The American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), 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. NPR calls them “contemporary new music dynamos,” and 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, UCAL'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 can be heard on the New World Records and New Amsterdam Records labels.
ACME's instrumentation is flexible, and includes some of New York's most sought-after, engaging musicians. Core ACME members include violinists Caleb Burhans, Ben Russell, Caroline Shaw (winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music), and Laura Lutzke; violists Nadia Sirota and Caitlin Lynch; cellist and artistic director Clarice Jensen; flutists Alex Sopp and Andrew Rehrig; pianist Timo Andres; and percussionist Chris Thompson.
Highlights of the 2014-2015 season include performances at The Stone in New York of the music of Lisa Bielawa, a visit to Constellation Chicago to perform the music of Joseph Byrd and Mick Barr, a performance as part of Boston Conservatory's New Music Festival, and a run with The Richard Alston Dance Company at Montclair State University's Peak Performances in Benjamin Britten's Les Illuminations. In February 2015, ACME joins forces for the first time with vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth -- with which they share member violinist, vocalist and Pulitzer Prize in Music winner Caroline Shaw -- at Peak Performances. Their joint program will feature the world premiere of a new version of Shaw's Ritornello, written for both groups to perform together, as well as the music of Gavin Bryars and Henry Purcell. In March 2015, also with Roomful of Teeth, ACME will perform the world premiere of Drone Mass by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, commissioned by ACME and presented by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Temple of Dendur. In April 2015, ACME travels to Duke University to perform a concert of the chamber music of Caroline Shaw. In May, the ensemble will be presented in Brooklyn by Five Boroughs Music Festival in a concert featuring the music of ACME members Caroline Shaw, Caleb Burhans, and Timo Andres. ACME will also perform the chamber music of Timo Andres at Columbia University's Miller Theatre in June 2015.
Also this season, ACME records its fourth studio album, featuring the music of avant-rock guitarist and composer Mick Barr. The album will include the string trio ACMED which ACME commissioned from Mick Barr in 2012. ACME added its third album to its discography in May 2014 – Jefferson Friedman’s song cycle On In Love with rock vocalist Craig Wedren, which was commissioned for ACME by The Greenwall Foundation and Miller Theatre in 2009-2010. In 2013, ACME released 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’s recording of William Brittelle’s electro-acoustic chamber work Loving the Chambered Nautilus was released on New Amsterdam Records in 2012.
Highlights of ACME's 2013-2014 season included the world premiere of Shaw's Ritornello for string quartet presented by Arts Brookfield and WNYC's New Sounds Live at the Winter Garden, a performance of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire with actress Barbara Sukowa at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a concert celebrating the centennial of Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski which paired his chamber music with that of Lutoslawski expert Steven Stucky presented by the Polish Cultural Institute New York at Symphony Space. In spring 2014, ACME toured Jóhann Jóhannsson’s celebrated work The Miners’ Hymns with film by Bill Morrison to at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Virginia Tech, and the University of Denver, and performed with A Winged Victor for the Sullen in Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance production Atomos. Other recent highlights include performances with A Winged Victory for the Sullen in Chicago's massive Millennium Park; a special September 11 performance of Steve Reich’s complete string quartets including the world premiere of the all-live version of his WTC 9/11 at Le Poisson Rouge which was live webcast by NPR; a three-night run in October as part of BAM’s Next Wave Festival performing the world premiere of Phil Kline's Out Cold with vocalist Theo Bleckmann; and performances presented by the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and The Morgan Library in New York. In April 2013, the ensemble was in residence at Dartmouth's Hopkins Center workshopping a new opera about Nikola Tesla with Phil Kline and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. Important past concerts include performances in Boston at Jordan Hall and at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, opening two sold-out concerts by the much-admired singer and guitarist Jeff Mangum; a 12-city tour across the US with A Winged Victory for the Sullen performing at venues including The Satellite in Los Angeles, Triple Door in Seattle, and the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis; the world premiere of Psalmbook by Ingram Marshall for ACME with Lionheart at Stanford Live; a performance in the UK at the fabled All Tomorrow's Parties festival, playing Gavin Bryars' Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet for an audience of over 1000 people; a two-night run at The Kitchen, presenting a world premiere by avant-guitarist and composer Mick Barr alongside the premiere of William Brittelle's chamber cycle Loving the Chambered Nautilus; ACME’s Carnegie Hall debut performing the world premiere of Timo Andres’ Senior with the New York Youth Symphony in Stern Auditorium; a month-long residency at the Whitney Museum presented by the Wordless Music Series, for which ACME tailored a contemporary classical program to complement the indie-rock or electronica performer sharing the concert; and Nico Muhly’s Tell the Way at St. Ann's Warehouse.
Since its first New York concert season in 2004, the ensemble has performed works by John Adams, John Luther Adams, Louis Andriessen, Gavin Bryars, Caleb Burhans, John Cage, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Jacob Druckman, Jefferson Friedman, Philip Glass, Charles Ives, Donald Martino, Olivier Messiaen, Nico Muhly, Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski, Arnold Schoenberg, Caroline Shaw, Toru Takemitsu, Kevin Volans, Charles Wuorinen, Iannis Xenakis, Chen Yi, and more. ACME has also collaborated with bands and artists including Grizzly Bear, Low, Matmos, Craig Wedren, Micachu & The Shapes, and composers/performers Hauschka, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, and Dustin O'Halloran.
ACME was founded by cellist Clarice Jensen, conductor Donato Cabrera, and publicist Christina Jensen, and has received support from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Cary New Music Performance Fund, and the Greenwall Foundation.
"contemporary music dynamos" -- NPR
"vital," "brilliant," "electrifying"
-- The New York Times
“one of New York’s brightest new music indie-bands”
-- Time Out New York
"Young, new-music machines: flawless urban sophisticates at their finest."
-- San Francisco
"such soul, passion, and excellent command"
“the ensemble gave the punchy, intricate score a tight, viscerally powerful performance”
-- The New York Times