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George Lewis: Afterword, The AACM (as) Opera + International Contemporary Ensemble

George Lewis: Afterword, The AACM (as) Opera + International Contemporary Ensemble

George Lewis’s multimedia opera Afterword marks the 50th anniversary of the AACM and explores its impact on contemporary music.


September 15, 2015NYT Review: Afterword, “…Lends a Voice to Black History”

Posted by: Roulette Intermedium, Inc.

In anticipation of George Lewis’ premiere of Afterword, the AACM (as) Opera in its entirety at the MCA, Chicago, we’re posting a #TBT of the NYT Review of Part 1, which debuted on Roulette’s stage with support from New Music USA. 

If you’re in Chicago, catch the performance  from Oct 16-18, 2015!  

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Afterword is an opera developed by George Lewis with longtime collaborators Catherine Sullivan and Sean Griffin, as an aesthetic extension of Lewis’s 2008 book A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, (University of Chicago Press) which received the American Book Award.

Born on the South Side of Chicago and turning 50 this year,  (AACM) has played a major role in American experimental music, and its ardent experimentation and radical collectivist politics are the inspiration behind Lewis’s first operatic venture.

The opera explores the historical periods through which the AACM has lived – the Great Migration, the urbanization of American life, decolonization and the civil rights struggle – and the evolving relationships this organization has forged among culture, politics, race and personal expression. The work also foregrounds the AACM as a creative collective noted for its revolutionary ideas, now part of the legacy of experimental practice, and the diversity of its music making.

The artists will be in residence at Roulette with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and three singers for four days and will present Act I of Afterword on May 22 & 23, 2015. The work receives its premiere at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in Fall 2015 and returns to Roulette in its complete form in our 2016 schedule.

George Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. A MacArthur Fellow, Lewis studied composition with Muhal Richard Abrams at the AACM School of Music, and trombone with Dean Hey. A member of the AACM since 1971, Lewis’s work has been commissioned and presented by orchestras and ensembles in this country and Europe.

Composer and director Sean Griffin is the Director of Opera Povera, an interdisciplinary consortium devoted to the creation and performance of new operatic and interdisciplinary performance and exhibition projects for which he received a grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation in 2011. Recently, he was a Mellon Fellow for Arts Practice & Scholarship at the University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry. Griffin has received numerous residencies, including Yaddo, MacDowell, and EMPAC, and his collaborative works have been presented at venues including REDCAT, LACMA, MATA Festival, and the Tate Modern.

Catherine Sullivan has produced several films, performances and theater works wherein the performers are often coping with written texts, stylistic economies, re-enactments of historic performances, gestural and choreographic regimes, and conceptual orthodoxies. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as the UCLA Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Secession, Vienna; Opéra de Lyon, Lyon;  and The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago.

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) functions as performer, presenter, and educator, advancing the music of our time by developing innovative new works and new strategies for audience engagement. Since its founding in 2001, ICE has premiered over 500 compositions in venues spanning from alternative spaces to concert halls around the world. The ensemble was most recently named Musical America Worldwide’s Ensemble of the Year in 2013.



Project-related Media

International Contemporary Ensemble | George Lewis: Born Obligato (2013), Abrons Arts Center

In January 2015, The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Abrons Arts Center with three free concerts representing the best of New York's new music. The January 30 program featured new music by some of New York's best-known composers, commissioned by ICE including George Lewis' Born Obbligato (2013), a piece inspired by the delicate chamber music of Beethoven's Septet.

International Contemporary Ensemble | George Lewis: The Will to Adorn (2011)

George Lewis's Will To Adorn had its World Premiere at the Miller Theater in 2011, and was inspired by a 1934 essay by Zora Neale Hurston, "Characteristics of Negro Expression". Describing his interest as in “adornment as a compositional attitude or method,” he distances himself from any naive view of it as a marker, and his references include not only “those amazing church hats worn by African American women” but also French composer Franck Bedrossi's ideas of “saturation”. This sample runs closest to the opera's developing musical content.

Catherine Sullivan + Sean Griffin |OUIJA! in collaboration with the Yohangza Theater Company

Ouija!, a collaboration between Catherine Sullivan, Sean Griffin and the Yohangza Theater Company for the Festival Bo:m in 2010, regards the "found" production as an ecology that opens itself up to other elements, performers, sounds etc.The Yohanza Theater Company places importance on the actors' understanding of their bodies, their creativity, musical abilities and communication methods with audiences. This excerpt documents the live performance.

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Project Details

Start and End Date

05/22/2015 - 05/23/2015


Brooklyn, New York

Updates (1 RECENT)

Last Updated September 15, 2015

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Roulette Intermedium, Inc.

Brooklyn, New York

Roulette Intermedium, Inc. was founded in 1978 in a small loft space in Manhattan with the mission to support artists creating New + Adventurous art in all disciplines by providing them with a venue and resources through which their creative vision can be fully realized and shared with an audience interested in the evolution of experimental...


International Contemporary Ensemble

New York, New York

Role: Performers

Sean Griffin

Los Angeles, California

Role: Composer & Director

George Lewis

New York, New York

Role: Composer

Catherine Sullivan

Role: Producer

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