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American Composers Orchestra

Orchestra Underground: Contempo-Scary Music
Friday, October 28, 2016 7:30 PM Zankel Hall
Halloween comes early to Carnegie Hall. Things that go bump in the night have inspired composers for centuries, but American Composers Orchestra contemporizes the theme with mystifying, electrifying, and just plain scary music. Film soundtracks, including a suite from Bernard Herrmann’s music for Hitchcock’s Psycho, and works that might inspire frightening films in your own head make for a spooky evening.


American Composers Orchestra
George Manahan, Music Director and Conductor
Nancy Allen Lundy, Soprano and Narrator
Maxwell Tfirn, Electronics Engineer


HERRMANN Psycho Suite

JUDITH SHATIN Black Moon for Orchestra and Conductor-Controlled Electronics (World Premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)

MORAVEC The Overlook Hotel Suite (World Premiere)


Event Duration

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

Lead support for the 125 Commissions Project is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Public support for the 125 Commissions Project is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Additional funding is provided by members of Carnegie Hall's Composer Club.

About the Program

Those of us of a certain age remember when audiences viewed new music as a scary prospect—and composers, for their part, relished their reputations as “mad scientists” creating unforgivingly cerebral works. That began to change in the 1970s, in large part due to the music of David Del Tredici, who helped reintroduce expressive lyricism and emotion—what we now call neo-Romanticism. David also famously loves a good story (as his long fascination with Alice in Wonderland attests), so tonight we draw from that delicious vein in Dracula, with the remarkable Nancy Allen Lundy as our soloist.

With a bestselling book and hit movie, Stephen King’s The Shining is among the most well-known of contemporary tales of horror. Thanks to composer Paul Moravec, we can now add to these a new critically acclaimed opera that premiered in a sold-out run at the Minnesota Opera this past May. For tonight’s program, we asked Paul to create an orchestral suite drawn from his opera. He took up the challenge, creating a piece that provides a musical depiction of the Overlook—the infamous hotel at the center of the story’s gory plot.

The black moon—the second new moon of the month—is a rare event filled with mystical power and ripe for spells and rituals. Judith Shatin explores this in her premiere this evening. Judith specializes in the integration of electronics and acoustics to create powerful and otherworldly sonic landscapes. For this piece, she uses a Kinect sensor “borrowed” from the Xbox video gaming system to allow the conductor to shape the electronics in real time, following his gestures. Black Moon was developed through ACO’s coLABoratory program, which provided the opportunity to workshop the piece with the orchestra last season.

Opening our program is Bernard Herrmann’s brilliant suite from Hitchcock’s Psycho—an utterly perfect and utterly disturbing piece of Hollywood and musical history.

With so much new music being written for the orchestra by so many composers of divergent backgrounds, we like to think that every ACO concert has the spirit of “trick or treat” in it.Thanks for venturing out into the night with us!

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


George Manahan

In his sixth year as music director of American Composers Orchestra, George Manahan's career embraces everything from opera to concert, traditional to contemporary. ...

In his sixth year as music director of American Composers Orchestra, George Manahan's career embraces everything from opera to concert, traditional to contemporary. Manahan is the 2012 winner of the prestigious Ditson Conductor's Award for his support of American music. Previous winners include James Levine, Leonard Bernstein, and Alan Gilbert. In May 2011, he was honored by ASCAP for his "career-long advocacy for American composers and the music of our time."

Manahan served as music director of the New York City Opera for 14 seasons. While 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. Under Manahan's direction, the Live from Lincoln Center telecast of New York City Opera's Madame Butterfly won a 2007 Emmy Award. Portland Opera welcomed Manahan as its music director in 2012.

As director of orchestral studies at the Manhattan School of Music and guest conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music, Manahan continues the tradition of mentoring young musicians. In addition to established composers such as Mark Adamo, David Del Tredici, Lewis Spratlan, Robert Xavier 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'smodern painters, and the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner.

Manahan's extensive recording activities include the premiere release of Steve Reich's Tehillim, 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.

American Composers Orchestra


Now in its 40th season, American Composers Orchestra (ACO) 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 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 800 American composers, including 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Among the orchestra's innovative programs have been SONiC: Sounds of a New Century, a citywide festival of music by 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, 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 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 and upcoming EarShot programs include engagements with the Detroit, Berkeley, La Jolla, Nashville, Memphis, Colorado, and San Diego symphonies; New York Philharmonic; New York Youth Symphony; and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Last year, EarShot expanded its work with a special initiative to provide career development and commissions for emerging female composers. Visit EarShotnetwork.org for more information. The Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, launched in 2010, supports jazz artists who desire to write for the symphony and has led to the creation of 40 new works by diverse composers.

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 36 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, InstantEncore.com, Amazon.com, 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 with the orchestra. Orchestra Underground: AV, an album of multimedia works, is available for free streaming at vimeo.com/channels/OrchestraUnderground. Orchestra Underground: Tech & Techno, was released in August 2014. ACO's latest digital album, SONiC Double Live, featuring premiere recordings from its inaugural festival of 21st-century music, was released in July 2016. Visit americancomposers.org for more information.

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Nancy Allen Lundy

Nancy Allen Lundy has earned critical acclaim for her unique vocal beauty, skillful musicianship, and theatrical prowess in a variety of classical and contemporary ...

Nancy Allen Lundy has earned critical acclaim for her unique vocal beauty, skillful musicianship, and theatrical prowess in a variety of classical and contemporary styles. Engagements with opera companies and festivals include Teatro alla Scala, English National Opera, Dutch National Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Minnesota Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Portland Opera, Spoleto USA, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Bregenzer Festspiele, Festival Euro Mediterraneo, Opéra de Lyon, and Suntory Hall. Her operatic repertoire encompasses more than 30 roles, of which she has earned particular acclaim.

Notable concert engagements include Handel's Messiah and Strauss's Brentano Lieder with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Charles Dutoit; Poulenc's Gloria with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra; Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Flemish Radio Orchestra; Mendelssohn's Elijah with the Duisburg Philharmonic; and Villa-Lobos's Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 in Taipei. She has sung Carmina Burana with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony, NHK Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. In May 2017, she reprises Zina in A Dog's Heart with the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam.

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Maxwell Tfirn

Maxwell Tfirn is currently a doctoral student in composition and computer technology at the University of Virginia. He received a master's degree from Wesleyan ...

Maxwell Tfirn is currently a doctoral student in composition and computer technology at the University of Virginia. He received a master's degree from Wesleyan University, and studied music education and percussion at the University of Florida. His current academic focus is the creation of spectra and sound generators through the processing and manipulation of image data. He has been working on the sonification and tracking of E. coli movement (chemotaxis), using this data to hear trends in the bacteria's motion. Tfirn has had work selected for the International Computer Music Association, Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, Electroacoustic Barn Dance, Society of Composers, FEAST Festival, Technosonics, and Subtropics. His works have been played by the JACK Quartet, loadbang, Dither, Eklmeles, and New Thread Quartet. 

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