Performance Friday, October 25, 2013 | 7:30 PM

American Composers Orchestra

Orchestra Underground: Adding Fuel to the Fire

Zankel Hall
Having “consistently championed contemporary music with consistent excellence” (The New York Times), the American Composers Orchestra has a long history of exploring the sonic frontiers of American music, championing both emerging composers and prolific compositional voices of our time. This ensemble is led by dynamic conductor Robert Spano for a program that includes a world premiere by Irish composer Peter Fahey, as well as Christopher Theofanidis’s Bassoon Concerto.

This concert is part of My Time, My Music.


  • American Composers Orchestra
    Robert Spano, Conductor
  • Martin Kuuskmann, Bassoon
  • Bill Morrison, Filmmaker


  • PETER FAHEY A Mirror to Kathleen's Face (World Premiere)
  • FRED LERDAHL Spirals (NY Premiere)
  • JULIA WOLFE Fuel (film by Bill Morrison)

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


  • American Composers Orchestra

    Entering its 37th 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 as well as 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 700 American composers, including nearly 300 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; coLABoratory: 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 mounting new music readings. Recent EarShot programs have included the Nashville, Memphis, Colorado, and San Diego symphonies; New York Youth Symphony; and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Upcoming EarShot readings include the Berkeley Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic. 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 35 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 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 iTunes. ACO's digital albums include Playing It UNsafe (March 2011), Emerging Composers Series: Vol. 1 (February 2012), and the orchestra's latest release, Orchestra Underground: X10D (June 2012). Visit for more information.

    Robert Spano

    Robert Spano is music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, where he has enriched and expanded its repertoire and elevated the ensemble to new levels of international prominence. In 2012, he became music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School.

    Mr. Spano has appeared with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra of St. Luke's. He was music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic from 1996-2004. Respected as a collaborative pianist, composer, and educator, Mr. Spano recently conducted the Juilliard Orchestra as well as the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Philadelphia. He has been Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University, an honor bestowed upon only seven other individuals, including the Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter, and author Salman Rushdie.

    With a discography of 16 critically acclaimed recordings for Telarc and Deutsche Grammophon, Mr. Spano has garnered six Grammy Awards. In February 2011, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Naxos created the ASO Media recording label; the label's first recording was released in April 2011. Musical America's 2008 Conductor of the Year, Mr. Spano is on the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University, and Oberlin.

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  • Martin Kuuskmann

    Martin Kuuskmann has premiered eight bassoon concertos written especially for him, with plans for more in the future. He has collaborated with Daniel Schnyder, Helena Tulve, and jazz icon John Patitucci, and has appeared with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Järvi Festival Orchestra, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Macao Orchestra, Nordic Symphony Orchestra, Absolute Ensemble, Sinfonietta Rīga, and Grazioso Chamber Orchestra. He has also appeared at the Musikfest Bremen, as well as the Kuhmo, Gaia, Umeå, and Menuhin festivals. Mr. Kuuskmann has recorded reconstructed bassoon concertos by J. S. Bach with co-soloist, renowned violist Lars Anders Tomter and the 1B1 Ensemble. He has recorded Christopher Theofanidis's Bassoon Concerto with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. His solo CD Nonstop and other albums are available on the ERP, Erdenklang, CCn'C, and Chesky labels.

    A graduate of Yale University and the Manhattan School of Music, Mr. Kuuskmann's mentors include Stephen Maxym, Ilmar Aasmets, Rufus Olivier, and ACO principal bassoonist Frank Morelli. Mr. Kuuskmann teaches at the Manhattan School of Music, Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, and Arosa Music Academy in Switzerland.

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  • Bill Morrison

    Over the past 20 years, Bill Morrison has built a filmography of more than 30 projects that have been presented in theaters, museums, galleries, and concert halls worldwide. His work often makes use of rare archival footage and reframes forgotten film imagery as part of our collective mythology.

    Mr. Morrison's films are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, The Nederlands Filmmuseum, and the Library of Congress. He is a Guggenheim fellow and has received the Alpert Award in the Arts, a National Endowment for the Arts Creativity Grant, a Creative Capital Grant, and a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. His work with Ridge Theater has been recognized with two Bessie awards and an Obie Award.

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Julia Wolfe's Fuel

Ensemble Resonanz | Brad Lubman. Conductor
Cantaloupe Records

About the Program

Welcome to the launch of the 2013–2014 season of Orchestra Underground. This year, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of this cutting-edge concert series. When we chose the name "Underground" 10 years ago, we weren't just referring to Zankel Hall, the new high-tech, subterranean venue Carnegie Hall had just built. From the beginning, the series had a subversive agenda: to reinvent the orchestra through new works that challenge convention with diverse influences, unusual instruments, multimedia, and multidisciplinary collaborations. In our first decade "underground," ACO has commissioned and premiered an astounding 80 new orchestra works.

We are pleased to welcome Robert Spano to the podium for his first engagement as guest conductor with ACO. Robert has gone on record as saying that "the most important trait in a conductor is curiosity," something Spano has proven by championing new music with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and at the Aspen Music Festival, and wherever he travels.

As with an aerospace launch, a good orchestra season launch requires both fuel and propulsion, and we have that in abundance this evening. Peter Fahey, a rising star who won ACO's 2012 Underwood Emerging Composers Commission, has composed a new work for orchestra and electronics inspired by Ireland's notorious 19th-century industrial schools. Christopher Theofanidis, a master of color and orchestration, combines musical figurations drawn from the Balkan region and Greek Orthodox tradition to create a rarity among works for soloist and orchestra: his virtuosic Bassoon Concerto, written for the supremely athletic soloist Martin Kuuskmann. Fred Lerdahl, a composer respected for his craftsmanship and depth, starts with the simplest of ideas that "spiral" into progressively more complex and diverse patterns, creating music of fantastic heat and intensity. Rounding out the event, Julia Wolfe and filmmaker Bill Morrison create an alternative energy all their own, pushing a string orchestra to its limits while exploring the controversy and global implications of—and human need for—fossil fuels.

Welcome aboard!

—Derek Bermel, ACO Artistic Director, and George Manahan, ACO Music Director
Program Notes
This performance is part of American Composers Orchestra.

Part of