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 cutting-edge music 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, Stanford Live, Flynn 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.
ACME has an exciting and ambitious season in 2013-2014. In August, the ensemble joined BalletCollective in the company’s Joyce Theater debut. In October, ACME gave the world premiere of Ritornello, written for the group by ACME member and the youngest-ever winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music Caroline Shaw, presented by Arts Brookfield and WNYC's New Sounds Live at the Brookfield Place Winter Garden. In November, ACME performs Schoenberg's landmark work, Pierrot Lunaire, with Shaw’s Ritornello at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In December, ACME celebrates the centennial of important Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski by pairing his chamber music with that of Lutoslawski expert Steven Stucky in a concert presented by the Polish Cultural Institute New York at Symphony Space. In February 2014, ACME tours a production of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s celebrated work The Miners’ Hymns with film by Bill Morrison, performing at UCLA’s Royce Hall, Virginia Tech, and the University of Denver. In March, they reunite with Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltze (together known as A Winged Victor for the Sullen) in an East Coast tour that includes performances with Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance. Also in March, ACME performs at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center in a program pairing Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s rarely heard Piano Quintet and Olivier Messiaen’s Quatour pour la fin du temps.
ACME adds a 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.
2012-2013 highlights for ACME included July performances with A Winged Victory for the Sullen in Chicago's massive Millennium Park and at Le Poisson Rouge; 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; 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.
Other recent highlights 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 acclaimed male a cappella group 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; and 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. Important past performances include 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 in 2004 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