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New, Wired and Green

January 12, 2009 | By Linda S Golding
New, Wired and Green Five World Premieres for ACO’s Orchestra Underground February 20, 7:30PM at Zankel Hall

Margaret Brouwer and Kasumi collaborate in multimedia sci-fi “sample opera”; Rand Steiger uses new technology to tap into the earth’s frozen surfaces; New commissions by up-and-coming composers Kati Agócs and Fang Man; David Schiff “Stomps” out an updated James Brown tribute.

The program repeats February 22, 7:30PM, the International House at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

American Composers Orchestra, the nation’s most consistently adventurous champion of new orchestral work returns Underground for five World Premieres at 7:30PM on Friday, February 20, presented by Carnegie Hall at Zankel Hall. The concert continues ACO’s cutting-edge Orchestra Underground series that redefines orchestral music with new composers, new influences, new multimedia collaborations, and new technologies.

This concert program features:

Margaret Brouwer and Kasumi’s BREAKDOWN, a sample-based hybrid opera in one act reaches out into new areas of invention and collaboration, with composer Brouwer making a first venture into a new medium, with video/sound artist Kasumi, who specializes in working with found video objects. The artists worked together on every note and every image giving a new meaning to the word “collaboration.” BREAKDOWN marks both Brouwer’s and Kasumi’s first work with ACO;

Rand Steiger’s Cryosphere braids multiple media in new ways as he mixes real-time digital audio signal processing and spatialization of traditional instruments through new live electronics developed by music software creator Miller Puckette;

Kati Agócs (Pearls) and Fang Man (Resurrection), two young composers who first came to ACO’s attention through its highly regarded Emerging Composers programs. Pearls begins with the Gospel premise that heaven is likened to an invaluable pearl that leads the finder to sell all possessions in order to acquire it. Resurrection is a clarinet concerto for ACO’s Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Derek Bermel and will juxtapose Eastern and Western music traditions. The work is influenced by Kandinsky’s Composition V–Resurrection and is the result of Fang Man’s winning ACO’s 2006 annual Underwood Emerging Composers Commission.

David Schiff’s Stomp is “re-lit” in a new version and new orchestration in the composer’s raucous tribute to the “hardest working man in show business.”

The evening will be led by the intrepid genre-crossing conductor, George Manahan, in his first concert performance with ACO.

The program repeats February 22, 7:30PM, the International House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Margaret Brouwer and Kasumi: BREAKDOWN, A sample-based hybrid opera in one act (World Premiere/ACO Commission)

This performance marks Margaret Brouwer’s first performance with ACO and her first collaboration with a medium outside of music. Working with video/sound artist Kasumi to create BREAKDOWN, she has mined melodic lines and rhythms to imitate spoken text, all of which is “found art.” The work unfolds in four scenes depicting, among other things, a UFO, a controlling government, a country anesthetized by consumerism, and rigged voting booths.

Brouwer served as head of the composition department and holder of the Vincent K. and Edith H. Smith Chair in Composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music from 1996 to 2008. She is the recipient of an award from the American Academy of Arts and letters in 2006, was named a Guggenheim Fellow for 2004, and was awarded an Ohio Council for the Arts Individual Fellowship for 2005. In January 2006, Naxos released a CD of her orchestral music called Aurolucent Circles, featuring Evelyn Glennie, solo percussionist, and The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra with Gerard Schwarz conducting. Her music has been performed throughout the U.S. and is published by Pembroke Music Co., Inc., a division of Carl Fischer LLC.

Kasumi, video/sound artist

Kasumi, recognized as one the leading innovators of a new art form synthesizing sound, film, and live video manipulation, has won acclaim for her “video/sound recursions.” In performance venues and with collaborators worldwide her work has excited diverse audiences—from Lincoln Center, where she appeared on stage with the New York Philharmonic, to live shows with Grandmaster Flash and DJ Spooky. Kasumi is also noted for her highly charged commentary on world politics, including “The Free Speech Zone,” her critically acclaimed reflections on the Bush administration’s foreign and domestic policies. Her live performance of that work at Stuttgart’s Württembergischen Kunstverein was described by the Stuttgarter Nachricten as “a modern age version of Francesco Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’.” Fang Man: Resurrection (World Premiere, ACO/Underwood Commission) Fang Man’s Resurrection is a result of the 2006 Underwood New Music Readings and Commission. The work is a clarinet concerto influenced by Kandinsky’s Composition V–Resurrection in which Eastern and Western music traditions are juxtaposed. In two continuous movements, the work first utilizes Western techniques and then material from a Beijing opera titled The Battle of Jiu Jiang Kou, along with electronic manipulation of various sounds. For this premiere, ACO’s Music Alive Composer-in-Residence, Derek Bermel, is the featured soloist. Originally from China, Ms. Fang received her undergraduate degree in composition from Beijing Central Conservatory in 2000. She was subsequently awarded a fellowship from the Cecil Effinger Foundation to pursue further studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Since fall 2002, she has been pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Cornell University, where she studies composition with Steven Stucky and Roberto Sierra, piano with Xak Bjerken, and digital/computer music with David Borden. In 2006, she was one of ten composers chosen by IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique, Centre Pompidou Paris, France) to participate in the computer and composition program.

Derek Bermel, clarinet

Derek Bermel’s clarinet playing has been hailed by The New York Times as “brilliant” and “first rate.” He premiered his own critically acclaimed clarinet concerto, Voices, with the American Composers Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, and revisited it with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the BBC Symphony in London, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (John Adams conducting). Bermel is the founding clarinetist of Music from Copland House, a creative center for American Music. He has premiered dozens of new works for clarinet in appearances as soloist throughout the U.S. and Europe, including recitals in New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Detroit, Jerusalem, The Hague, Paris, and radio broadcasts on the BBC (London), NCRV (Amsterdam), and WQXR (New York). Bermel is also the ACO Music Alive Composer-in-Residence and will have a new orchestral work premiered on the May 1 ACO Orchestra Underground concert.

Rand Steiger: Cryosphere (World Premiere, ACO Commission)

Rand Steiger’s Cryosphere, inspired by the Earth’s frozen surfaces, represents his recent foray into real-time digital audio signal processing and spatialization of traditional instruments. In this work, he will use microphones to capture the sounds of winds, brass, harps, principal strings, and percussion instruments, whose signals will be transformed by a computer that runs software developed at University of California at San Diego by Miller Puckette. These transformed instrumental sounds then emerge from small speakers located within the orchestra to enable them to blend naturally with their original sources.

Steiger is chair of the music department at the University of California, San Diego. He is a founding member of the new music group California Ear Unit and frequently conducts new music ensembles throughout the U.S. His works have been performed at IRCAM and by leading ensembles such as La Jolla Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Southbank Sinfonia, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he served as Composer Fellow from 1987 through 1989. Miller Puckette, electronics Miller Puckette obtained a B.S. in Mathematics from MIT (1980) and Ph. D. in Mathematics from Harvard (1986). He was a member of MIT’s Media Lab from its inception until 1987, and then a researcher at IRCAM. There he wrote the Max program for MacIntosh computers. Puckette is Associate Director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA). He is currently working on a new real-time software system for live musical and multimedia performances called Pure Data (“PD”), in collaboration with many other artists/researchers/programmers worldwide. In 1997 Puckette joined the Global Visual Music project. Since 2004 he has performed with the hi-tech ensemble Convolution Brothers.

Kati Agócs: Pearls (World Premiere, ACO Commission)

Kati Agócs makes her ACO debut with Pearls, a work designed “to make use of the exquisite (jeweled) sonorities possible in the chamber orchestra with single winds and brass.” In six movements, the work alternates chorales with peregrinations. The title comes from the New Testament book of Matthew, in which heaven is likened to an invaluable pearl that leads the finder to sell all that he has in order to buy it.

Ms. Agócs is originally from Canada and now lives in New York City. She holds Doctor of Musical Arts and Masters degrees from The Juilliard School and is also an alumna of the Aspen Music School, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific, and Sarah Lawrence College. Awards include a Leonard Bernstein Composer Fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the United States Department of Education, a Presser Foundation Award, and honors from ASCAP in their Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.

David Schiff: Stomp (re-lit) (World Premiere)

David Schiff’s Stomp was commissioned in 1990 as a concert opener by Marin Alsop for the chamber orchestra Concordia. Not originally designed to conjure anyone, it became a tribute to soul artist James Brown when Schiff realized that the recurring motive he was using was similar to one found in Brown’s signature I Feel Good. For this ACO performance, Schiff has reworked the orchestration, adding two saxophones and a tuba, which changed the details of the harmony and texture throughout the piece.

Schiff is the R.P. Wollenberg Professor of Music at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. His major works include the opera Gimpel the Fool, with libretto by I. B. Singer; the Sacred Service, written for the 125th anniversary of Congregation Beth Israel of Portland; Slow Dance, commissioned by the Oregon Symphony; Speaking in Drums, a concerto for timpani and string orchestra commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra for its timpanist, Peter Kogan; and Solus Rex, for bass trombone and chamber ensemble commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Schiff is also the author of The Music of Elliott Carter (Cornell University Press) and George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Cambridge University Press) as well as many articles on music for The New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, Opera News, and Tempo.

George Manahan, conductor

George Manahan most recently led ACO during the 2006 Underwood New Music Readings, during which he conducted Fang Man’s Black and White, Movement No. 1. As Music Director of New York City Opera, Mr. Manahan is especially well-known for his leadership of diverse productions such as La fanciulla del West (Puccini), Daphne (Strauss), Ermione (Rossini), Dialogues of the Carmelites (Poulenc), Die tote Stadt (Korngold), and Lizzie Borden (Beeson). Prior to leading New York City Opera, Mr. Manahan was Music Director of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra (Virginia) from 1987 to 1998, acting Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 1985, and principal conductor with the Minnesota Opera from 1988 to 1996. He has also conducted numerous other orchestras and opera companies throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Mr. Manahan’s recordings include Edward Thomas’s Desire Under the Elms with the London Symphony, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2003, Steve Reich’s Tehillim, on the EMI-Warner Brothers label, and two albums of 20th-century concertos for clarinet featuring Richard Stolzmann. He received his formal musical training at the Manhattan School of Music, studying conducting with Anton Coppola and George Schick and was appointed to the faculty of the school upon his graduation in 1976. After the Juilliard School awarded him a fellowship as Assistant Conductor with the American Opera Center, he began his professional activities as a pianist and coach at the Santa Fe Opera in 1978. In 1980, Mr. Manahan was chosen as the Exxon Arts Endowment Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony. That same year he made his Santa Fe Opera conducting debut in the American premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s opera Von Heute auf Morgen. Within short order, debuts followed with other leading North American opera companies and orchestras.

Ticket Info

Tickets for the February 20 Zankel Hall performance are $38 and $48 and can be purchased via CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, www.carnegiehall.org, or at the Carnegie Hall Box Office. Subscriptions are also available.

Tickets for the February 22 concert at the International House at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia are $22 and are available by calling 215-898-3900 or online at www.pennpresents.org.

About ACO

Now in its 32nd year, American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. ACO is extending its mission, making the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. Through its concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues, recordings, 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 500 American composers, including 150 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Among the orchestra’s innovative programs have been 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 festival and 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, of course, 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.

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 30 times, singling out ACO as “the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States,” and most recently Awarding ACO the 2008 ASCAP Morton Gould Award for Innovative Programming. ACO received the inaugural METLife Award for Excellence in Audience Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council. ACO recordings are available on ARGO, CRI, ECM, Point, Phoenix USA, MusicMasters, Nonesuch, Tzadik, and New World Records. More information about American Composers Orchestra is available online at www.americancomposers.org.

# # # # Major support of American Composers Orchestra is provided by The Achelis Foundation, Amphion Foundation, Arlington Associates, ASCAP, ASCAP Foundation, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, BMI, BMI Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Consolidated Edison, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Fromm Music Foundation, GAP Foundation, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Greenwall Foundation, The Irving Harris Foundation, Jephson Educational Trust, Jerome Foundation, John and Evelyn Kossak Foundation, Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation, Meet The Composer, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Virgil Thomson Foundation, Paul Underwood Charitable Trust, The Isak and Rose Weinman Foundation and The Helen F. Whitaker Fund.

ACO programs are also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and by NY City Council Member Gale A. Brewer.

ACO’s residency at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is made possible by The Philadelphia Music Project, an Artistic Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, administered by the University of the Arts.

Derek Bermel is the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with American Composers Orchestra. Music Alive is a national program of the League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer. # # # #

The full text of this press release is available online at: www.americancomposers.org/press

american composers orchestra Robert Beaser, Artistic Director | Dennis Russell Davies, Conductor Laureate Steven Sloane, Principal Guest Conductor | Derek Bermel, Music Alive Composer-in-Residence 240 West 35th Street, Suite 405 New York, NY 10001-2506 Phone: 212.977.8495 Fax: 212.977.8995



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