The American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) 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 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 was honored by ASCAP during its 10th anniversary season in 2015 for the “virtuosity, passion, and commitment with which it performs and champions American composers.”
ACME has performed at leading venues across the country including Carnegie Hall, BAM, Joyce Theater, (Le) Poisson Rouge, 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, Big Ears, Constellation Chicago, Melbourne Recital Hall, All Tomorrow's Parties in the UK, among others.
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), Yuki Numata Resnick, 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.
ACME has recorded for New World, New Amsterdam, and Butterscotch Records. Its recording of Max Richter’s 8-hour piece, Sleep, will be released by Deutsche Grammophon in fall 2015. ACME's recording of ACMED, which ACME commissioned from Mick Barr in 2012, will also be released this year. In spring 2016, ACME's recording with thereminist Carolina Eyck will be released on Butterscotch Records. ACME's discography includes Joseph Byrd: NYC 1960-63, the first commercial recording of the music of rediscovered American Fluxus composer Joseph Byrd, 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 launches its 2015-2016 season with a concert featuring the world premiere of new music written for the group by members Caroline Shaw, Caleb Burhans, Timo Andres, Ben Russell, and Clarice Jensen, presented by Five Boroughs Music Festival on September 11. On September 18, ACME makes its European debut at the Sacrum Profanum festival in Poland, performing Jóhann Jóhannsson's Drone Mass with celebrated vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices led by Paul Hillier. In New York in October, ACME joins Danish composers Carsten Bo Eriksen and Ejnar Kanding for two performances as part of Danish painter Hammershøi's exhibition at Scandinavia House. ACME begins its residency at National Sawdust in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in December, with a week-long workshop period and concert featuring music composed during the residency by ensemble members (violin, viola, keyboards, cello, percussion). In February, ACME joins forces with Roomful of Teeth to present a concert of music by Caroline Shaw at Washington Performing Arts in DC. In April, they return to National Sawdust for a second week-long residency period, workshopping and performing new works by ensemble members. And in May, ACME is in residence at Dartmouth University's The Hop, where they will workshop and premiere a new piece commissioned for the group from composer Tristan Perich developed in partnership with the University's mathematics department.
Highlights of the 2014-2015 season included performances at The Stone in New York of the music of Lisa Bielawa, a visit to Constellation in 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 joined 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 featured 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, ACME performed 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. Later that month, ACME joined Max Richter on tour in LA, New York, and at Big Ears. In April 2015, ACME traveled to Duke University to perform a concert of the chamber music of Caroline Shaw, and in June ACME performed the chamber music of Timo Andres at Columbia University's Miller Theatre.
Past highlights include the world premiere of Caroline 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, New Music USA's 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