The International Contemporary Ensemble appoints a new artistic director
After an intensive months-long research process, the International Contemporary Ensemble is delighted to welcome renowned composer, musicologist, computer installation artist and trombonist George Lewis as Artistic Director.
The Ensemble first collaborated with Lewis in 2011, presenting a Composer Portrait concert at the Miller Theater in New York City for which he composed his now well-known 16-piece work, The Will to Adorn. This work, as well as its Born Obbligato, inspired by the work of the Ensemble on the septet op. 20 and his one-off performances of his 2007 Shadowgraph, 5 and Artificial Life were featured on Lewis and the Ensemble’s debut album, released in 2017 on New Focus Recordings.
Over the past decade, George Lewis has become an influential and driving creative force and advisor to the Ensemble, in addition to serving on the Board of Directors since 2018. “George Lewis and the AACM have been a big part of what inspired the founding of our Ensemble in With his vast experience, his insatiable curiosity and his desire to raise a generation of new artists, George Lewis is the perfect artistic director for our Ensemble,” said Claude Arpels, Chairman of the Board. administration.
“George’s impact on this set is almost immeasurable,” says Artistic Director Emeritus and Board Member Rebekah Heller. “His voice and vision quietly shaped the musical direction of our collective.”
“It’s a CEO’s dream come true to welcome such an innovative artist as George Lewis as our next Creative Director,” said CEO Jennifer Kessler. “George is a leader in our field around the decolonization of contemporary music, and much of our organization’s work over the past three years to move all of our organization’s entry points through a lens of “Equity was inspired by conversations with George. I’m excited to imagine what we’ll create with George at the artistic helm to further our commitment to diversifying the stages of our world.”
After five years of inspirational leadership and creative direction as Artistic Director, Ross Karre will move into a new role as Executive Producer until August 2022, when he will take up his new position at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music as Associate Professor. of percussion. Over the past 11 years with the Ensemble, Karre has performed in over 500 concerts, including hundreds of premieres. He has developed significant new works with emerging artists with the Ensemble, while combining a sharp organizational and logistical focus with an unparalleled commitment to radical collaborative creation. “George and I began collaborating with the International Contemporary Ensemble at the same time, around 2011. More than any other artist-collaborator in my life, George Lewis has a unique ability to shatter assumptions and stretch our imaginations,” says Karre.
The Ensemble looks forward to working with George Lewis to advance the Ensemble’s commitment to new collaborations and programs, discover new composers and artists, and expand current relationships. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to work with one of the best and most innovative ensembles in the world to advance the field of new music,” Lewis said. “I see limitless possibilities for what we can accomplish together.”
The members of the Ensemble were unanimous in their enthusiasm for this new appointment. Director of Recordings and Pianist Jacob Greenberg adds, “George’s rich history with the AACM in Chicago promises revelations about what it will mean to guide a contemporary ensemble through the joys and challenges of the concert stage today. – and we’ll all discover how an insatiably curious polymath leader can deepen the practice of the Ensemble.” Violist Wendy Richman says, “One of my favorite things about contemporary and experimental music is the challenge of balancing intellectual rigor with the communication of emotional meaning.George’s approach to music – writing, performing, discussing – is all I aspire to as a musician. But his sincerity as a human and a musician is even more inspiring. “
On a personal level, for many members of the Ensemble, George’s work and philosophy have influenced artistic expressions and perspectives. Violinist/violist Josh Modney articulates this point by stating, “George Lewis was such a big influence on my thinking about music. In any encounter with George, whether through his inspiring work as a singer-songwriter, his book A Power Stronger Than Itself, or a casual conversation after a concert, I always come away from the experience feeling like a new concept or musical idea has been awakened. I can’t wait to see the kinds of creativity and relationships he will spark with the Ensemble. “
Gareth Flowers (trumpet) also comments: “George’s creative output as a composer, scholar and performer is unique. His work in computer music has had a big impact on my own practice, and I look forward to his direction.” And guitarist Dan Lippel echoes, “his unique perspective and the breadth and depth of his knowledge of so many facets of contemporary music is unparalleled, and we are privileged to have him join the organization as a leader at this exciting time.”
Founder Claire Chase said: “I am overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement about the appointment of George Lewis as Artistic Director of the International Contemporary Ensemble. Throughout his fearless career, George has had an indelible impact on the world of contemporary music, and he has profoundly shaped my own thinking, playing, and sense of possibility about the power of artist-led organizations. To have him take over as Artistic Director at this pivotal moment in the organization’s history is the most electrifying news imaginable.
George Lewis joins the Ensemble as Artistic Director at a crucial time in the organization’s trajectory. This 20th anniversary of the Ensemble will be marked by a recommitment to its vision of a musical ecosystem that fosters new identities and recognizes aesthetic, historical and cultural interconnections, pursuing a new complexity that promises greater creative depth as well as strengthening artist agency around the world.
On January 23, 2023, a 20th anniversary gala will honor George Lewis and founder Claire Chase, and celebrate the community of musicians, staff and supporters who have made the Ensemble a vital home for new music and adventurous artists for over two decades. The gala will also share the Ensemble’s expanded vision for its third decade and beyond, highlighting the artists, programs and values that will be central to this exciting time in the Ensemble’s evolution.
About George Lewis
George Lewis is an internationally renowned composer, musicologist, computer installation artist and trombonist, Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy and Fellow of the Akademie der Künste Berlin. Other honors include the Doris Duke Artist Award (2019), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), and a MacArthur Fellowship (2002). His music is performed worldwide and he is widely considered a pioneer in the creation of improvisational computer programs. He is the author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press) and co-editor of the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. Lewis holds honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh, New College of Florida and Harvard University.
About the International Contemporary Ensemble
Committed to cultivating a more curious and engaged society through music, the Ensemble Contemporain International – as a curator and performer at the highest level – amplifies the creators whose work propels and challenges the way music is made and lived. The 35 members of the Ensemble present themselves as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners and collaborators of the greatest musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored the Ensemble’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms shine a light on the many voices that weave together the music’s present.
Described as “America’s most important new music group” (The New Yorker), the Ensemble has become a major force in new music over the past 20 years, having created more than 1,000 works and having been a vehicle for the workshop and performance of thousands of works by student composers across the United States. The Ensemble’s collaborating composers – many of whom were unknown at the time of their first collaboration with the Ensemble – fundamentally shaped its creative philosophy and went on to have highly visible and influential careers, including MacArthur Fellow Tyshawn Sorey; longtime Ensemble collaborator, founding member and 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner Du Yun; and Ensemble founder, 2012 MacArthur Fellow and first flautist to win Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Prize, Claire Chase.
A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the International Contemporary Ensemble was also named Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year in 2014. The group was Artist-in-Residence at Lincoln Center’s Mainly Mozart Festival (2008-2020), Ojai Music Festival (2015-17) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2010-2015). In addition, the Ensemble has presented and performed at festivals in the United States such as Big Ears Festival and Opera Omaha’s ONE Festival, as well as abroad, including GMEM-Centre National de Création Musicale (CNCM) in Marseille, Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Warsaw Autumn, International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt, and Cité de la Musique in Paris. Other performance stages include the armory on Park Avenue, the ice floes of Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, warehouses in Brooklyn, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and boats on the Amazon River.
Curricular activities include a partnership with the New School’s College of Performing Arts (CoPA), as well as an intensive summer program, called Ensemble Evolution, where topics of equity, diversity and inclusion build new bridges and pathways for the future of creative sound practices. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the Ensemble’s exclusive piano supplier. To find out more, go to www.iceorg.org and watch over 350 videos of live performances and documentaries at www.digitice.org.
Photo credits: Maurice Weiss
Pictured: George Lewis