selected from a national search for their willingness to experiment and stretch their own musical sensibilities, and their ability to test the limits of the orchestra. coLABoratory grew out of ACO's ongoing mission to commission and perform new music that expands the range of possibilities for - and challenges conventional notions about - orchestral music.
coLABoratory is unusual in that it does away with the expectations often associated with orchestral premieres that can squelch composers' creative impulses - limited rehearsal time, restrictive instrumental possibilities, pre-conceived programmatic or thematic ideas for concerts - and most importantly, the overwhelming pressure on composers to do something "safe."
coLABoratory alters the orchestral landscape by treating the creation of a new work as an interactive and collaborative process, rather than just the delivery of a musical "product." This season, coLABoratory has included a unique incubation process of workshops, public readings, collaborative feedback, and laboratory performances of music, open to the public, taking place from November 2012 through April 2013. Each composer's work is being developed with the orchestra over the course of the season in a process that includes ACO's Music Director George Manahan, ACO's artistic leadership Robert Beaser and Derek Bermel, mentor composer Morton Subotnick, and members of the orchestra.
Participants in past installments of ACO's Playing It UNsafe created a concerto for junked car and orchestra (Sean Friar's Clunker Concerto), collaborations with lighting designers (Laura Schwendinger's Shadings), new levels of orchestral improvisation (Henry Threadgill's No Gates, No White Trenches, Butterfly Effect), hybrid orchestration of laptop computers and acoustic instruments (Dan Trueman, silicon/carbon (an anti-Concerto Grosso)), sound paintings for voice, electronics and unorthodox spatial arrangements of the orchestra (Joan La Barbara's In solitude this fear is lived), and multimedia work with live computer illustration, electronics and orchestra (Anna Clyne's TENDER HOOKS).
The new pieces developed this season continue this experimental exploration. Du Yun's Slow Portraits is an acoustic exploration of a "frozen point" of orchestral sound paired with super slow motion video (visuals by David Michalek). Troy Herion serves as both composer and filmmaker in his New York City Symphony, an audio and visual celebration of the city. In Latency Canons Raymond J. Lustig investigates the slight and often unpredictable delay in audio signal transmission through musicians playing via videoconferencing, with Dane Lam co-conducting a group of musicians in Manchester, England via Google Hangouts. Judith Sainte Croix adds non-orchestral instruments including the electric guitar (played by Oren Fader), pre-Columbian flutes (played by the Andrew Bolotowsky), and the synthesizer (played by Sainte Croix) plus visuals (photography by Claudia Miranda with design support from Marcelo Mella) to the orchestra in Vision V. Dan Visconti creates new instruments from obsolete analog technology such as Speak & Spell toys and vintage recording devices accompanied with video by filmmaker Simon Tarr in Glitchscape.
About the coLABoratory Composers
Du Yun: Slow Portraits
Born and raised in Shanghai, China, currently based in New York, Du Yun is an internationally-performed composer and musician. Hailed by The New York Times as "cutting-edge... to whom the term 'young composer' could hardly do justice," and "an indie pop diva with an avant-garde edge;" "re-invents herself daily... so does her music," (Time Out New York), her music exists at an artistic crossroads of chamber music, theater, pop music, opera, orchestral, cabaret, storytelling, visual arts and noise. Du Yun has received commissions include from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Weill Institution Commission, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, the Whitney Museum Live, the Fromm Foundation, Meet the Composer, violinist Hillary Hahn, cellist Matt Haimovitz, flutist Claire Chase and many more. An alumna of Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Oberlin College (BM), Harvard University (MA, PHD), she has served on the faculty of SUNY-Purchase since 2006.
Slow Portraits will investigate a fixed point in orchestral sound, a gradient palette underneath a hyper-slow movement. Du Yun's starting point will be a sound design she created for visual artist David Michalek's "Portraits in Dramatic Time." She explains, "While the music, mostly as sound design at the time, was broadcast over WiFi to the public, I was hoping I could write for an acoustic chamber orchestra to truly investigate the detailed nuance relationship between the acoustic world and the visual processing image, that both are not digitally altered a bit. For the music, I wonder what I could do to showcase a frozen phrase, elongated gestures elongated, without any digital aid. Like a glacier, things are never quite frozen."
Troy Herion: New York City Symphony
Troy Herion is a composer and filmmaker whose work unites contemporary music with visual arts through chamber and orchestral music, opera, theater, and film. He explores the concept of "visual music:" the idea that musical qualities are found in visual as well as aural experience. His visual-music film Baroque Suite was called "marvelous" by New Yorker critic Alex Ross and has been screened at the Brooklyn Film Festival, The Wassaic Project, and during ACO's SONiC festival in October 2011. His music video directing debut - The Bright Motion for pianist Michael Mizrahi on New Amsterdam Records - was released to critical acclaim on the music blogs NPR Classical and The Rest is Noise. Herion's concert works have been performed by leading ensembles including So Percussion, Nash Ensemble of London, and the Brentano Quartet. As a composer for theater, he has worked with Pig Iron Theatre, The Wilma Theater, The Arden Theatre, Azuka Theater, Swarthmore College, and Columbia University. He was nominated for three Barrymore Awards, including the prestigious F. Otto Haas Emerging Artist Award, and his sound design was featured in the 2011 Prague Quadrennial. Herion holds an MFA from Princeton University, where he is pursuing a joint PhD in Composition and Interdisciplinary Humanities.
In New York City Symphony, Herion will make visible the elements of music - phrasing, counterpoint, rhythm, and harmony. He explains, "New York City Symphony is a visual-music film and composition that unites contemporary orchestral music with images of New York's urban landscape. Inspired by synaesthesia - where one sense becomes intertwined with, even indistinguishable from, another - this composition invites the audience to see sound and hear images." Drawing inspiration from early 20th-century city-symphony films, New York City Symphony will treat the living, breathing organism of the city as its subject. Seen through the eyes of a composer/filmmaker, the metropolis is transformed into a multi-sensory musical symphony.
Raymond J. Lustig: Latency Canons
Raymond J. Lustig has won ASCAP's Rudolf Nissim Prize, the Aaron Copland Award from Copland House, the Juilliard Orchestra competition, the New Juilliard Ensemble competition, and several ASCAP Plus Awards. His music has been presented in venues ranging from New York City clubs and galleries to major concert halls and festivals around the world - from Le Poisson Rouge and the Stone to Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall and the École Normale in Paris. His UNSTUCK for orchestra was recently released on Albany Records with Emily Freeman Brown and the Bowling Green Philharmonia. Lustig's teachers have included John Corigliano, Robert Beaser, and Samuel Adler. Also a published researcher in molecular biology, Lustig is deeply inspired by science, nature, and the mind. He lives in New York and teaches at The Juilliard School.
Latency Canons will make intentional use of the indefinite time interval and incremental canons that can arise from latency - the slight delay that occurs in signal transmissions - through a performance via videoconferencing. Lustig says, "The cycle of lateness will be ever-increasing, as each musician tries to play along with the delayed version of what their remote counterpart has played, in an unstable feedback loop. This will work with parts of the orchestra onstage while other parts are offstage on camera, possibly even in another city or country and possibly with a sister ensemble or players in a faraway place. The piece will require two or more laptops (depending on the number of 'voices' in the canons) equipped with Skype or a similar videoconferencing application, microphones, amplification, and AV projection to an overhead screen that will allow The Players and the audience members to view the voices of the canon."
Judith Sainte Croix: Vision V
Judith Sainte Croix was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and received her early musical training from her mother, a piano teacher, her father, a tenor soloist and Marion Hutchinson and Gerald Bales who taught her organ. Her teachers and mentors include the composers John Eaton, Iannis Xenakis, Morton Feldman, Lukas Foss and the poet Mary Ellen Solt. Sainte Croix's transformative music blends social issues and aesthetic expression, primitive sounds and new technologies, ancient structures and modern techniques to create a unique, evocative style. Her awards and commissions include the Gaudeamus Competition; a Creative Associate Fellowship in Buffalo, NY; the Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation Award; Chamber Music America; The Orchestra of St. Lukes; The Long Island Composer's Alliance; The Kitchen; Meet the Composer; The American Composer's Forum; New York Foundation for the Arts; The Jerome Foundation; The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust; the National Endowment of the Arts; a Con Edison Composer Residency; and the New York State Council on the Arts.
Sainte Croix's Vision V will integrate three non-orchestral instruments into the orchestra: the populist electric guitar, ancient pre-Columbian flutes, and the non-ordinary sound palette of the synthesizer. Abstract digital imaging suggesting the auras of the musicians photographed during rehearsal, will play along with the music in the concert. Vision V is the fifth in a series of compositions by Sainte Croix, the first for full orchestra, which combines traditional classical instruments with indigenous instruments of the Americas. The Sonora Trio - Andrew Bolotowsky, indigenous flutes of the Americas; Oren Fader, electric guitar; and Judith Sainte Croix, synthesizer - will perform with the orchestra. The digital images used in the piece will be derived from photography by Claudia Miranda with design support from Marcelo Mella.
Dan Visconti: Glitchscape
Dan Visconti's music has been commissioned by ensembles including the Kronos Quartet, the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, and the Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble, at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and LA's Disney Hall. His compositions have been honored with the Berlin Prize, the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, and the Cleveland Arts Prize; awards from BMI and ASCAP, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Society of Composers, and the National Association of Composers USA; and grants from the Naumburg Foundation, the American Music Center, the Barlow Endowment, the Fromm Foundation, Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bascom Little Fund, the Annenberg Foundation, and Chamber Music America. He has also been the recipient of artist fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Copland House, the Lucas Artists Program at Villa Montalvo, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Visconti studied composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Yale School of Music, primarily with Margaret Brouwer, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, and Zhou Long. He is a member of BMI and currently resides in Washington, DC, where he serves as artistic director of DC's VERGE Ensemble.
Visconti's Glitchscape will be created in collaboration with experimental filmmaker Simon Tarr, and will blend instruments of the orchestra with sounds from obsolete analog technology. The piece will explore the interaction of live acoustic instruments with sounds created on modified vintage Speak & Spell and Speak & Read toys, and an old "noisebox" from the 1950s. Visconti says, "This new work will create a unique texture through reimaging familiar, nearly-forgotten sounds: an exploration of the expressive power of obsolescence."
Now in its 36th season, American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation 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.
To date, ACO has performed music by more than 600 American composers, including 200 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Among the orchestra's innovative programs have been SONiC: Sounds of a New Century, 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; 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 additional 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. Recent EarShot programs have included the Nashville and Memphis Symphonies, Colorado Symphony, New York Youth Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, and San Diego Symphony. 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. ASCAP has awarded its annual prize for adventurous programming to ACO 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), and the orchestra's latest release, Orchestra Underground: X10D (June 2012), an album featuring unusual and extended solo instruments with the orchestra. More information about American Composers Orchestra is available online at www.americancomposers.org.
2012-13 Season Highlights
Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, at 7:30pm. Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall (57th St. & 7th Ave., NYC)
Friday, January 18, 2013, at 7:30pm. Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall (57th St. & 7th Ave., NYC)
Friday, April 5, 2013, at 7:30pm. Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall (57th St.& 7th Ave., NYC).
RAYMOND J. LUSTIG: Latency Canons
Monday & Tuesday, April 8 & 9, 2013. The DiMenna Center (450 W 37th St., NYC).
Monday & Tuesday, June 3 & 4, 2013. Columbia University's Miller Theatre (2960 Broadway, NYC).
Pictured: Du Yun: Slow Portraits