The American Composers Orchestra (ACO) has announced the six composers whose music will be featured in the 26th Underwood New Music Readings (which will take place at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City). This annual two-day event gives audiences a chance to look behind the scenes at the process involved in bringing to life brand new, stylistically diverse orchestral music by promising composers in the early stages of their professional careers. For over a generation, the readings have provided career development and public exposure to the country’s most promising emerging composers, with over 150 composers participating. (Readings alumni include Anna Clyne, Jennifer Higdon, Huang Ruo, Aaron Jay Kernis, Hannah Lash, Joseph Schwantner, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Christopher Rouse, Kate Soper, Joan Tower, Melinda Wagner, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, and many other prize-winning composers.) The six 2017 composers and their works, which were selected from over 250 submissions received from around the country, are:
James Diaz (b. 1990): From infinity
Nick DiBerardino (b. 1989): Mercury-Redstone 3
Martin Kennedy (b. 1978): Siren, blind
Hilary Purrington (b. 1990): Likely Pictures in Haphazard Sky
Alexander Timofeev (b. 1983): Fantasme
Yucong (Zoe) Wang (b. 1993): Blackbird
One of these six composers will be selected to receive a $15,000 commission for a new piece to be performed by ACO during an upcoming season. (The world premiere of 2016 Underwood Commission winner Carlos Simon’s new work for ACO, Portrait of a Queen, will be featured on the ACO’s next concert on May 23, 2017.) Each composer participating in the Underwood New Music Readings receives a digital recording of his or her work as well as review and feedback sessions with ACO principal players, mentor composers, ACO’s artistic and music directors, and industry representatives. In addition, there will also be a Career Development Seminar for the participating composers (which can also be attended, for a small fee, by anyone interested in learning more about the business of being a composer). Topics include intellectual property, copyright law, and commissioning agreements, a discussion on programming with major music presenters, and career strategy with some of the most successful young composers working today.
The first day of the New Music Readings (on June 22) is a three-hour working rehearsal that takes place during business hours. But on the second day (June 23), all the selected pieces will be polished and performed in their entirety during a session in the evening which feels very close to a concert experience. ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel directs the readings and ACO Music Director George Manahan conducts. The 2017 mentor composers are Libby Larsen, David Rakowski, and Trevor Weston. Both of these reading sessions are free and open to the public, but reservations via ACO’s website are strongly recommended.