Performance Thursday, March 22, 2012 | 7:30 PM

American Composers Orchestra

Orchestra Underground: American Accounts

Zankel Hall
Grammy winner Michael Daugherty describes his Trail of Tears as a “journey into how the human spirit discovers ways to deal with upheaval, adversity, and adapting to a new environment.” Perseverance in the face of change is but one facet of the American spirit. On this concert, the American Composers Orchestra performs musical narratives—including Trail of Tears—that connect our national past, present, and future.


  • American Composers Orchestra
    George Manahan, Music Director and Conductor
  • Derek Bermel, Clarinet
  • Judith Bettina, Soprano
  • Gabriel Kahane, Piano, Guitars, and Vocals
  • Amy Porter, Flute


  • BABBITT From the Psalter
  • MICHAEL DAUGHERTY Trail of Tears (NY Premiere)
  • COPLAND Clarinet Concerto
  • GABRIEL KAHANE Crane Palimpsest (World Premiere)


  • American Composers Orchestra

    Now in 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 concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues, recordings, internet and radio broadcasts, educational programs, New Music Readings Sessions, 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. 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 some 750 American composers, including 250 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 opportunities, including composer residencies and the Van Lier Emerging Composer Fellowship. In 2008, ACO launched EarShot, a multi-institutional network that assists orchestras around the country in launching new music readings sessions. Recent EarShot collaborations have included the San Diego, Nashville, Memphis, and Colorado symphonies; New York Youth Symphony; and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

    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 33 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 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 iTunes. ACO's must recent digital album Emerging Composers Series Vol. 1, featuring world premiere recordings by five up-and-coming composers, was released last month. 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. He served as music director of the New York City Opera for 14 seasons, and currently is the director of orchestral studies at the Manhattan School of Music and guest conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music.

    During his time at New York City Opera, Manahan helped envision the organization's groundbreaking VOX program, a series of workshops and readings that provided unique opportunities for composers to hear their new concepts realized and audiences to discover exciting new compositional voices. Through VOX, Manahan has introduced works by established composers such as Mark Adamo, David Del Tredici, Lewis Spratlan, Robert Xavier Rodríguez, Lou Harrison, Bernard Rands, and Richard Danielpour, as well as composers on the rise, including Adam Silverman, Elodie Lauten, Mason Bates, and David T. Little.

    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 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 four times by the American Society of Composers and Publishers for his commitment to 20th-century music.

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  • Derek Bermel

    Composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. His works draw from a rich variety of musical genres, including classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues, folk, and gospel. Hands-on experience with music of cultures from around the world has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language. Currently ACO's creative advisor, Bermel served as ACO's Music Alive composer-in-residence from 2006 to 2009. He has received commissions from major orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout the US and overseas, collaborating with Wynton Marsalis, Midori, John Adams, Paquito D'Rivera, Philip Glass, Gustavo Dudamel, and Stephen Sondheim. He is currently composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His orchestral recording Voices, commissioned and premiered by ACO and performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, drew great critical acclaim. Bermel's music is published by Peermusic (North American, South America, and Asia) and Faber Music (Europe and Australia).

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  • Judith Bettina

    Soprano Judith Bettina, hailed for her proficiency in a wide range of musical styles, has appeared as guest soloist with the Houston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Munich Philharmonic. She has appeared with chamber groups throughout the US and Europe, including appearances with the Bach Chamber Soloists, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Continuum, New York Philomusica, Parnassus, Speculum Musicae, Ensemble 21, Boston Musica Viva, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and Monadnock Music.

    Highly acclaimed for her performances of contemporary music, Bettina has had works written for her by Mel Powell, Tobias Picker, Christopher Berg, Chester Biscardi, David Rakowski, Richard Karpen, and David Olan. She has premiered works by Charles Wuorinen, Milton Babbitt, Lori Dobbins, Richard Danielpour, George Tsontakis, and Vivian Fine. Bettina's recent performances have included Picker's Symphony No. 2, "Aussöhnung," and Tres sonetos de amor; Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire; and Edison Denisov's La vie en rouge.

    Bettina's recordings with pianist James Goldsworthy of Biscardi's The Gift of Life, Rakowski's Three Songs on Poems of Louise Bogan, and a new release of songs by Otto Luening are on Composers Recordings, Inc. She has also recorded works by Milton Babbitt and Mel Powell.

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  • Gabriel Kahane

    Composer and performer Gabriel Kahane is a peerless musical polymath, invested equally in the worlds of concert, theater, and popular music. Launched by his 2006 song cycle Craigslistlieder-heard frequently both in august concert halls and dirty bars-Kahane's rapid ascent as a composer of concert works came into focus during the 2010-2011 season with the premieres of three commissioned works: The Red Book, a string quartet for the Kronos Quartet; a hybrid sonata-song cycle for cellist Alisa Weilerstein and himself; and a large chamber work for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

    As a performer, Kahane moves with ease between musical realms. His self-titled debut album-featuring performances by Sam Amidon, Sufjan Stevens, and Chris Thile-was released in 2008 and was followed up by a second LP in fall 2010. Among his various credits as a performer, he has appeared with Rufus Wainwright on Elvis Costello's Spectacle television series, sung lieder with pianists Jonathan Biss and Jeremy Denk, and performed as a pianist with bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff in recital throughout Europe.

    In demand as a theater composer, Kahane was commissioned to write music and lyrics for February House at The Public Theater, where he was named the inaugural Musical Theater Fellow in 2008. Kahane has also received commissions from the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia; and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which produced his show Caravan Man in 2007. A 2010 MacDowell Colony Fellow and 2009 composer-in-residence at the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, Kahane makes his home in Brooklyn, in close company with a century-old piano and many books.

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  • Amy Porter

    Amy Porter first leapt to international attention winning the Kobe International Flute Competition in Japan, which led to performance invitations around the world. Porter has been heard in recital on National Public Radio and featured on Live from Lincoln Center on PBS.

    A native of Wilmington, Delaware, Porter is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where she received a full scholarship for her degrees; she also has received fellowships to the Tanglewood Festival and International Summer Academy Mozarteum Salzburg. She has studied with Samuel Baron and Jeanne Baxtresser at Juilliard, and with Alain Marion and Peter-Lukas Graf in Austria. She held the position of associate principal flute in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for eight years before becoming professor of flute at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

    Porter has had four world premieres written for her: The Shadow of Sirius flute concerto by Joel Puckett, Undercurrents for solo flute by David Sampson, and Sonata No. 8 for flute and piano byChristopher Caliendo, and Michael Daugherty's Trail of Tears.

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At a Glance

Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, the oldest and most iconic work on the program, is a jazz-fueled testament to American inventiveness and post-war exuberance. And there’s no better Horatio Alger story than that of Aaron Copland, the Brooklyn boy who made good while developing a distinctly American orchestral sound along the way.

Michael Daugherty, a composer known for his anthropological digs into the nooks and crannies of American culture, takes us back 100 years earlier than Copland with Trail of Tears, which chronicles the tragic internment and march of Native Americans from their homeland to the reservations in Oklahoma.

Composer and singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane brings us a tale, using the Brooklyn Bridge as connective tissue between 19th-century texts by Hart Crane and his own contemporary narrative, juxtaposing classical and pop-based musical languages.

The concert opens with a reprise of Milton Babbitt’s ACO-commissioned From the Psalter. Despite the infamous reputation that he got after his “Who Cares If You Listen?” essay, Milton was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was a conundrum and a delight; his razor-sharp wit and delightful humor were evident from the instant a person met him.
Program Notes



Gabriel Kahane on His Crane Palimpsest 

This performance is part of American Composers Orchestra.

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