Performance Friday, November 21, 2014 | 7:30 PM

American Composers Orchestra

Orchestra Underground: Monk's Sphere

Zankel Hall
American Composers Orchestra concerts “are always fascinating … frequently exhilarating forays into recent music—or music that was written decades ago but is still fresh” (Newsday). The American Composers Orchestra, conducted by Music Director George Manahan, performs world premieres and a classic piece by Meredith Monk.

Part of My Time, My Music.


  • American Composers Orchestra
    George Manahan, Music Director and Conductor
  • Theo Bleckmann, Vocals
  • Ian Williams, Electronics
  • Members of Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble


  • A.J. MCCAFFREY Motormouth (World Premiere)
  • IAN WILLIAMS Clear Image (World Premiere, orch. and real. Andrew McKenna Lee)
  • THEO BLECKMANN My Brightest Garment (World Premiere, commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
  • LOREN LOIACONO Stalks, Hounds (NY Premiere)
  • MEREDITH MONK Night (orch. Allison Sniffin and Meredith Monk)

Event Duration

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


  • American Composers Orchestra

    Entering its 38th 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 more than 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 Detroit, Berkeley, La Jolla, Nashville, Memphis, Colorado, and San Diego symphonies; New York Philharmonic; New York Youth Symphony; and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Visit for more information. The Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, launched in 2010, supports jazz artists who desire to write for the symphony.

    Among the honors ACO has received are special awards from the AmericanAcademy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra'soutstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded its annual prize for adventurous programming to ACO 36 times, singling out ACO as "the orchestra that has done the most for American music in the United States." ACOreceived the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Community Engagementand 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 Orchestra Underground: X10D(June 2012), an album that features unusual and extended solo instruments withthe orchestra. Orchestra Underground: A-V, an album of multimedia works, is available for free streaming at ACO's latest digital album, Orchestra Underground: Tech & Techno, was released in August 2014. Visit for more information.

    George Manahan

    In his fifth 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 continues his commitment to working with young musicians as director of orchestral studies at the Manhattan School of Music and as guest conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music. Portland Opera welcomed George Manahan as its music director effective with the 2012/13 season.

    Manahan served as music director at New York City Opera for 14 seasons. There he helped envision the organization's groundbreaking VOX Contemporary Opera Lab, a series of workshops and readings that provided unique opportunities for numerous composers to hear their new concepts realized, and introduced audiences to 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 T. Little. Among his many world premieres are 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.

    In May 2011, Manahan was honored by ASCAP for his "career-long advocacy for American composers and the music of our time." Last season, he was awarded the Alice M. Ditson Conductor's Award for his outstanding commitment to the work of emerging composers. 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, Tobias Picker's Emmeline, and several digital albums of emerging composers with ACO.


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  • Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble

    Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble consists of some of the finest and most adventurous singer-instrumentalists active in new music. Founded in 1978 to further expand Monk's musical textures and forms, the ensemble has received multiple awards and critical acclaim, including a 2008 Grammy Award nomination for impermanence. Appearing in festivals, theaters, and concert halls around the world, Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble can also be heard on numerous recordings on the ECM New Series label.


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About the Program

Welcome to “Monk’s Sphere,” ACO’s opening event of 2014–2015, our 38th year, and the first of two Orchestra Underground performances here at Zankel Hall this season. To date, ACO has commissioned and premiered an astounding 82 new orchestra works through Orchestra Underground. It’s a tradition of experimentation of which we’re exceedingly proud.

We’ve long been an admirer of Meredith Monk, a pioneering composer and performer who perfectly exemplifies that spirit of experimentation. Night is one of Meredith’s rare orchestral works, and what an orchestra it is, featuring a shakuhachi, bansuri, koto, and psaltery, plus the amazing members of her own vocal ensemble. We couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate Meredith than by asking Theo Bleckmann, a protégé and member of Meredith’s inner circle for some 20 years, to create a new song marking this special occasion.

The concert also features the premiere of the raucous debut orchestral piece by experimental-rock guitarist Ian Williams of the Battles. Watching Ian’s concepts develop over the last year or two has been a marvel as this fantastically intuitive and creative musician has shared a glimpse of his creative process with us.

The remaining works on tonight’s program are written by two emerging composers who share Meredith’s sense of expressiveness and adventure. Binding them is a common theme of childhood experimentation. A. J. McCaffrey, ACO’s 2013 Underwood Emerging Composer Commission winner, contributes Motormouth, a premiere that chronicles the shifting moods that he encounters as the parent of a toddler—from playfulness to delirium to sleepiness. In the New York premiere of Stalks, Hounds, Loren Loiacono, a young composer of extraordinary talent, synthesizes her childhood remembrances of Barbie’s Dream House and her later discovery of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé.

—George Manahan, ACO Music Director, and Derek Bermel, ACO Artistic Director

Program Notes


Meredith Monk: Carnegie Hall's 2014-2015 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair

Meredith Monk is the holder of the 2014–2015 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall.
This performance is part of Meredith Monk, and Fast Forward.

Part of