ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) releases a recording documenting its close and longstanding relationship with Brazilian born composer Marcos Balter on its own in-house recording label, TUNDRA. Balter and ICE first began collaborating when Balter was on faculty and ICE was in residence at Chicago's Columbia College, and the fruitful relationship has continued to the present day, chronicling Balter's unique trajectory as a voracious and eclectic artist.
|International Contemporary Ensemble|
|08||Register: Albertine Gone|
Register: Albertine Gone
|13||Descent from Parnassus|
Descent from Parnassus
|International Contemporary Ensemble||6:31|
|International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor|
|17||The Fly and the Mule|
The Fly and the Mule
|18||The Boastful Lamp|
The Boastful Lamp
|19||The Mountain in Labor|
The Mountain in Labor
|20||The Rabbit and the Dog|
The Rabbit and the Dog
|21||The Wind and the Sun|
The Wind and the Sun
|22||The Cicada and the Ant|
The Cicada and the Ant
ICE’s new release on its in-house label, TUNDRA, highlights a fruitful seven-year collaboration between the ensemble and Brazilian born composer Marcos Balter, featuring five world premiere recordings of works commissioned and championed by the group. Balter’s music absorbs techniques and aesthetics from across the compositional spectrum, adapting them to a sensibility that is consistently sensual, colorful, and immediate. The connection between ICE and Balter runs through Chicago, where he served on the composition faculty at Columbia College. Wicker Park, written for ICE saxophonist and former Chicago resident Ryan Muncy, celebrates a Chicago neighborhood known for its bohemian spirit and DIY arts scene. Codex Seraphinianus, for flute, soprano saxophone, viola, and bassoon, is an eleven movement suite inspired by an encyclopedia of imaginary objects by Italian designer Luigi Serafini. The Art Institute of Chicago asked Claire Chase to commission a composer to write a work inspired by the musuem’s permanent collection. The result, inspired by Cy Twombly’s Return from Parnassus, is Balter’s Descent from Parnassus, a tour de force solo flute work that is two pieces happening simultaneously — a virtuoso flute solo and a breathless recitation of Book One of Dante’s Canto Paradiso at the same time. ligare for six instruments employs subtle microtones and whistling to create an atmospheric, disembodied soundscape. The final work, Aesopica, was Balter’s first large ensemble piece for ICE. Based on Aesop’s fables, Aesopica sets this famous work for children through contemporary music, as Balter draws on his wide pallette to paint whimsical vignettes of sound and fantasy. This disc, then, is a partial compendium of Balter’s work over recent years, indeed, in the liner notes, he writes, “My music for ICE is very much like a diary of my own trajectory as a composer.”
Engineer: Gerard Barreto (Track 13), Ryan Streber (all other tracks)
Session Producer: Karen Chester (Track 13), Kivie Cahn-Lipman (Aesopica), International Contemporary Ensemble and Ryan Streber (all other tracks)
Edit Producer: Karen Chester (Track 13), Jacob Greenberg (all other tracks)
Mix/Mastering: Ryan Streber oktavenaudio.com
Recorded at Art Institute of Chicago in June 2012,(Track 13) and Oktaven Audio (All other tracks) in October 2014 (Track 1 and 13), January 2016 (Tracks 2-12), and October 2014 (Tracks 15-23)
CD Design and Layout: Alejandro Acierto
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective committed to reshaping the way music is created and experienced. As performer, alchemist, curator and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. From youth in schools to audiences in established and alternative venues, ICE engages its listening public in the spark of musical invention. ICE’s thirty-five musicians are empowered through curated concerts that promote their virtuosity, versatility and expressive range. The members of ICE are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001. ICE’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present. Founded by flutist and MacArthur Fellow Claire Chase, ICE has received American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and ASCAP/Chamber Music America’s Award for Adventurous Programming, and was also named Musical America’s 2013 Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as ensembleinresidence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a fiveyear residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE has been featured at the Ojai Music Festival since 2015, and at festivals abroad such as Acht Brücken Cologne and Musica Nova Helsinki. Other recent performance stages include the Park Avenue Armory, Nagoya Symphony Hall, ice floes during Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River. From 2011 to 2014, the ICElab program created dozens of new works that grew from close performer/composer collaborations. OpenICE, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, today brings the full scope of ICE’s programming and commissioning to broader audiences around the world in free concerts and online. In 2015, the EntICE education project was launched, uniting leading composers with youth ensembles in new works developed and performed side-by-side with ICE. Inaugural EntICE partners include The People’s Music School Youth Orchestra (Chicago) and Youth Orchestra L.A. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE. Read more at iceorg.org.
In his liner notes to his first composer portrait album, Brazilian native Marcos Balter writes, “Like many of my compositional heroes from the past, I prefer writing for people I know well and whom I know will understand and enhance my vision.” The composer spent many years teaching at Columbia College in Chicago, where the International Contemporary Ensemble was formed, and he became tightly enmeshed with the group’s members. They were among the groups that regularly commissioned work from him, and on the occasion of his 40th birthday he enlisted some of his closest musician-friends to perform a piece, “Codex Seraphinianus,” he wrote to mark the event—a quartet including charter ICE members Claire Chase (flute) and Rebekah Heller (bassoon) and future member Ryan Muncy (saxophones), as well as violist Nadia Sirota.
The piece takes both its name and inspiration from a 1981 book of the same title by Italian artist Luigi Serafini—an illustrated catalogue of an imaginary world, including imagined renderings of an alternate natural and man-made universe—and the eleven short-movements appropriately convey a herky-jerk aural equivalent, veering between striated serenity and ethereal violence. The set also includes the dazzling “Descent From Parnassus,” a solo flute piece inspired by Cy Twombly’s Return From Parnassus, that features Chase interweaving bits of spoken text from Book One of Dante’s Canto Paradiso in furious bursts and tempered entreaties, a thrilling dance of light and motion. The album opens with “Wicker Park,” the composer’s first saxophone piece, a piano feature, played here by Jacob Greenberg, called “ligare,” and the titular suite, inspired by Aesop’s Fables, which fittingly conjures a fantastical sound world conceivable only by Balter.
- Peter Margasak, Best of Bandcamp Daily Contemporary Classical, 1.25.17