Over the past fifteen years, led by cellist and artistic director Clarice Jensen, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) has risen to the highest ranks of American new music through a mix of meticulous musicianship, artistic vision, engaging collaborations, and unwavering standards in every regard. The membership of the amorphous collective includes some of the brightest young stars in the field. NPR calls them “contemporary music dynamos,” and Strings reports, “ACME’s absorbing playing pulsed with warm energy. . . Shared glances and inhales triggered transitions in a flow so seamless it seemed learned in a Jedi temple.” 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.”
The ensemble has performed at leading international venues including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, BAM, The Kennedy Center, Washington Performing Arts, UCLA's Royce Hall, Stanford Live, Chicago’s Millennium Park, Duke Performances, The Satellite in Los Angeles, Triple Door in Seattle, Melbourne Recital Hall and Sydney Opera House in Australia, and at festivals including the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Poland, All Tomorrow's Parties in England,Auckland Arts Festival in New Zealand, Summer Nostos Festival in Greece, Boston Calling, and Big Ears in Knoxville, TN.
World premieres given by ACME include Ingram Marshall’s Psalmbook, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Drone Mass (commissioned by ACME in 2015; recorded for Deutsche Grammophon in 2019), Caroline Shaw's Ritornello, Phil Kline's Out Cold, William Brittelle's Loving the Chambered Nautilus, Timo Andres’ Senior and Thrive on Routine, Caleb Burhans’ Jahrzeit, and many more. In 2016 at The Kitchen, ACME premiered Clarice Jensen’s transcription of Julius Eastman’s The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc for ten cellos, the score of which had been lost since the premiere in 1981. Jensen transcribed a recording of the work to recreate the score.
ACME’s collaborators have included The Richard Alston Dance Company, Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance, Gibney Dance, Satellite Ballet, Meredith Monk, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, actress Barbara Sukowa, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, Blonde Redhead, Grizzly Bear, Low, Matmos, Micachu & The Shapes, Jeff Mangum, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Roomful of Teeth, Lionheart, and Theo Bleckmann.
In 2017, ACME released its first portrait album on Sono Luminus, featuring music by members Caroline Shaw,Timo Andres, and Caleb Burhans, plus John Luther Adams.The release was featured as Album of the Week on Q2 Music and Gramophone praised it, reporting, “The ACME players capture the aura of tranquility to hypnotic effect[in the Adams], the repeated patterns in the keyboard instruments contrasted beautifully with the lyrical strings.” The Strad raved, “Warmth and care are fully evident in the ensemble’s immaculate, considered performances–the four composers could hardly wish for more committed, convincing accounts of their music.”
ACME's discography also includes Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Orphée and Max Richter’s eight-hour piece, Sleep (which the ensemble regularly performs live), both on Deutsche Grammophon; Fantasias with thereminist Carolina Eyck on Butterscotch Records; Joseph Byrd: NYC 1960-63, the first commercial recording of the music of rediscovered American Fluxus composer Joseph Byrd, on New World Records; William Brittelle’s electro-acoustic chamber work Loving the Chambered Nautilus, and Jefferson Friedman's On In Love with vocalist Craig Wedren, both on New Amsterdam Records.
Artistic Director, cello
Emily Brausa, cello
Caleb Burhans, violin/viola
Peter Dugan, piano
Isabel Hagen, viola
Alicia Lee, clarinet
Laura Lutzke, violin
Ravenna Lipchik, violin
Grey Mcmurray, guitar
Andrew Rehrig, flute
Ben Russell, violin
Chihiro Shibayama, percussion
Alex Shiozaki, violin
Paul Wiancko, cello
"such soul, passion,
and excellent command"
“the ensemble gave the punchy, intricate score a tight, viscerally powerful performance”
-- The New York Times
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 Classical Voice