Aesopica: Music of Marcos BalterMarcos Balter & International Contemporary Ensemble

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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.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 64:28
01Wicker Park
Wicker Park
Ryan Muncy10:25

Codex Seraphinianus

International Contemporary Ensemble
International Contemporary Ensemble1:25
International Contemporary Ensemble1:22
International Contemporary Ensemble0:59
International Contemporary Ensemble0:32
International Contemporary Ensemble1:59
International Contemporary Ensemble2:04
08Register: Albertine Gone
Register: Albertine Gone
International Contemporary Ensemble0:59
International Contemporary Ensemble1:01
International Contemporary Ensemble1:01
International Contemporary Ensemble3:27
International Contemporary Ensemble2:38
13Descent from Parnassus
Descent from Parnassus
Claire Chase11:53
International Contemporary Ensemble6:31

Aesopica Suite

International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor
International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor1:30
International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor2:37
17The Fly and the Mule
The Fly and the Mule
International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor1:49
18The Boastful Lamp
The Boastful Lamp
International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor2:25
19The Mountain in Labor
The Mountain in Labor
International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor1:41
20The Rabbit and the Dog
The Rabbit and the Dog
International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor1:10
21The Wind and the Sun
The Wind and the Sun
International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor2:51
22The Cicada and the Ant
The Cicada and the Ant
International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor2:37
International Contemporary Ensemble, Peter Tantsits, tenor, Ross Karre, conductor1:32

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
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
Ensemble Performers: 
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

International Contemporary Ensemble

Called “America’s foremost new music group” by The New Yorker, The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective that is transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. Works by emerging composers have anchored ICE’s programming since its founding in 2001, and the group’s recordings and digital platforms highlight the many voices that weave music’s present. A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists-in-residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. ICE was featured at the Ojai Music Festival from 2015 to 2017, and at recent festivals abroad such as gmem-CNCM-marseille and Vértice at Cultura UNAM, Mexico City. Other performance stages have included the Park Avenue Armory, The Stone, ice floes at Greenland’s Diskotek Sessions, and boats on the Amazon River.

New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE, a free online library of over 350 streaming videos, catalogues the ensemble’s performances. ICE's First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed. EntICE, a side-by-side education program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together; inaugural EntICE partners include Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and The People's Music School in Chicago. Summer activities include Ensemble Evolution at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, in which young professionals perform with ICE and attend workshops on topics from interpretation to concert production. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE.
26 Jul, 2022

Remembering Ryan Muncy

New Focus joins with the whole contemporary music community in mourning the passing of virtuoso saxophonist, wonderful colleague, and friend to many Ryan Muncy. Ryan was saxophonist and member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, where he also served as Director of Institional Giving. Previously, he was Artistic Director and saxophonist for Chicago based Ensemble Dal Niente. His work …

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14 Dec, 2016

ICE releases three recordings on TUNDRA imprint

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) recently released two wonderful recordings on its TUNDRA imprint of New Focus, Ryan Muncy's survey of contemporary saxophone music, "ism", featuring his wonderful recording of James Tenney's classic work, "Saxony", and a portrait CD of longtime collaborator, Marcos Balter. On January 6, ICE will release a third recording, George Lewis' "Will To …

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Bandcamp Daily

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


Chicago Tribune

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

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