Counterstream Radio
New Music Streaming 24/7
New Music Playlists
Browse Music, Video, Interviews and more.

Ecstatic Music Festival 2018

75 artists from across the sonic spectrum come together for collaborative, one-night-only performances and world premieres of new music.

The Latest Update

2018 Ecstatic Music Festival: Bent Knee and Mantra Percussion

Posted on June 15, 2018 by Merkin Hall

The culmination of the sixth concert in the 2018 Ecstatic Music Festival, performed on March 29, 2018, was “Paper Earth”, co-commissioned by the Festival and the Celebrity Series of Boston’s Stave Sessions. This thrilling song cycle was the brain child of the hard-hitting, experimental band Bent Knee and the visionary, “superhuman” (Time Out New York) ensemble Mantra Percussion.

Says Bent Knee’s Chris Baum: “Bent Knee’s ethos has always revolved heavily around collaboration, so when Judd Greenstein asked if we’d like to write new work for the band and a contemporary chamber ensemble—jointly commissioned by NYC’s Ecstatic Music Festival and the Celebrity Series of Boston’s Stave Sessions—it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.” After months of brainstorming and workshopping ideas, the final result is “Paper Earth.”

Chris adds, “’Paper Earth’ marks a new artistic direction for the band, and it’s a project we’re all immensely proud of. The opportunity to compose for a larger instrumentation and collaborate with world-class musicians has dramatically honed our collective composition prowess. We’re counting the days until the next opportunity to expand our sonic palette.”

More Updates ▼

2018 Ecstatic Music Festival: Glasser and big dog little dog

Posted on June 15, 2018 by Merkin Hall

“It’s not entirely usual to have someone tell us as musicians: ‘We want you to go into a room with this other person here and make something new and potentially very weird, and no matter what it is, we are dangerously confident that it will probably be cool.’ This is essentially what happens at Ecstatic.” This is how bassist and songwriter Eleonore Oppenheim describes her Ecstatic Music Festival experience. At the fifth concert of the 2018 Festival,  on March 22, 2018, big dog little dog, the new duo project between composer-violinist Jessie Montgomery and Eleonore Oppenheim, teamed up with Glasser (aka Cameron Mesirow) and multi-instrumentalist Robbie Lee. The result included the premiere of the haunting collaboration “Starting Always.”

2018 Ecstatic Music Festival: Xenia Rubinos & Adam Schatz’s Civil Engineering

Posted on June 15, 2018 by Merkin Hall

The 2018 Ecstatic Music Festival opened on January 27, 2018 with the dynamic collaboration between vocal powerhouse Xenia Rubinos and Adam Schatz’s multi-dimensional big band, Civil Engineering. “This was my first experience getting to perform music of my own making in a proper concert hall,” says Adam. “It was a wonderful excuse to take this 10-piece band I’ve been workshopping in rock clubs and tiny spaces and give it the proper room to breathe.” Their performance featured new arrangements of both Xenia’s and Adam’s songs, as well new works written for the Festival, including this piece, “How Strange It Is.”

The Festival is committed not just to representing artists from diverse backgrounds, but also to fostering a welcoming environment for an inclusive audience. Xenia says, “I am also so grateful to the Festival organizers for being so welcoming and accommodating many guests of families from a Head Start program in Washington Heights as well as a group of local young artists and activists who really enjoyed the performance and would otherwise not have had access to the show.”

Xenia adds, “I hope there will be more opportunities like this to build community going forward so that the beautiful hall and festival performances can be a place of inspiration and spark of joy for all of our NYC community.”


What happens when a string quartet and a rapper collaborate on new music? Find out at the Ecstatic Music Festival®, which builds bridges across musical genres by bringing together composers and artists from different musical worlds to collaborate on adventurous concerts. Presented by Merkin Concert Hall, the Festival invites lesser-known and established American artists to create music beyond their regular approach, build bonds with peers in other styles, and attract new fans. Captivating concerts, illuminating artist insight, affordable tickets, and New York Public Radio’s free concert audio cultivate broader audiences for live music while engaging existing fans in new ways. Festival concerts earn coverage from The New YorkerRolling Stone, and others.

The Festival’s eighth season features nine concerts that will draw 3,000 devoted fans and new audiences, with 100,000+ listening to live and on-demand recordings. Curator Judd Greenstein selects musicians from contemporary, pop, rock, experimental, folk, and classical backgrounds. Artists savor the creative opportunities, support, and rehearsal space provided by the Festival as they collaborate on new pieces, most commissioned by the Festival:

  • Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Xenia Rubinos teams up with Civil Engineering, a 10-member big band led by multi-instrumentalist Adam Schatz (January 27, 2018)
  • String quartets from Kaufman Music Center’s acclaimed youth new music ensemble Face the Music join the Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet (February 5, 2018)
  • Bang on a Can’s annual People’s Commissioning Fund Concert features world premieres by George Lewis and Angélica Negrón and historic PCF pieces by Pamela Z, Annea Lockwood, Lukas Ligeti, and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore (February 15, 2018)
  • Dronechoir, the innovation of Arone Dyer, assembles talented women to perform spontaneously, and is joined by celebrated poet and Cave Canem Fellow Mahogany L. Browne (March 1, 2018)
  • Electro-pop vocalist Glasser (aka Cameron Mesirow) performs with big dog little dog, the project of composer-violinist Jessie Montgomery and bassist-songwriter Eleonore Oppenheim (March 22, 2018)
  • Experimental sextet Bent Knee joins Mantra Percussion to create new works (March 29, 2018)
  • Composer-saxophonist Jeremy Flower, composer-jazz drummer John Hollenbeck, pianist Ethan Iverson, composer-violinist-vocalist Carla Kihlstedt, bassist Chris Tordini, and saxophonist-composer Patrick Zimmerli come together for an evening of collaborations and premieres (April 14, 2018)
  • Vocalist Julianna Barwick performs new works by Caleb Burhans and Caroline Shaw, the youngest winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, and collaborates with ModernMedieval, featuring Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, Roomful of Teeth’s Martha Cluver, and Eliza Bagg (April 19, 2018)
  • Avant-garde pianist Margaret Leng Tan premieres a new work written for her by famed composer George Crumb, with Monica Duncan’s video projections, and pieces by composers Kelly Moran and Suzanne Farrin, 2017 Rome Prize winner (April 26, 2018)

New Amsterdam Presents returns as a presenting partner. New York Public Radio extends Festival reach beyond NYC by posting recordings of all concerts on Q2 Music, webcasting three concerts live on Q2 Music as New Sounds Live co-presentations with host John Schaefer (and saving these recordings for delayed WNYC broadcasts), and bringing the Festival to global audiences through its partnership with the European Broadcasting Union.

Project Media

Excerpt of “Origami Harvest,” a world premiere at the 2017 Ecstatic Music Festival
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.

Of the February 15, 2017 Festival concert featuring rapper Kool A.D., jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and Mivos Quartet, music journalist Seth Colter Walls wrote in 4Columns that he felt skeptical about the “three divergent acts… But it was these same differences in emotional and performance styles that allowed for striking contrasts… Over the course of ‘Origami Harvest’—an hour-plus suite composed by Akinmusire for these musicians—the players created a steady feel of communication, and a wild sense of surprise.”

Excerpted final half of “Gulf,” a world premiere at the 2017 Ecstatic Music Festival
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.

Participating artists speak highly about their unique Festival collaborations and new music. On January 25, 2017, San Fermin, the eight-piece band led by classically-trained Ellis Ludwig-Leone, collaborated with new-chamber music group NOW Ensemble, led by Mark Dancigers. Dancigers composed “Gulf” for both groups and said it was “a big risk for me as a composer, but the Festival’s outlook encourages this approach.” Ludwig-Leone noted that “this kind of musical cross-pollination would not have been possible without the Festival.”

“Comfortable Cruising Altitude,” world premiere at the 2017 Ecstatic Music Festival
Like this? Login or register to make a playlist of your favorites pieces.

Composed by Nico Muhly, this piece premiered on January 9, 2017 as part of Bang on a Can’s annual People’s Commissioning Fund Concert and was part of the group’s Field Recordings project, which invited composers to create work with found sound. Muhly used found audio of an overnight transatlantic flight with a calm atmosphere, and then another with the presence of crying babies. In his words, “The ensemble acts as a sleeping traveler, existing in an ambient space but with the anticipatory shimmers that accompany the miracle of air travel.”

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

3 updates
Last update on June 15, 2018

Project Created By

New York, New York
Since its first season of presenting concert series in 1982, Merkin Hall has established itself as one of New York City’s premier destinations for contemporary music. A leading presenter of new music, Merkin Hall nurtures and promotes emerging musical talents, supports the creation of new work, and engages a wide range of audiences in the…

In Collaboration With

Gill, Massachusetts
Brooklyn, New York
Media Partner
New York, New York
Participating Artist
Brooklyn, New York
Participating Artist
San Francisco, California
Participating Artist
New York, New York


Leave a Reply