When you have a 30-member New Music ensemble split between New York and Chicago, at some point you're bound to meet in the middle. OK, the exact middle is more like Youngstown, but for our purposes, Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum is close enough. And that's where you'll find the acclaimed International Contemporary Ensemble this Sat., Jan. 9, in a program co-presented by Music on the Edge and featuring music by University of Pittsburgh composer Amy Williams.
Part of what makes the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) unique is its flexible structure and programming, encompassing everything from solos and small ensembles to multi-media works and a chamber orchestra. Founded in 2001 as a scrappy, DIY collection of musicians -- many from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music -- ICE focuses on young and emerging composers, and has performed world premieres of more than 400 works.
ICE's Warhol performance will feature clarinetist Joshua Rubin, guitarist Daniel Lippel, percussionist David Schotzko and flutist Claire Chase. Also the founding director of ICE, Chase recently released her first solo CD, aliento, on New Focus Recordings, with support by other ensemble members.
Chase is front-and-center for "Cineshape 1," a piece for flute and bass drum by Amy Williams. An assistant professor in Pitt's composition department, she also performs in The Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo, which specializes in contemporary music for piano four-hands and two pianos, at times incorporating multimedia, electronics or extended techniques.
"Cineshape 1" was commissioned in 2003 by Chicago ensemble CUBE, says Williams, while she was composer-in-residence. "I wrote the piece for a concert they had planned called 'Flutes Cubed' -- pieces for multiple flutes and flute chamber music."
The piece was inspired by the Korean film Chunhyang (2000), an epic romance which incorporates pansori, a Korean musical storytelling tradition. "I chose Chunhyang particularly because of the pansori singing, which made a huge impression on me when I first encountered it," explains Williams. Others compositions in her Cineshape series are inspired by films as disparate as Time Code (string quartet and piano), The Lives of Others (flute, cello and percussion) and Run Lola Run (solo piano). "Cineshape 5," based on Rope, will premiere in February with the Music on the Edge Chamber Orchestra; she plans to finish the series this year.
But don't expect a musical IMDB entry about Chunhyang.
"I am not trying to tell the story of the film through my piece," says Williams. "I didn't consider the characters of the film or the plot. Rather, I use the structural and thematic elements of the film as abstract inspiration in the compositional process."
Williams describes ICE as "an amazingly dynamic group," and has seen the ensemble in performance many times. "Each one of the players is a virtuoso in his or her own right and, when they get together, it's absolutely thrilling."
She's also looking forward to some of the other music on the program: Elliott Carter's "Esprit Rude/Esprit Doux" ("one of the most significant American composers") and Philippe Manoury's "Last" ("I find his music to be highly imaginative and coloristic"). Rounding out the program is music by Panayiotis Kokoras, Magnus Lindberg and Reiko Fueting.
International Contemporary Ensemble 8 p.m. Sat., Jan. 9. The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky St., North Side. $8.50 ($15 at the door; students $5/$10). 412-394-3353 or www.warhol.org
- Some of the parts: ICE's Warhol lineup