The American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), led by Artistic Director Clarice Jensen, is dedicated to the outstanding performance of masterworks from the 20th and 21st centuries, primarily the work of American composers. The flexible ensemble presents fresh work by living composers alongside the classics of the contemporary. ACME’s dedication to new music extends across genres, and has earned them a reputation among both classical and rock crowds. NPR calls them “contemporary music dynamos,” and Strings reports, “ACME’s absorbing playing pulsed with warm energy. . . Shared glances and inhales triggered transitions in a flow so seamless it seemed learned in a Jedi temple.” ACME was honored by ASCAP during its 10th anniversary season in 2015 for the “virtuosity, passion, and commitment with which it performs and champions American composers.”
ACME’s instrumentation is flexible, and includes some of New York’s most sought-after, engaging musicians. Notable highlights of ACME’s 2017-2018 season include a performance with Meredith Monk as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival, a tour with Max Richter, and performances presented by the Festival of New American Music at Sacramento State, Kennesaw State’s Festival of New Music, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Kennedy Center.
ACME has performed at leading international venues including Carnegie Hall, BAM, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Kitchen, (Le) Poisson Rouge, National Sawdust, Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Symphony Space, The Morgan Library, The Stone, Joyce Theater, Montclair’s Peak Performances, Washington Performing Arts, UCLA’s Royce Hall, Stanford Live, Constellation Chicago, Chicago’s Millennium Park, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Jordan Hall in Boston, Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, The Library of Congress in DC, Virginia Tech, Newman Center at the University of Denver, Flynn Center, Duke Performances, South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center, The Satellite in Los Angeles, Triple Door in Seattle, Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, Melbourne Recital Hall and Sydney Opera House in Australia, and at festivals including the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Poland, All Tomorrow’s Parties in England, and Big Ears in Knoxville, TN.
World premieres given by ACME include Ingram Marshall’s Psalmbook, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Drone Mass, Caroline Shaw’s Ritornello, Phil Kline’s Out Cold, William Brittelle’s Loving the Chambered Nautilus, Timo Andres’ Senior and Thrive on Routine, Caleb Burhans’ Jahrzeit, and many more. In 2016 at The Kitchen, ACME premiered Clarice Jensen’s transcription of Julius Eastman’s The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc for ten cellos, the score of which had been lost since the premiere in 1981. Jensen transcribed a recording of the work to re-create the score. ACME has since performed Joan at the Met Breuer and will perform it at The Kennedy Center in spring 2018.
ACME’s recordings appear on the Deutsche Grammophon, New World, Butterscotch, and New Amsterdam labels. ACME released its first portrait album on Sono Luminus in 2017, featuring music by members Caroline Shaw, Timo Andres, and Caleb Burhans, plus John Luther Adams. The Strad raved, “Warmth and care are fully evident in the ensemble’s immaculate, considered performances – the four composers could hardly wish for more committed, convincing accounts of their music.”
ACME’s many collaborators have included The Richard Alston Dance Company, Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance, Gibney Dance, Satellite Ballet, Jóhann Jóhannsson, actress Barbara Sukowa, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, Blonde Redhead, Grizzly Bear, Low, Matmos, Jeff Mangum, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Roomful of Teeth, Lionheart, and Theo Bleckmann.
Photo credit: Mark Shelby Perry