ACME Commissions & Premieres
Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Drone Mass
Performed by Jóhann Jóhannsson
American Contemporary Music Ensemble
Roomful of Teeth
Met Museum Presents
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 7pm
The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue | New York, NY
Tickets: Start at $40 at www.metmuseum.org/tickets or 212.570.3949
New York, NY – On Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 7pm, “Contemporary music dynamos” (NPR), the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), with Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and Grammy-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, will give the world premiere of Jóhannsson’s Drone Mass in the Met’s magnificent Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing, as part of the Met Museum Presents series. The work is commissioned by ACME in celebration of the group’s tenth anniversary. Jóhannsson’s Chaconne for solo violin opens the concert, in its world premiere performance by Yuki Numata Resnick.
Drone Mass is a contemporary oratorio which fuses the sounds of string quartet, electronics and vocals, and is inspired by texts from the Nag Hammadi library, sometimes referred to as the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians. Jóhannsson says, “The text contains a hymn, unusual in that it consists of a seemingly meaningless series of vowels. The vowels of the final paragraph (u aei eis aei ei o ei ei os ei) can be read (in Greek) as ‘who exists as Son for ever and ever. You are what you are, you are what you are’ This, along with other Gnostic texts, is the main text material used in the piece. I was interested in the Gnostic idea of the material world being the creation of a malevolent demiurge – a false god – and that eating the fruit of Knowledge was the first step out of the bondage of cruel and oppressive powers. I was also interested in the idea of the drone, both as a musical device, the bourdon, but also the all-seeing, sometimes benevolent and sometimes lethal eyes that pervade our skies. I have no specific thoughts about how these ideas relate to each other but for me they have some kind of poetic resonance which is usually enough for me.”
By manipulating the resonances of acoustic instruments with digital processing, Jóhannsson creates music that integrates acoustic and electronic sounds into something unique and new. “My ideal is music where the electronic and the acoustic sounds blend seamlessly,” he said.
Jóhann Jóhannsson is a Berlin-based composer originally from Iceland who has written commissioned works for Bang on a Can, Theatre of Voices and the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and recently composed a score for the film The Miners’ Hymns by the New York-based experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison. His debut album Englabörn was released in 2002 and he has since released five solo albums on the labels Touch and 4AD. He has composed music for the theatre and contemporary dance and was the founder of the Reykjavik based art collective Kitchen Motors. Jóhannsson has recently been awarded a Golden Globe for Best Film Score for The Theory of Everything, directed by James Marsh, and is also nominated for an Academy Award for the score. Jóhannsson’s other recent film scores include Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, Lou Ye’s Blind Massage, and So Yong Kim’s For Ellen. He is currently working on his first studio album since 2011.
ACME players for this concert are Ben Russell and Yuki Numata Resnick, violins; Caleb Burhans, viola; Clarice Jensen, cello and artistic director. Roomful of Teeth is Cameron Beauchamp, bass; Thomas McCargar, bass-baritone; Martha Cluver, soprano; Eric Dudley, tenor; Estelí Gomez, soprano; Avery Griffin, baritone; Caroline Shaw, alto; Virginia Warnken, alto; and Brad Wells, artistic director.
About the American Contemporary Music Ensemble: ACME, which is celebrating its tenth season in 2014-2015, is dedicated to the outstanding performance of masterworks from the 20th and 21st centuries, primarily the work of American composers. The ensemble presents fresh work by living composers alongside the classics of the contemporary. ACME’s dedication to new music extends across genres, and has earned them a reputation among both classical and rock crowds. The New York Times describes ACME’s performances as “vital,” “brilliant,” and “electrifying.” Time Out New York reports, “[Artistic Director Clarice] Jensen has earned a sterling reputation for her fresh, inclusive mix of minimalists, maximalists, eclectics and newcomers.”
ACME has performed at leading venues across the country including (Le) Poisson Rouge, Carnegie Hall, BAM, Joyce Theater, Noguchi Museum, Whitney Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Symphony Space, Stanford Live, UCLA’s Royce Hall, Virginia Tech, Newman Center at the University of Denver, Flynn Center, South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, Montclair’s Peak Performances, and All Tomorrow’s Parties in the UK, among others.
ACME records its fourth studio album, featuring the music of avant-rock guitarist and composer Mick Barr, this season. The album will include the string trio ACMED which ACME commissioned from Mick Barr in 2012. ACME’s discography also includes Joseph Byrd: NYC 1960-63, the first commercial recording of the music of American composer Joseph Byrd – a rediscovered contemporary of La Monte Young and Morton Feldman and a player in the Fluxus art movement – on New World Records. ACME has recorded William Brittelle’s electro-acoustic chamber work Loving the Chambered Nautilus and Jefferson Friedman’s On In Love with vocalist Craig Wedren for New Amsterdam Records.
ACME’s instrumentation is flexible, and includes some of New York’s most sought-after, engaging musicians. For more information, visit www.acmemusic.org.
About Roomful of Teeth: Founded in 2009 by Brad Wells, Roomful of Teeth is a vocal project dedicated to mining the expressive potential of the human voice. Through study with masters from non-classical traditions the world over, the eight voice ensemble continually expands its vocabulary of singing techniques and, through an on-going commissioning project, invites today’s brightest composers to create a repertoire without borders.
The ensemble gathers annually at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), where they’ve studied Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, belting, Inuit throat singing, Korean P’ansori, Georgian singing and Sardinian cantu a tenore styles with some of the world’s top performers and teachers of the styles. Commissioned composers include Rinde Eckert, Judd Greenstein, Caleb Burhans, Merrill Garbus (of tUnE-yArDs), William Brittelle, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Missy Mazzoli.
The project’s debut album, Roomful of Teeth, was released in 2012. The New York Times called it “sensually stunning.” Included on many Best of 2012 lists, topping the classical charts on iTunes and Amazon, even breaking into the top 10 on the Billboard charts, the album was deemed “fiercely beautiful and bravely, utterly exposed” (NPR); Pitchfork predicted “it will send an unnameable thrill down your spine”; and Textura declared, “The group re-writes the vocal rulebook.”
The album was nominated in three categories for the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards, including Best Engineer for Classical Album, Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, and Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices. The album subsequently received a GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance. In April 2013, ensemble member Caroline Shaw received the Pulitzer Prize in Music for Partita, the four movements of which appear on the debut album. An iTunes exclusive EP of Partita was subsequently released and ranked no. 1 on iTunes Classical charts. For more information, visit www.roomfulofteeth.org.
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