Performance Friday, January 18, 2013 | 7:30 PM

American Composers Orchestra

Orchestra Underground: Time Travels

Zankel Hall
Lukas Foss’s Time Cycle, a landmark work of the 20th century, concludes ACO’s second concert this season, titled Time Travels. Also on the program are two exciting world premieres by New York–based composers Kyle Blaha and Kate Soper, and Bell Drum Towers by Zhou Long, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize.

This concert is part of My Time, My Music.


  • American Composers Orchestra
    George Manahan, Music Director and Conductor
  • Kate Soper, Soprano
  • Jennifer Zetlan, Soprano


  • ZHOU LONG Bell Drum Towers (US Premiere)
  • KATE SOPER now is forever: I. Orpheus and Eurydice for Soprano and Orchestra (World Premiere)
  • KYLE BLAHA Triptych (World Premiere)
  • FOSS Time Cycle: Four Songs for Soprano and Orchestra


  • American Composers Orchestra

    Now in its 36th season, 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, 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 more than 600 American composers, including 200 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 multidisciplinary 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 activities, including composer residencies and fellowships. In 2008, ACO launched EarShot, a multi-institutional network that assists orchestras around the country in launching new music reading sessions. Recent EarShot collaborations have included the San Diego, Nashville, Memphis, and Colorado symphonies; New York Youth Symphony; and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Visit for more information. ACO recordings are available on ARGO, CRI, ECM, Point, Phoenix USA, MusicMasters, Nonesuch, Tzadik, New World Records,,, and iTunes. Visit for more information.

    George Manahan

    In his third 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. Manahan is also director of orchestral studies at the Manhattan School of Music and a guest conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music. He is a regular guest with the Music Academy of the West and the Aspen Music Festival.

    Manahan served as music director of the New York City Opera for 14 seasons and music director of Richmond Symphony for 12; he was acting music director of New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for four seasons. He has appeared as guest conductor with the Orchestra of St. Luke's; Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra; Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; San Francisco Symphony; Hollywood Bowl Orchestra; the opera companies of Seattle, Chicago, Santa Fe, and Portland; Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Opéra national de Paris. Manahan has been honored five times by the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) for his commitment to new music.

    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 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.

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  • Kate Soper

    Kate Soper is an Ann Arbor-born, New York-based composer currently pursuing a doctorate in composition at Columbia University. She has written music for dance, film, theater, and electronics, and has worked extensively as a piano-based singer-songwriter. She has attended the Tanglewood Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, June in Buffalo, Norfolk Contemporary Music Workshop, Wellesley Composers Conference, and Ostrava Days Festival in the Czech Republic, and has received honors and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and ASCAP. Through ACO, Soper was a 2011 Underwood New Music Readings participant and performed in the SONiC: Sounds of a New Century festival in October 2011. This is her first commission by a professional orchestra.

    Recent commissions include works for the Tanglewood Institute Wind Ensemble, Museum of Biblical Art, and the Kenners Ensemble. As a singer with experience in Western classical, Indian Carnatik, pop, and folk music, she frequently performs in her own works as well as those of her colleagues. She is a co-director and performing member of the new music ensemble and composers collective Wet Ink, a group committed to innovative programming across musical genres.

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  • Jennifer Zetlan

    Soprano Jennifer Zetlan is swiftly garnering recognition for her artistry and captivating stage presence. She has debuted on the stages of the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, and Florida Grand Opera. Tonight's performance marks Zetlan's debut with ACO.

    This season, Zetlan returns to Seattle Opera as Musetta in La bohème and for Stephen Wadsworth's acclaimed Ring Cycle, in which she will be heard as Woglinde in Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung,   and as the Woodbird in Siegfried. She returns to the roster of the Metropolitan Opera for its production of Le nozze di Figaro, and makes debuts with American Composers Orchestra and the Omaha Symphony. She also debuts with the National Chorale in performances of Orff's Carmina Burana and returns to Nashville Opera as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte.

    In recent seasons, Zetlan made her debut as Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel at Aspen Music Festival. She has been heard in the title role of The Cunning Little Vixen at Aspen, as Tytania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and as Diana in La Calisto at The Juilliard School. Performances with New York's Liederkranz Foundation include Marianne in Romberg's The New Moon and Monica in The Medium.

    Zetlan has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician with the Aspen Music Festival, New York Festival of Song, Alexander Paley Music Festival, Foothills Chamber Music Festival, and The Artist Series of Sarasota. Committed to performing new works, she sang at the 2007 OPERA America New Works Showcase, participated in New York City Opera's VOX showcase of American composers in 2008 and 2009, and is frequently involved with the new works initiative co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater.

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Foss's Time Cycle: Four Songs for Soprano and Orchestra
Columbia Symphony Orchestra | Leonard Bernstein, Conductor | Lukas Foss, Piano | Adele Addison, Soprano
Sony Classical

About the Program

Welcome to Orchestra Underground: Time Travels. It is often said that music is "the art of sound in time." This concert takes that simple concept and adds  a Möbius-strip twist, offering musical examinations of the concept of time     in music.

Our centerpiece is Lukas Foss's iconic Time Cycle from 1960, one of the most important pieces of the 20th-century avant-garde. Lukas was never a follower of anybody else's drum, and his settings of poems by Auden, Housman, Kafka, and Nietzsche—each a rumination on time—opened the orchestra up to the freedom of ensemble improvisation, and became the basis for a new direction in the composer's work. We are pleased to welcome Jennifer Zetlan, a soprano who is making her mark in just about every corner of innovative new music these days, in her ACO debut.

We asked two up-and-coming composers, Kyle Blaha and Kate Soper to write new works embracing time in their own personal way. Kate is an alumna of ACO's annual Underwood New Music Readings, and a wonderfully unconventional singer who participated in last year's SONiC: Sounds of a New Century festival. Her premiere, which mines the Orpheus myth, expands a single moment into a speculation about the nature of time and inevitability. Kyle Blaha is also interested in "the moment," borrowing in his case from the visual arts device of the triptych to expand a singular musical gesture into his own three-part array of temporal possibilities.

Rounding out the program, 2011 Pulitzer Prize–winner Zhou Long brings a cross-cultural perspective to our subject with the US premiere of Bell Drum Towers. Inspired by China's ancient towers that provided an intricate system of time-keeping for centuries, the piece is a brilliant display of orchestral color and pulse-quickening excitement.

For those of you who want to travel forward in time to see what ACO's next concert brings, we invite you to join us for coLABoratory: Playing It UNsafe, an R&D lab for experimental new music. Lab-workshops take place on January 22, March 5, and April 2, allowing you to catch a glimpse into the creative process of five cutting-edge world premieres to be performed on April 5 at Zankel Hall.

—Robert Beaser, ACO Artistic Director, and Derek Bermel, ACO Creative Advisor

Program Notes


Composer Kate Soper describes her piece now is forever: I. Orpheus and Eurydice, "expanding a moment out into a universe of speculation about the nature of time and the unreliability of desire ... In dealing with this text I'm trying to find a way to paint the still core at the center of both the poem and the moment it describes—the single slice of time in which the chain of events (Orpheus turning to look at Eurydice and her consequent banishment back to Hades) has just flickered into possibility but is not quite inevitable."

This performance is part of Twentieth Century Sounds, and American Composers Orchestra.

Part of