Performance Friday, March 4, 2011 | 7:30 PM

American Composers Orchestra

Playing it Unsafe

Zankel Hall
ACO's next musical laboratory. Composers pursuing no-holds-barred explorations that challenge their creative capacities and stretch the limits of what is possible with an orchestra. New pieces selected through a nationwide search, and born from a unique incubation process of workshops, public readings, and collaborative feedback.


  • American Composers Orchestra
    George Manahan, Music Director and Conductor
  • Joan La Barbara, Vocalist
  • Leni Schwendinger, Lighting Designer
  • Line C3 Percussion Group
    ·· Haruka Fujii
    ·· Chris Thompson
    ·· John Ostrowski
    ·· Sam Solomon


  • LAURA SCHWENDINGER Shadings (World Premiere)
  • HENRY THREADGILL No Gates, No White Trenches, Butterfly Effect (World Premiere)
  • JOAN LA BARBARA In solitude this fear is lived… (World Premiere)
  • SEAN FRIAR Clunker Concerto (World Premiere)


  • American Composers Orchestra

    Now in its 34th 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 makes the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. Through its concerts, recordings, radio broadcasts, educational programs, New Music Readings, and commissions, ACO identifies today's brightest emerging composers, champions prominent established composers, and increases 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 600 American composers, including 200 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; and, of course, Orchestra Underground, ACO's entrepreneurial cutting-edge orchestral ensemble that embraces new technology, eclectic instruments and 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 in recognition of the orchestra's outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded its annual prize for adventurous programming to ACO 32 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 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, and online at Visit for more information, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

    George Manahan

    George Manahan has had an unusually wide-ranging career, embracing everything from opera to the concert stage, the traditional to the contemporary. He conducted his first concert as music director of American Composers Orchestra in October 2010 in Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, commencing his tenure with "vibrant, polished, playing" (The New York Times) in a program that included premieres by John Luther Adams and Wang Jie. His previous appearances with ACO include the 19th Annual Underwood New Music Readings at Columbia University's Miller Theatre in May 2010. Manahan has been Music Director at New York City Opera for 12 seasons. In that time, he helped envision the organization's groundbreaking VOX program, a series of workshops and readings that have provided unique opportunities for composers to hear their new concepts realized and for audiences to experience exciting new compositional voices. In addition to established composers such as Mark Adamo, David Del Tredici, Lewis Spratlan, Robert X. Rodriguez, Lou Harrison, Bernard Rands, and Richard Danielpour, Manahan has introduced works by composers on the rise, including Adam Silverman, Elodie Lauten, Mason Bates, and David Little.

    Manahan's wide-ranging recording activities include the premiere release of Steve Reich's Tehillim for ECM, a Grammy-nominated recording of Edward Thomas's Desire Under the Elms, Joe Jackson's Will Power, and Tobias Picker's Emmeline. He has conducted numerous operatic world premieres, including Charles Wuorinen's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, David Lang's Modern Painters, and the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner. As music director of the Richmond Symphony for 12 years, he was honored four times by the American Society of Composers and Publishers for his commitment to 20th century music. This past fall, he joined the Manhattan School of Music faculty as Director of Orchestral Studies.
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  • Line C3 Percussion Group

    Formed in 2003, Line C3 is a collection of percussionists committed to sharing the best of percussion repertoire in the most entertaining way possible. The group convenes in many different settings for a diverse array of projects, and is known for combining an uncompromising standard of performance with a rigorous emphasis on fun. The members of the group are Haruka Fujii, Chris Thompson, John Ostrowski, and Sam Solomon.
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This performance is part of American Composers Orchestra.