Present Music announces commission


Kamran Ince
Kamran Ince
Photo courtesy European-American

Present Music and the Milwaukee Art Museum recently announced the commission of a new work by composer Kamran Ince that will be premiered in May of 2001 at the much-anticipated opening of the Museum’s building expansion. The new structure was designed by internationally-renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It will provide space for changing exhibitions, and will also house the Quadracci Pavilion, which will be used for meetings, concerts, and lectures.

The commission was the idea of John Shannon and Jan Serr, long-time supporters of both Present Music and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Shannon and Serr approached Present Music and Milwaukee Art Museum when plans were finalized for the Calatrava expansion. Having been admirers of Turkish-American composer Kamran Ince, they approached Present Music’s Artistic Director Kevin Stalheim with their commissioning idea and a $12,000 gift to make the commission possible.

Milwaukee musical audiences are familiar with Kamran Ince’s music, since Present Music has performed his music annually since 1992. Ince’s work, Fest, received its world premiere performance by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra with Present Music as the guest ensemble in 1998. He has also performed as a pianist with Present Music, and he organized and participated in their 1994 tour of Turkey. Present Music has recorded his work for the Argo and Albany labels.

Ince is "very pleased" about the commission. He is no stranger to the Art Museum, which he calls "one of the best places in the country to hear new music." The Vogel/Helfaer gallery has been the site for Present Music performances that have included world premieres of his works Night Passage, Arches and Split.

The commissioned work will be 15 minutes in length, and will be written in two contrasting sections. The work will be performed in its entirety for the invitation-only opening ceremony. The opening fanfare will then be performed separately throughout the summer. The first complete public performance of the piece will take place in September 2001 at the opening concert of Present Music’s 20th-anniversary season. This concert will also take place at the new Quadracci Pavilion.

Though the work is only in the planning stages, Ince hopes to incorporate some of the imagery of Calatrava’s design into the piece. The new building will have "wings" that will be opened up in the winter in order to let in more sunlight. Ince finds these wings musically inspiring. The fact that the building can unfold its wings makes it "animal-like," he pointed out; at the same time, with its wings extended, it resembles a stately ship. He hopes to incorporate both the "freeness of flight" and the "grandeur of the ship" into his new composition.

Ince was born in 1960 in Montana to American and Turkish parents. His early musical training was in Turkey, at the Ankara and Izmir conservatories. Later he attended the Oberlin Conservatory and Eastman School of Music. His work has been performed by many prominent American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony and the American Composers Orchestra. He is currently a member of the music faculty at the University of Memphis.

A sponsor is still being sought by Present Music to underwrite not only the two performances at the Museum, but also the added rehearsal time necessary to prepare this important new work. The ensemble hopes to make a live recording of the work at the Museum opening in May that will be released later in the summer, with proceeds benefiting both the Museum and Present Music.

Present Music was founded in 1982 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They play a wide range of modern chamber music, almost all of it by living composers. Composers who have worked in residence or have been commissioned by Present Music include John Adams, John Harbison, Michael Torke, Roberto Sierra, Bright Sheng, David Lang, and Lois V Vierk. They have toured extensively throughout the United States and have participated in several major international music festivals.

Though Present Music’s playful and innovative programs routinely draw 300 to 800 people, Managing Director Daniel Petry hopes that they will be able to "break through" to a "wider awareness" in the near future. National recognition will help to attract donors, which in turn will enable the ensemble to plan touring and commissioning projects. Plans include six commissions in 2001 and 2002, one for each concert of their 20th-anniversary season.