Friday, December 3, 2010

Sound Off! Orchestra Underground: A Time and Place

I know you've been waiting for it... Now is your chance to tell us what you thought about the concert!

Conductor George Manahan, Concertmaster Eva Gruesser, composer Chris Trapani

L to R: Cellist Maya Beiser, composer Doug Cuomo, conductor George Manahan
Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling...

- Which piece most clearly evoked a time and place?
- What surprised you most about the concert?
- Which piece did you enjoy the most? Why?

See what other people are saying and let us know what you think!

(By the way, if you filled out a SoundAdvice survey at the concert, look for your answers in the comments section!)

Orchestra Underground: A Time and Place

ACO's second Orchestra Underground concert of the season is tonight! Rehearsals this week have gone really smoothly, even with all the complicated tech and challenges with setups, etc. Sometimes I feel like a broken record player saying this, but it has been really amazing to see everything come together throughout the week. We started this week with a string sectional, then had a percussion/piano/harp/mandolin sectional the next morning, then a full orchestra rehearsal that afternoon, and finally brought everything together with the soloists yesterday.

Highlights from rehearsal week include:
- Hearing the orchestra 'sing' in Jerome Kitzke's piece The Fire at 4 a.m. while working through the syllables with the composer.
- Two words: hexaphonic guitar. It sounds fantastic and Chris Trapani is a wizard.
- If Chris is a wizard, then cellist Maya Beiser is a sorceress. She was mesmerizing in rehearsal!
- High Line really seems to capture the spirit of the park in the piece; especially great is hearing the 'buildings' pop out of the texture

You can read more about the concert on our website here, or just come to the show and see for yourself! Tickets are almost all gone, so act fast!

Hope to see you tonight! If nothing else, check back for our next post, the latest installment of Sound Advice.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Playing it UNsafe

We're excited to start our series of workshops today for 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.” 

The Playing It UNsafe program that starts today will last throughout the entire season, and includes a series of laboratory workshops and public readings, culminating in a concert on March 4, 2011 in Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. This afternoon, audiences will have their first opportunity to see and hear the composers’ works-in-progress at the opening lab workshop. 

The composers participating in Playing It UNsafe are Sean Friar, David Heuser, Joan La Barbara, Laura Schwendinger, and Henry Threadgill, 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. Playing It UNsafe 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. 

In the coming weeks, Laura Schwendinger and Sean Friar will be joining us here at Sound Advice to write about their experiences with the program. Until then, you can find more information about Playing it UNsafe and read about each piece at

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sound Advice - Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute Concerts

I know you've been waiting for it...
Now is your chance to tell us what you thought about the Wet Ink and ACO concerts!

Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling...
- What surprised you most about the concert? 
- What piece did you enjoy the most? Why?
- How did you first hear about this performance?

(By the way, if you filled out a SoundAdvice survey at the concert, look for your answers in the comments section!)
Photo: Gil Rose conducting ACO in rehearsal at Miller Theater

Jazz Institute featured in NPR Blog!

The week of the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute has come to a close, but people are still talking about all of the incredible work that was done by the mentors, participants, and performers from both ACO and the Wet Ink Ensemble.
Reporter Lara Pellegrinelli attended many of the seminars and rehearsals and is blogging about the Institute over at NPR's 'A Blog Supreme'. Check out her posts here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Let's hear from the JCOI participants...

The Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute has come to an end, and we are glad that everyone had a great time! It definitely gave many an opportunity to explore new jazz ideas, learn from the resident mentors, and also enjoy the two concerts by Wet Ink and the ACO. Thanks to all who contributed in their very own way to make this institute possible!

During the Institute, we chatted with some of the participants during their lunch and dinner breaks to find out how they're doing at the institute...

The youngest composer participant at the JCOI, 17-year-old Phillip Golub, who studies in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, CA.

One of the three female composer participants at the JCOI, Nicole Mitchell, from Chicago.

Composer participant Juan Zhou, from China, shares with us her experience at the JCOI.

That's all for now, stay tuned for more webcam interviews from the institute!

Friday, July 23, 2010

First Day at the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute!

Here at Columbia University's Dodge Hall, where fellow composers and musicians gather to share their ideas on jazz and contemporary music composition. Attending seminars, workshops.. not forgetting high tea.. and most importantly meeting and interacting with new people!

Director at the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, George Lewis and Program Director at the Center for Jazz Studies, Dan Beaudoin, tell us what JCOI is all about!


Also, resident composers Derek Bermel and Tania León share with us what jazz means to them and how it has impacted their musical life...

More chats with participants and resident composers at the JCOI coming up! Watch this space.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Underwood Readings in the New York Times!

In case you haven't opened the paper yet today... just had to share that Steve Smith gave us a nice write-up in the New York Times for the Underwood Readings this past weekend:
"Behind the polished veneer of any orchestral premiere there lies a process of familiarization and toil, a process made unusually transparent by the American Composers Orchestra in its annual Underwood New Music Readings. The program, designed to give young composers access to an orchestra as well as crucial feedback from experienced colleagues, offers an invaluable glimpse behind the curtain, allowing audience members to witness firsthand the labor that goes into bringing new symphonic works to the stage."
You can read the entire article here.
Congrats again to our seven composers!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Romaneiro Ringtones... Ricardo wins the Audience Choice Award!

At the close of this weekend's Underwood Readings, the audience got a chance to pick their favorite composer, awarding him or her a commission to create an original ringtone to be distributed by ACO.
The ballots were cast and counted and the winner was announced at the after-party:
Ricardo Romaneiro won the Audience Choice award!
Congrats Ricardo! We're all looking forward to your hand-crafted ring. I hope to hear it buzzing from the phones of music fans all over the city... but hopefully not in the middle of a concert...
Here's a link to his website so you can hear some of his other tunes.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Xi Wang talks about the inspirations for her piece Symphony No. 1

Participant composer Xi Wang takes a break between sessions to talk about the inspirations behind her work Symphony No. 1.

Hannah Lash and Matti Kovler talk Elevator Speeches

Composers Hannah Lash and Matti Kovler talk about their experience with the Underwood Readings, including the sessions on self promotion and learning how give a 30 second "elevator speech"

Ricardo Romaneiro checks in after his first feedback session

Ricardo Romaneiro checks in briefly after the first feedback session with the mentor composers. His piece "Sombras" is receiving its first reading at the 2010 Underwood New Music Readings.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eric Lindsay gives a samba lesson - video blog entry

Check out our first entry from composer Eric Lindsay. Coming to you from Bloomington, IN before his flight to NYC, he talks about his work Samba Koocho Hairy Boocho, which will be read by ACO this weekend.

2010 Underwood Readings are underway!

Hello all! After putting out a call for scores, receiving well over 100 submissions, selecting seven composers, and going through all the prep work of production schedules, parts preparation, travel booking etc. etc. etc...
The 2010 Underwood Readings are happening this weekend! All of the composers collect tomorrow evening to begin an intense weekend of readings and feedback sessions with mentor composers, conductors, and ACO musicians.
They'll also be checking in with our fans here on the SoundAdvice blog with short video diary entries to talk about their music and their experiences working with ACO.You can also follow one of our composers (Tamar Muskal), the conductors (Jose Serebrier and George Manahan), and ACO musicians Danielle Kuhlman on the NewMusicBox site.
I hope to see you at the readings on Friday morning and Saturday evening at Miller Theater at Columbia U, and feel free to leave comments and questions on the upcoming posts!

-John Glover, Ops Manager

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Nashville Experience

This is Dan Temkin checking in again. I am writing after two days of hard work with Maestro Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony. It has been an amazing and intense process to bring to life four challenging and stylistically varied works within a few days time. I am truly amazed and impressed by how successful the final performances of each piece went, and we owe many thanks to Maestro Guerrero’s efficiency on the podium as well as to the professionalism of the orchestra who worked steadily with an open mind in order to perform our works so musically.

On Day 1 we were thrust into a live working rehearsal where the orchestra was hearing our music for the very first time; it was essential to work quickly and to try to understand what problems the orchestra could fix on their own and what problems we needed to point out verbally in order for the musicians to understand our compositional ideas. The musicians had prepared the music very well prior to the first rehearsal and many solo passages and complex percussion set-ups had been completely dissected before the first downbeat. This helped things run very smoothly and as problems arose, members of the orchestra asked concise, direct, questions, in order to solve any issues that were hindering the best performance of our music. After the initial reading we had a meeting with Maestro Guerrero, the librarians, and a few select players from the orchestra, where many suggestions were made to improve our pieces. This session was extremely helpful, but also very intense, as many of the details of our pieces were scrutinized in order to help us understand how our music could be made stronger.

On Day 2 we went back into the beautiful Schermerhorn Hall ready to move forward with our music. From the very first notes played by the orchestra it was clear that the previous day’s work had already sunk into the players’ minds. As each piece was rehearsed it seemed that many subtle nuances within each score were beginning to line up and the music was slowly crystallizing before our eyes and ears. The final performance of each work was exhilarating and I could not be more pleased with how my piece Regenerations sounded by the end of the rehearsal.

This has been a humbling and powerful experience for me. The insights I have gained into the way orchestras work in rehearsal and performance have been invaluable. I am so grateful to all of the people who have made this possible at ACO and Earshot. I want to especially thank Maestro Guerrero and NSO, as well as Emma McLeod, Robert Beaser, Jennifer Higdon, Edgar Meyer, Ed Harsh, Cindi Hubbard, John Glover, and Jenny Kampmeier. I also want to express my thanks to my colleagues Ryan, Chiayu, and Michael who are all immensely talented composers and insightful musicians; it has been an honor to share this experience with you.


1. Daniel Temkin speaks to the audience before the Nashville Symphony reads his piece. 
2. A group shot of the whole Nashville EarShot gang.

Monday, April 5, 2010

EarShot Nashville Symphony

I feel so fortunate to have the great opportunity to work with Nashville symphony. I am very excited about this reading and want to thank all the people who have supported and worked on this project.

This reading will be a sound realization of my work. For composers, listening to our own music to be performed live is the most exciting experience. I am eager to hear what the end result is, to meet the musicians and to learn from this reading.


1. Chiayu Hsu addresses the audience before the Nashville Symphony reads her piece.
This is Daniel Temkin, checking in with the ACO community on the SoundAdvice Blog. Later this week I will be travelling to Nashville to participate in the ACO/Earshot Orchestra Readings with the Nashville Symphony. I’m obviously thrilled to have the opportunity to work with an orchestra that performs at such a high artistic level, and I no doubt will gain a tremendous amount of practical experience from the readings. I would very much like to thank everyone at ACO, Earshot, Meet the Composer, and NSO for making this opportunity available to young composers.

There will be four composers participating in the readings (me, Chiayu Hsu, Ryan Gallagher, and Michael Rickelton), and I think I can speak on behalf of all of us when I say that we are very excited and perhaps even a little anxious as the readings approach. Except when performing their own music, composers are not physically in control of the sounds being produced as their music is brought to life; instead they are required to prepare a set of thorough instructions (namely, a score and a set of parts) that must be interpreted carefully by instrumentalists so that the artistic ideas of a piece can come to fruition in concert. After a piece has been sent off to an orchestra or ensemble the composer is no longer directly in control of the music that has been created, and as performances approach there is often a sense of anticipation in the mind of the composer before the first notes are played. I certainly am feeling this excitement and anticipation at this time. Luckily for me, and for all of us working with NSO later this week, we can rest assured knowing that our “instructions” are in extremely capable hands.

More to come as the readings get underway…


1. The Nashville Symphony Orchestra on day one of the readings.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sound Off! Orchestra Underground: Conversations

I know you've been waiting for it... Now is your chance to tell us what you thought about the concert!

(Photo: Next Atlantis by Sebastian Currier, video by Pawel Wojtasik)

Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling...

- What surprised you most about the concert?
- What do you think about the incorporation of video in Next Atlantis?

- Which piece did you enjoy the most? Why?

See what other people are saying and let us know what you think!

(By the way, if you filled out a SoundAdvice survey at the concert, look for your answers in the comments section!)

Okay, I lied.

I said that our "Sound Off" post was coming up next, but I couldn't resist sharing this real quick. Take a look at our composer portrait video for Paquito D'Rivera:

Thursday, February 11, 2010


You know, everything has been so busy around here, we've hardly had time to update our blog! We are smack dab in the middle of submission processes for two EarShot new music readings, our annual Underwood new music readings, submissions for this summer's Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, and proposal submissions for the ACO/LVMH "A Greener New York City" commission. And of course we also have our next concert coming up on April 9th, Composers OutFront! concerts next week on February 22nd and one on March 21st, a fantastic online auction to help support our orchestra, not to mention we appointed a new music director! Also, did you know that you can listen to ACO recordings on Instant Encore?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Wax on. Wax off. I know it's a lot to handle, but you guys have never let us down before.

Up next: our (quarterly? concert-ly?) post where you can share your comments about what you thought of the concert, this time for our "Conversations" concert from January 29th. We received more comments from audience members than ever before, so be sure to look for yours! Until then, here's a shot of Paquito D'Rivera, Robert Black, Anne Manson, and the orchestra from our dress rehearsal at Carnegie: