American Contemporary Music Ensemble: A Night of New Classical at Joe's Pub

ACME in Concert, Joe's Pub, NYC, October 25, 2011

Other than my highly-expensive coke and chocolate brownie (Thanks, Joe's Pub food policy), the evening for the chamber group American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) left me feeling much more assured and happy I was there to capture it. It was quite a crisp, vital program in the intimate setting of Joe's Pub, a place that one associates more with indie rock, but these days there's hardly a chasm between the two anyway.

The ensemble, featuring the compelling violist Nadia Sirota and, on a few works pianist Timo Andres (Christian Carey's work and a great solo-piano piece by David Smooke called Requests), blazed through 11 relatively short pieces for varied instruments by 11 composers--9 of which that were chosen from over 200 that applied for the event--Carey and Hayes Biggs were judges and also had pieces on the program.

The highlights of this program for me were: a)The world premiere of Christian Carey's Wily Overture, taking on a unusually orchestral feel with the addition of a snare drum.

b) The NY premiere of Dale Trumbore's piece for string quartet How It Will Go, which the composer says she enjoys the ever-changing sound of performance from one ensemble to the next (I should have asked her if ACME played it better than the Kronos Quartet).

c) One noticeable moment during the quartet piece Refuge by Sam Nichols was watching how gifted the string players are when it is seen how seemingly spontaneous the performances are with cues and phrase changes, as if it could all unravel in a flash if someone plays a missed note or cue.

d) James Stephenson's Oracle Night is a haunting piece for viola and percussion made ever-so effectively creepy by Sirota's furious spiccato and the use of big and small claves and varied-size wood-blocks by percussionist Jonathan Singer.

e) James Holt's quartet Nostos-Algea was the closer and a really nice surprise for me. I've only known him as a podcaster until now. ;)

Co-presented by the great new music blog Sequenza21 and Manhattan New Music Project (MNMP; a group that specializes in aiding new music composers and music education), The ACME concert is leaving me hoping there will be many more of its kind.


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