Performance Friday, October 14, 2011 | 7:30 PM

American Composers Orchestra


Zankel Hall
It’s music you’ve never heard before—but you’re sure to want to hear again. Discover personal voices that express the character of our century: Invocations of folk music from native countries, ruminations of traditional American music, and a commitment to eclecticism all pervade the first concert of the ACO’s season.


  • American Composers Orchestra
    George Manahan, Music Director and Conductor
  • Mellissa Hughes, Soprano and Electronics
  • Daniel Iglesia, Videographer
  • Kenji Bunch, Amplified Viola


  • CHRISTOPHER STARK ...and start west (World Premiere)
  • ANDREIA PINTO-CORREIA Elegia a Al-Mu'tamid (World Premiere)
  • ALEX TEMPLE Liebeslied for Female Voice, Electronics, and Orchestra (World Premiere)
  • WANG LU Flowing Water Study II for Orchestra and Video (World Premiere)
  • KENJI BUNCH The Devil's Box (World Premiere)


  • American Composers Orchestra

    Now entering its 35th 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 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 and 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 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, 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.

    The 2011-2012 season represents one of ACO's boldest yet, with the launch of SONiC: Sounds of a New Century, a festival devoted to music written in the 21st century by composers age 40-and-under. SONiC features over 100 composers from six continents, more than 20 world premieres, and sixteen ensembles jam-packed into nine days in October.

    For 20 years, ACO's New Music Readings have provided career advancement and exposure to a new generation of emerging composers. Today, ACO's Underwood New Music Readings have become a right-of-passage for any aspiring orchestra composer. Extending its mission beyond New York, ACO launched EarShot, the national orchestral composition discovery network in 2008. EarShot assists orchestras around the country in launching new music readings sessions and composer development opportunities. Recent EarShot collaborations include programs with the Nashville Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, New York Youth Symphony, and Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Visit for more information.

    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 31 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, New World Records, and Visit for more information.

    George Manahan

    In his second season as music director of the American Composers Orchestra, George Manahan has had a wide-ranging and esteemed career, embracing everything from opera to the concert stage, the traditional to the contemporary. In addition to his work with ACO this season, Manahan maintains his commitment to working with young musicians as director of orchestral studies at the Manhattan School of Music, as well as guest conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music.

    Manahan has performed as a guest conductor with the Orchestra of St. Luke's; the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra; Hollywood Bowl Orchestra; and the Atlanta, San Francisco, and New Jersey symphonies. He is a regular guest with the Music Academy of the West and the Aspen Music Festival, and has also appeared with the Seattle, Portland, and Santa Fe opera companies; Lyric Opera of Chicago; Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Opéra national de Paris; Teatro Comunale di Bologna; and Minnesota Opera, where he was principal conductor.

    Manahan's extensive 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, Hans Werner Henze's The English Cat, and the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner. As music director of the Richmond Symphony for 12 years and music director of the New York City Opera for 14 seasons, he was honored five times by the American Society of Composers and Publishers for his commitment to 20th-century music.

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  • Mellissa Hughes

    Soprano Mellissa Hughes enjoys a busy career in both contemporary and early music. Her upcoming season includes concerts with the Mark Morris Dance Group, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Cantaloupe Music, and a performance of Louis Andriessen's De Staat under the baton of John Adams. A dedicated interpreter of living composers, Hughes has worked closely with Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Steve Reich, and Neil Rolnick. She has also premiered works by Caleb Burhans, Missy Mazzoli, Ted Hearne, Jacob Cooper, Matt Marks, and Frederic Rzewski.

    Recently, Hughes participated in Carnegie Hall's Professional Training Workshop with Dawn Upshaw and Donnacha Dennehy. Future engagements include performances of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, Proverb, and Tehillim with Signal; and Shelter, a video opera by Bang-on-a-Can composers Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, and David Lang.

    Hughes has recorded for Nonesuch, Cantaloupe, and Naxos Records, and performs regularly with Alarm Will Sound, the Wordless Music series, Clarion Music Society, Newspeak, and Vox Vocal Ensemble. She holds degrees from Yale University and Westminster Choir College.

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  • Daniel Iglesia

    Daniel Iglesia creates music and media for humans and computers. His compositions include concert works for instruments and electronics, live audio and video performance, generative and interactive installations, and collaborations with disciplines such as theater and dance.

    Iglesia's work has been presented at Lincoln Center, The Stone, The Kitchen, and Museum of the Moving Image. It has also been presented at the Experimental Media Series in Washington, DC; Hamburger Klangwerktage in Hamburg; Guangdong Modern Dance Festival in Guangzhou; and Expo 2010 Shanghai China. Iglesia's concert works have been performed by the California EAR Unit, Sō Percussion, S.E.M. Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble, Ostravská Banda, and the Princeton Laptop Orchestra.

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Harrison Symphonic Suite for Strings (Estampie)
American Composers Orchestra; Dennis Russell Davies, Conductor
Phoenix USA

About the Program

Welcome to 21st Firsts, an all world-premiere program that launches American Composers Orchestra’s season, as well as SONiC: Sounds of a New Century, a citywide festival devoted to music written in the 21st century by composers age 40 and under.

SONiC brings together more than 100 composers in performances by 16 extraordinary ensembles around New York City, with 21 world premieres, and US and New York City premieres too numerous to count. Events range from a daylong marathon to an electronic composers night, from a free symphony concert at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden to collaborations between emerging choreographers and composers. We’ve got singer-songwriters; quartets of strings, saxophones, and electric guitars; composer-percussionists; experimentalists; and much more. This festival presents an eclectic array befitting a new century. SONiC doesn’t attempt to define this moment in music, but aims to bring together composers, performers, and audiences to explore it.

Here’s what’s on tap tonight: Christopher Stark’s ... and start west (the happy result of his participation in last year’s Underwood New Music Readings) evokes American landscapes—from the dazzling New York City skyline to the majestic Rocky Mountains. The talented Portuguese-born composer Andreia Pinto-Correia’s Elegia a Al-Mu’tamid pays homage to the Iberian poet-king. Andreia comes to us through her participation in ACO’s EarShot national network to identify new orchestral composers. Alex Temple delves into the haunting intensity of the romantic popular song with the surreal and electronically stylized Liebeslied with cutting-edge soprano Mellissa Hughes. Wang Lu offers a multimedia take on an ancient Chinese folk tale and traditional qin stringed instrument, with videographer Daniel Iglesia. Finally, Kenji Bunch takes to the stage to perform The Devil’s Box, exploring everything from a Stephen Foster hymn to Cajun and Norwegian fiddling techniques, to healthy doses of blues, rock, gospel, and funk.

Thanks for joining us for the opening event of SONiC. We hope you’ll join us for more of the events taking place over the next nine days, as we look forward to exploring all the SONiC possibilities with you.
Program Notes

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