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
|Register: Albertine Gone
Register: Albertine Gone
|Descent from Parnassus
Descent from Parnassus
|International Contemporary Ensemble
|International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor
|The Fly and the Mule
The Fly and the Mule
|The Boastful Lamp
The Boastful Lamp
|The Mountain in Labor
The Mountain in Labor
|The Rabbit and the Dog
The Rabbit and the Dog
|The Wind and the Sun
The Wind and the Sun
|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
Tracks 2-12: Claire Chase, flute; Rebekah Heller, bassoon; Ryan Muncy, soprano saxophone; Nadia Sirota, viola
Track 14: Alice Teyssier, flute; David Bowlin, violin; Joshua Rubin, clarinet; Kivie Cahn-Lipman, cello; Nathan Davis, percussion; Jacob Greenberg, piano
Track 15-23: Alice Teyssier, flute; Joshua Rubin, clarinet; Rebekah Heller, bassoon; Peter Evans, trumpet; Joe Exley, tuba; Daniel Lippel, guitar; Jacob Greenberg, piano; Nathan Davis, percussion; Ross Karre, conductor
With a commitment to cultivating a more curious and engaged society through music, the International Contemporary Ensemble – as a commissioner and performer at the highest level – amplifies creators whose work propels and challenges how music is made and experienced. The Ensemble’s 39 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored the Ensemble’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present.
Acclaimed as “America’s foremost new-music group” (The New Yorker), the Ensemble has become a leading force in new music throughout the last 20 years, having premiered over 1,000 works and having been a vehicle for the workshop and performance of thousands of works by student composers across the U.S. The Ensemble’s composer-collaborators—many who were unknown at the time of their first Ensemble collaboration—have fundamentally shaped its creative ethos and have continued to highly visible and influential careers, including MacArthur Fellow Tyshawn Sorey; long-time Ensemble collaborator, founding member, and 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winner Du Yun; and the Ensemble’s founder, 2012 MacArthur Fellow, and first-ever flutist to win Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Prize, Claire Chase.
A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, the International Contemporary Ensemble was also named Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year in 2014. The group has served as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival (2008-2020), Ojai Music Festival (2015-17), and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2010-2015). In addition, the Ensemble has presented and performed at festivals in the U.S. such as Big Ears Festival and Opera Omaha’s ONE Festival, as well as abroad, including GMEM-Centre National de Création Musicale (CNCM) de Marseille, Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Warsaw Autumn, International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt, and Cité de la Musique in Paris. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, Brooklyn warehouses, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and boats on the Amazon River.
The International Contemporary Ensemble advances music technology and digital communications as an empowering tool for artists from all backgrounds. Digitice provides high-quality video documentation for artist-collaborators and provides access to an in-depth archive of composers’ workshops and performances. The Ensemble regularly engages new listeners through free concerts and interactive, educational programming with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Curricular activities include a partnership at The New School’s College of Performing Arts (CoPA), along with a summer intensive program, called Ensemble Evolution, where topics of equity, diversity, and inclusion build new bridges and pathways for the future of creative sound practices. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for the Ensemble. Read more at www.iceorg.org and watch over 350 videos of live performances and documentaries at www.digitice.org.
The International Contemporary Ensemble’s performances and commissioning activities during the 2023-24 concert season are made possible by the generous support of the Ensemble’s board, many individuals, as well as the Mellon Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund for Music Inc., Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, The Cheswatyr Foundation, Amphion Foundation, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, New Music USA’s Organizational Development Fund, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, BMI Foundation, as well as public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council for the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The International Contemporary Ensemble was the Ensemble in Residence of the Nokia Bell Labs Experiments in Art and Technology from 2018-2021. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for the International Contemporary Ensemble.http://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
Marcos Balter, a Chicago composer of far more radical bent, is represented on a new CD by the ever-venturesome International Contemporary Ensemble (New Focus Recordings). The album "Aesopica" has as its centerpiece the eponymous suite for tenor and ensemble based on Aesop's fables; weird vocal acrobatics give these atonal miniatures their fierce theatrical kick. Both solo pieces — "Wicker Park," for saxophone, and "Descent from Parnassus," for flute — showcase the amazing virtuosity of Ryan Muncy and Claire Chase, respectively. -- John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, 4.13.2017