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American Notes – a musical exploration

Orpheus commissions Anna Clyne and Timo Andres to compose new musical portraits exploring current American identity in a globalized world.

The Latest Update

Fazil Say Premiere: Chamber Symphony

Posted on March 25, 2015 by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

As part of Orpheus’ American Notes commissioning initatiive, Turkish composer Fazil Say has written a new orchestral work for Orpheus Chamber Orchestra inspired by the complexities of modern day Turkish identity and his own relationship with America. The new work, Chamber Symphony Op. 62, will have its world premiere at Easton, Pennsylvania, on April 8th and at Carnegie Hall on April 11th.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.orpheusnyc.org.

More Updates ▼

Timo Andres Premiere: Word of Mouth

Posted on February 23, 2015 by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

On February 7, 2015, Orpheus was proud to premiere the American Notes commission by Timo Andres at Carnegie Hall. As a Composers Club member, thank you for making this possible. The New York Times said:

“’Word of Mouth’ by Timo Andres is an exhilarating chamber symphony suffused with optimism but also seemingly filled with the clamor of conflicting ambitions and egos. In fact two of the work’s five movements are fanfares, with the first made up of overlapping rising motifs that create a bright, eager, clamor. In the fourth movement these elements return in a more domesticated form, colored by some beautifully refined writing for winds.

The music has a uniquely American neo-Classical flavor harking back to the fresh simplicity of shape note singing and Shaker furniture. The orchestra played with the kind of conviction and sensitivity usually accorded to standards.”

Click here to read the rest of the New York Times review of the Orpheus performance.

Timo, along with Orpheus commissioned composers Andrew Norman (Apart, Together – 2011 premiere) and Gabriel Kahane (Gabriel’s Guide… – 2013 premiere), were also quoted in a feature article on contemporary composer Thomas Adés. Read it here.

Orpheus’ American Notes commissions continue with a new work by Turkish composer Fazil Say, which premieres at Carnegie Hall on Saturday, April 11, 2015. Get tickets here.

Anna Clyne Feature

Posted on November 13, 2014 by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Meet the first of our American Notes composers – Anna Clyne.

Clyne’s work, Rest These Hands, premieres on Saturday, December 6th at Carnegie Hall. Born in Britain, the imaginative composer’s new worktakes the same name as a movement from her multi-track violin piece, The Violin.

Described as “dazzlingly inventive,” Clyne has already gained an international reputation for her resonant soundscapes that weave, morph, and collide in dramatic explosions. She has received the prestigious Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, eight consecutive ASCAP Plus Awards, and a Clutterbuck Award from the University of Edinburgh.

Update from Artistic Director Dov Scheindlin

Posted on November 3, 2014 by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

As an Orpheus musician, I am always thrilled to work with living composers. By nurturing new voices, Orpheus expands the orchestral library and continues our great artistic tradition. Over our 42 year history, we’ve been proud to commission 42 new works from both emerging and established composers.

This Season, Orpheus premieres three new works by exciting composers as part of American Notes, which began with the complex question of what characteristics, experiences, and communities define American identity today. To explore this theme musically, Orpheus collaborates with three composers with diverse musical styles and backgrounds, Anna Clyne, Timo Andres, and Fazil Say.

Here is a short clip with me and my colleagues describing how new music fits into Orpheus’ artistic programming. 



This year, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra launches its next commissioning initiative titled American Notes. Through this program, the orchestra will commission original musical works from three composers who represent varied music styles and diverse personal backgrounds: Anna Clyne, Timo Andres, and Fazil Say. The creative framework for each composer begins with the complex question of what defines the American spirit today – the characteristics, experiences, communities, and relationships. Each composer will develop his/her own musical exploration of this question, providing unique musical portraits of current American life and contributing to the ongoing global conversation of national identity.

The theme of American Notes is inspired by Charles Dickens’ 1862 travelogue American Notes for General Circulation. Written during a six-month trip throughout the United States just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Dickens documented an America in transition, describing in detail the changing communities he observed. American Notes is also influenced by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration and its engagement of artists throughout the country to capture a cross-section of American life. Photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans created iconic, age-defining snapshots, documenting then current American identity in diverse settings and providing a record for future generations. In a similar way, by engaging three dissimilar and gifted composers, Orpheus hopes to create sonic snapshots that illustrate the emotional and personal aspects of our current American identity and spirit.

British-born but based in Chicago, Anna Clyne will compose a new work inspired by her personal experiences both within America and abroad. The new work will be premiered by Orpheus at Carnegie Hall on December 6, 2014. As a young Brooklyn-based musician, Timo Andres will contribute his own distinct blend of musical influences to a new work that will be premiered at Carnegie Hall on February 7, 2015. The third composer, renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say, will share his outside perspective as a counterpoint to Ms. Clyne and Mr. Andres; Mr. Say has extensively toured America and lived briefly in New York City. He is known for his outspoken commitment to democratic values and free speech in the face of an increasingly censorious Turkish government. All three works will be incorporated into Orpheus’ domestic tours, reaching communities across America, many of which do not have regular access to live contemporary orchestral music.

Mr. Say is included here for descriptive purposes; however, funding is requested only for Ms. Clyne’s and Mr. Andres’ compositions.

American Notes will also be integrated into Orpheus’ two award-winning education programs. The Access Orpheus program reaches over 2,000 public school students through in-class visits, working rehearsals, and free tickets to Carnegie Hall concerts. Students will discuss the compositional process with Orpheus musicians, witness the musical refinement at rehearsals, and experience the final performances at Carnegie Hall. Through Orpheus Institute, university-level students throughout the country will engage in master classes, coachings, and performances with composers and Orpheus musicians. In this way, Orpheus aims to spur discussion across geographic boundaries, engaging broad views and interpretations on American identity.

Project Media

The Violin – Lavender Rain
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Features: Anna Clyne

‘Lavender Rain’ is the seventh and last movement of a larger work composed by Anna Clyne, entitled The Violin. The musical theme included here will be incorporated and re-orchestrated for Ms. Clyne’s new piece with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.It demonstrates Ms. Clyne’s ability to create meaning through the exploration of sound worlds, her mastery of intricate, complex harmonies, and her sensitive musical expressiveness.

This excerpt is performed by violinists Cornelius Dufallo and Amy Kauffman and recorded in July 2013.

(Begin at 0:25)

When We Forget (Orpheus commission)
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Written by young composer Clint Needham, “When We Forget” was commissioned and premiered through Orpheus’ Project 440 initiative. The two-year program began with a nationwide search process that selected four emerging composers to create new works for Orpheus’ 40th Anniversary.

This excerpt, the third of the four premieres, is from Orpheus’ performance on March 24, 2012 at Carnegie Hall. It provides an example of the orchestra’s artistic quality and their work as a collaborator with composers in exploring various sound worlds.

Thrive on Routine
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Features: Timo Andres

This recording was made by ACME (American Contemporary Music Ensemble) at the Berkshire Bach Festival in August 2010.

Orpheus performed this work at Galapagos Art Space, an alternative, intimate venue in DUMBO, Brooklyn, on December 6, 2012. The piece was very well received and helped launch the discussions with Mr. Andres that will bear results with the American Notes commission. It demonstrates Mr. Andres’ exploration of the interrelation of harmony and structure, displaying his playful yet lyrical phrasing and subtly emotive themes.

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

4 updates
Last update on March 25, 2015

Project Created By

New York, New York
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra believes in empowering the unique voice of all people to make a valuable contribution. Working together as a collective of leaders, members explore each other’s musical ideas using their signature collaborative method, the Orpheus Process®, and give flight to vibrant, unconventional interpretations. Orpheus performances unfold dynamically, moment-by-moment, creating an energy shared by…

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Hudson Valley, New York


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