Performance Friday, March 30, 2012 | 8:30 PM

American Mavericks
with Members of the San Francisco Symphony

Zankel Hall
American Mavericks concludes with a concert that reflects the range of music that defines the maverick spirit: The human voice stretched to its limit by Meredith Monk; electronic theater music by Morton Subotnik; pulsing music by Steve Reich; and Lukas Foss’s experimentalism grounded in the European tradition.


  • Michael Tilson Thomas, Host
  • Jeffrey Milarsky, Conductor
  • Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble, Vocalists
  • Joan La Barbara, Vocalist
  • Jeremy Denk, Piano
  • Jesse Stiles, Electronics
  • San Francisco Symphony
    Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director and Conductor


  • STEVE REICH Music for Pieces of Wood
  • MEREDITH MONK Realm Variations (NY Premiere)
  • FOSS Echoi
  • MORTON SUBOTNICK Jacob’s Room: Monodrama (NY Premiere)


  • Jeffrey Milarsky has led such ensembles as the San Francisco Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, MET Chamber Ensemble, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and New York Philharmonic chamber music series, and has performed at IRCAM. He is senior lecturer in music at Columbia University, where he is also music director of the university orchestra. At the Manhattan School of Music he is artistic director of the percussion ensemble and contemporary music performance program. He is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and music director of AXIOM, Juilliard's contemporary music ensemble. In 2008, Mr. Milarsky substituted for James Levine at Tanglewood in an all-Elliott Carter program celebrating the composer's 100th birthday. In 2007, he led the New York premiere of Carter's only opera, What Next? As timpanist and percussionist, he has performed and recorded with the New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and other ensembles. He received bachelor's and master's degrees from Juilliard, and upon graduating was awarded the Peter Mennin Prize.
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  • Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble

    Meredith Monk is a composer, singer, and creator of new opera and music-theater works. A pioneer in what is now called "extended vocal technique," she has been hailed as a "magician of the voice" and "one of America's coolest composers." Recently, Ms. Monk was named Musical America's Composer of the Year for 2012 and one of NPR's 50 Great Voices. In 1965, Ms. Monk began her innovative exploration of the voice as a multifaceted instrument, composing mostly solo pieces for unaccompanied voice, and voice and keyboard. In 1978, she formed Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble to further expand her musical textures and forms. In addition to numerous vocal works, music-theater works, and operas, Ms. Monk has created vital new repertory for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo instruments, with commissions from Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony, Kronos Quartet, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Her music can also be heard in films by Jean-Luc Godard and the Coen Brothers, among others. Celebrated internationally, Ms. Monk's work has been presented by Lincoln Center Festival, Houston Grand Opera, London's Barbican Centre, and at major venues in countries from Brazil to Syria. Meredith Monk's numerous honors include a MacArthur "Genius" Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, an American Music Center Letter of Distinction, an ASCAP Concert Music Award, a Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts, and induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also holds honorary Doctor of Arts degrees from Bard College, the University of the Arts, The Juilliard School, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Boston Conservatory. Ms. Monk has made more than a dozen recordings, mostly for the ECM New Series label, including the 2008 Grammy-nominated impermanence and Songs of Ascension, recently named No. 1 new-music release of 2011 by WNYC / New Sounds host John Schaefer. Monk's 40th year of performing and creating new music was celebrated in 2005 with a four-hour marathon at Zankel Hall, including performances by Björk, Bang on a Can All-Stars, DJ Spooky, John Zorn, Alarm Will Sound, and Pacific Mozart Ensemble. She is currently developing a new music-theater work, On Behalf of Nature, which will have its premiere in 2013.

    Sidney Chen (bass) is a founding member of The M6, an ensemble dedicated to Meredith Monk's music. He sang at Zankel Hall in the Meredith Monk Young Artists Concert in 2006, and has performed Monk's music for solo voice at Oakland's Garden of Memory. He recently sang in Carnegie Hall's 45th-anniversary celebration of Terry Riley's In C, in addition to performing with the San Francisco new-music chamber choir Volti and recording with the Kronos Quartet. Katie Geissinger (alto) began singing with Meredith Monk in Houston Grand Opera's 1991 production of ATLAS (ECM) and was a soloist in WEAVE with the St. Louis Symphony and Los Angeles Master Chorale. She premiered Bang on a Can's Obie-winning The Carbon Copy Building (Canteloupe), and sang in the world tour of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach (Elektra/Nonesuch), which was revived in concert at Carnegie Hall. Other credits include Jonathan Miller's staging of Bach's St. Matthew Passion at BAM and two Broadway shows. Bruce Rameker (baritone) began singing with Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble in 2008 and performs as baritone and countertenor. His appearances include Monk's Songs of Ascension at the Edinburgh Festival, Mahler's DesKnaben Wunderhorn for San Francisco Ballet, Monteverdi's Orfeo at BAM, Semele with Anchorage Opera, Maria de Buenos Aires at Town Hall, and Getty's Plump Jack at Munich's Prince Regent's Theater. He also sings with the Waverly Consort. Allison Sniffin (soprano I), an ensemble member since 1996, has performed in Meredith Monk's The Politics of Quiet, A Celebration Service, Magic Frequencies, mercy, Turtle Dreams, Book of Days, impermanence,and Songs of Ascension. She has orchestrated and prepared scores for Monk, and her compositions have won awards from Meet the Composer and Concert Artists Guild. Her Prelude for Horn and String Orchestra was performed at the 2011 International Alliance for Women in Music Congress. Randall Wong (soprano II) specializes in Baroque and contemporary music. His Meredith Monk premieres include ATLAS, The Politics of Quiet, and A Celebration Service. With Houston Grand Opera, he premiered Stewart Wallace's Where's Dick? and Harvey Milk (reprised by New York City and San Francisco operas). His San Francisco Symphony performances include Bernstein's Chichester Psalms and Charles Wuorinen's The W of Babylon. He has also composed, performed in, and designed miniature operas.

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    Joan La Barbara (vocalist)-composer, performer, sound artist, and actor-is renowned for her unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques-multiphonics, circular singing, ululation, and glottal clicks-that have influenced generations of composers and singers. In 2008, the American Music Center conveyed its Letter of Distinction Award to Ms. La Barbara for her significant contributions to contemporary American music. Her awards and prizes include the Premio Internazionale "Demetrio Stratos"; a DAAD-Berlin artist residency; Civitella Ranieri, Guggenheim, and seven National Endowment for the Arts fellowships; and numerous commissions. Composing for multiple voices, chamber ensembles, theater, orchestra, interactive technology, and sound-scores for dance, video, and film, including a score for voice and electronics for Sesame Street, her multilayered textural compositions have been presented at the Brisbane Biennial, Festival d'automne à Paris, Warsaw Autumn, Frankfurt Feste, Metamusik-Berlin, Olympics Arts, and Lincoln Center. She was artistic director of the multi-year Carnegie Hall series When Morty Met John and of the New Music America festival in Los Angeles, and co-founded the performing composers-collective Ne(x)tworks. She has produced and performed on acclaimed recordings of music by John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Earle Brown, and premiered landmark compositions written for her by Robert Ashley, David Behrman, Cage, Feldman, Philip Glass, Alvin Lucier, Steve Reich, Morton Subotnick, and James Tenney. Recordings of her work include ShamanSong (New World), Sound Paintings, and Voice Is the Original Instrument (Lovely Music). 73 Poems, her collaboration with text artist Kenneth Goldsmith, was included in The American Century Part II: Soundworks at the Whitney Museum. The award-winning interactive media / performance work Messa di Voce premiered at ars electronica festival in Linz. Exploring ways of immersing the audience in her music, Ms. La Barbara recently placed musicians and actors throughout Greenwich House Music School for her music-theater piece Journeys and Observable Events, which allowed the audience to explore the building and unveiling of theatrical and sonic events. In March 2011, she seated musicians of the American Composers Orchestra around and among the audience in Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall for her sonic painting In solitude this fear is lived, inspired by Agnes Martin's minimalist drawings. Ms. La Barbara is developing a solo performance work, Storefront Diva, for pianist Kathleen Supové, and composing a new opera that explores the artistic process, interior dialogue, and sounds within the mind. Visit for more information.


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  • Jeremy Denk received a degree in chemistry from Oberlin College and a degree in music from the Oberlin Conservatory. He went on to earn a master's degree in music from Indiana University and a doctorate in piano performance from The Juilliard School. A 1998 recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant and winner of the 1997 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, he made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall in 1997 as winner of the Juilliard Piano Debut Award. Mr. Denk often appears in recital throughout the country, including such cities as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. He was artist-in-residence at the 2008 Gilmore Keyboard Festival and gave a recital tour playing Ives's "Concord" Sonata and Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata, culminating in a solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall. An active chamber musician, Mr. Denk has appeared at the Spoleto Festival in this country and in Italy, at the Santa Fe and Seattle chamber music festivals, and at the Verbier Festival. This season, he is the featured artist for the Ives Project, a three-day exploration and celebration of Charles Ives at Maryland's Strathmore Hall; he also performs with the St. Louis Symphony and returns to Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Mr. Denk has spent several summers at the Marlboro Music School in Vermont, and has been part of Musicians from Marlboro national tours. A faculty member at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, he has been a featured artist-in-residence on NPR's Performance Today.
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  • Jesse Stiles (Electronics and Music Supervisor) is a new-media artist, musician, and designer of electronic systems. In 2000, he was awarded a Watson Fellowship, which culminated in his album Watson Songs. His most recent release is The Target Museum. In 2010, Mr. Stiles was hired as sound engineer and music coordinator for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Mr. Stiles holds a BA in cognitive science from Vassar College and an MFA in integrated electronic arts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He maintains studios in New York City and throughout New York State.
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Morton Subotnick And The Butterflies Begin to Sing, Part IV "Images Will Descend to the Ground: Truth will remain simple, and gigantic wheels will ride the bitter waves"
Amernet String Quartet; Kyoko Kashiwagi, Violin; Marcia Littley De Arias, Violin; Bleda Elibal, Double Bass; Javier Arias-Flores, Cello; Malcolm Johnston, Viola
New World Records

At a Glance

STEVE REICH  Music for Pieces of Wood

A founder of minimalism, Steve Reich was achieving acclaim by the early 1970s for his explorations of rhythm using percussion, melody instruments, and even clapping, sometimes in combination with electronic media. Music for Pieces of Wood, from 1973,represents a progression away from the “phase shifting” of these earlier works.

MEREDITH MONK  Realm Variations

In her widely acclaimed music-theater pieces, Meredith Monk explores the possibilities of the human voice, melding ensembles in wordless choruses that evoke almost trance-like effects. Realm Variations is an example of Monk’s focus in recent years on creating compositions in which “voices are like instruments and instruments are like voices.” The title reflects the composer’s engagement with the idea of musical“realms,” which in this case refers to the distinct pitch regions over which the performing forces are deployed.


Lukas Foss composed in virtually all styles, from Romantic to neoclassical to avant-garde. In the mid-1950s, he began experimenting with graphic notation,indeterminacy, and compositions that gave performers more or less control over a piece. In later works, he sampled the possibilities of electronic music,minimalism, and cross-fertilization between the Classical tradition and other musical styles. The four movements of Echoi,from 1963, reveal Foss’s interest in improvisation.

MORTON SUBOTNICK  Jacob’s Room: Monodrama

Morton Subotnick was a pioneer of electronic music and one of its most important composers. A concert version of Jacob’s Room was introduced in San Francisco in 1985 by Subotnick’s wife, Joan La Barbara,and the Kronos Quartet; Subotnick eventually developed this work into a chamber opera that was first presented in 2010. In the new version of the work heard at tonight’s performance, music distributed among various characters in the opera is concentrated into a single voice—that of La Barbara, who “throws” her voice around the auditorium by way of the digital possibilities accessed through microphones.

Program Notes



Meredith Monk on Michael Tilson Thomas, Mavericks, and Taking Risks.

Presented by Carnegie Hall in partnership with the San Francisco Symphony.
The National Endowment for the Arts is the lead donor of American Mavericks at Carnegie Hall.

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