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ICElab is a radical new model for commissioning and developing new music.

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ICElab Update, April 2015

Posted on April 27, 2015 by International Contemporary Ensemble

After four years, 27 composers, and 48 world premieres, ICElab has been a transformative program for ICE and for the participating composers. With important support from New Music USA, ICElab is closing out on a powerful note. In its final year, there are currently only two ICElab commissions that have yet to be premiered, and we hope you’ll keep your eyes out for them!


Suzanne Farrin’s new opera, For the Love of Thomas, is a monodrama, setting the love letters of Michelangelo. A selection from the full work was recently premiered as part of the Tertulia series in April 2015, featuring the inimitable countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. The premiere of the full work will be presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 1-3, 2016. Sabrina Schroeder’s ICElab commission also received a partial premiere, occurring last February at Toronto Soundstreams. ICE will premiere the full work next season in Chicago, as a part of OpenICE.


The most recent major ICElab premiere was Phonobellow (2015). Zosha Di Castri’s and David Adamcyk’s evening-length work received its world premiere performance at the Agora Hydro-Québec on March 5, 2015 as part of the Montreal New Music Festival. Phonobellow combines theatrical and visual elements with sound installation and live performance to explore the meaning of and relationship between the 1877 inventions of the high-speed camera and the phonograph. These two inventions, Di Castri explains, represent an “interesting moment in history…which caused people to reflect on their perception.” As a musical-theatrical work, Phonobellow’s staging features a large, bellowing, accordion-like structure visually mimicking the bellows of cameras from this period. The quintet of musicians are staged among the bellows, moving around and in some cases interacting with its towering structure.With dynamic lighting, and the use of electronics, the activities on stage become an immersive reflection on the two inventions which, according to Di Castri and Adamcyk, presented a historical turning point in our creation and experience of media. Phonobellow was premiered as part of the Montreal New Music Festival on March 5, 2015. Four days earlier, the work was given a preview performance at Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side, as part of ICE’s free OpenICE series at Abrons.


Please enjoy this excerpt from the premiere on DigitICE, ICE’s online concert archive.


In addition to these exciting premieres, ICE has continued to draw on our important and lasting collaborative relationships with previous ICElab composers. ICE performed Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s In the Light of Air at MCA Chicago on April 25 and will perform the evening-length work again at the Ojai Music Festival on June 13th. This work in addition to Transitions, another work of Thorvaldsdottir’s, were recently recorded by ICE for the Somo Luminous label based in Virginia. On April 12, ICE’s bassoonist Rebekah Heller gave world premieres of works by ICElab composers Felipe Lara and Carla Kihlstedt, as part of the ongoing free OpenICE series at the Hideout in Chicago. In NYC, Ryan Muncy and Peter Evans premiered ICElab composer Marcos Balter’s Landscape of Fear at Abrons Arts Center. ICElab has fostered these fruitful, artistic relationships that are continuing to generate new works of art even as the program officially comes to a close. As we move forward, we are excited to build not only on these relationships, but also on what we’ve learned about the infinite collaborative possibilities between composer and performer.


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ICElab Update, January 2015

Posted on January 5, 2015 by International Contemporary Ensemble

International Contemporary Ensemble is excited to share its progress during the fourth and final year of the ICElab commissioning initiative. Support from New Music USA has enabled the ensemble to carry out six major commissions from composers Suzanne Farrin, Sabrina Schroeder, Sam Pluta/Jeff Snyder/exclusiveOr, Zosha Di Castri/David Adamcyk, Juan Camilo Hernandez Sanchez, and Rick Burkhardt. To date, the six new works are in various stages of completion.

Sam Pluta/Jeff Snyder/exclusiveOr

Modules premiered at NYC’s downtown experimental mainstay The Stone on March 8, with Sam Pluta and Jeff Snyder performing alongside an ensemble of percussion and brass. Pluta and Snyder (also performing as exclusiveOr) brought to life new sounds by combining their invented hardware instruments and self-developed software with the acoustic ensemble. The live manipulation of instruments through modular software was also combined with a modular compositional structure, where panels of materials were flexibly overlaid so that the form of the work evolves in accordance with the players’ decision-making processes. As the composers explain, “The goal for the project is to tap exclusiveOr’s and ICE’s improvising talents, combining this with strictly notated scores, to create a concert-length barrage of notes, sounds, and noises. We want to create a work that is both a solid piece of composed music and a solid piece of improvisation, where these two opposing methodologies seamlessly intersect, complement each other, and imitate one another to create a unified whole.”

exclusiveOr @ the stone | DigitICE


Juan Camilo Hernández Sánchez

This past October, ICE premiered two ICElab installments at Jack in Brooklyn. The first, on October 5, was the world premiere of Songs Beyond the Margin, a sextet by Colombian composer Juan Camilo Hernández Sánchez, drawing text from the work of Depression-era poet Herman Spector. “When I discovered Herman Spector’s writings,” Hernández Sánchez explains in his program notes, “I was captivated by the pertinence of his criticism for his society…In his texts, the city is the stage for several characters: the homeless, the poor workers, and the distressed.” Peter Tantsits, tenor, delivered these texts spoken and sung, along with the instrumental ensemble, which “depicted an imaginary urban soundscape and figurative emotional states of the characters.”

Songs Beyond the Margin @ Jack | DigitICE


Rick Burkhardt

The following evening, October 6, the premieres of Rick Burkhardt’s Lammasu and Warka Vase were given alongside two works of “instrumental theater”: Arthur Kampela’s Not I for solo horn and Vinko Globokar’s Dialog über Erde for solo percussion. Burkhardt, whose works are scored for a quintet of percussion and string instruments with spoken text distributed among the instrumentalists, writes that through these works, “the audience is guided, by voices, through an imaginary audio tour of an imaginary museum…The songs, in their intact form, bear a similarity to Near Eastern artifacts which disappeared from the Baghdad museum during the US occupation in 2003.” By obscuring original texts as well as blurring instrumental and vocal textures, Burkhardt tracks the fluid history of loss and mystery regarding these important cultural objects, while engaging the tradition of instrumental theater through his own personal lens of playwriting. These pieces are sections from a forthcoming hour-long work which will be completed in the summer of 2015.

Burkhardt’s Warka Vase & Lammasu @ Jack | DigitICE


Suzanne Farrin

ICElab works by Suzanne Farrin and Sabrina Schroeder were incubated at Mt. Tremper Arts during a residencies in June 2014. Farrin’s work, scored for countertenor and an instrumental sextet, is a setting of the relatively unknown poetry of Michelangelo, and will be premiered in November 2015.

Suzanne Farrin @ Mt. Tremper | DigitICE


Sabrina Schroeder

Schroeder’s work, also to be premiered during fall of 2015, draws upon the scholarly work of Jane Jacobs and Guy Debord, providing a sonic and conceptual map for the ensemble and exploring patterns of movement as they relate to space.

Sabrina Schroeder @ Mt. Tremper | DigitICE


Zosha Di Castri and David Adamcyk

ICE will present the world premiere of Zosha Di Castri and David Adamcyk’s Phonobellow at Montreal New Music Festival in March 2015. This evening-length work combines theatrical and visual elements with sound installation and live performance to explore the meaning of and relationship between the inventions of the high-speed camera and the phonograph.

Zosha Di Castri and David Adamcyk @ ICEhaus | DigitICE


“The International Contemporary Ensemble, the new gold standard for new music”  The New Yorker

Every Spring for three years, ICE musicians have gathered to select six up-and-coming composers, sound artists, or artistic teams who responded to an open call to collaborate with ICE on ground-breaking commissions.

The commissions are developed in ICElab, a new model for creating new music that fosters exceptionally close and adventurous collaborations between composers and musicians.  ICElab boils everything ICE has learned over the course of premiering  650-plus works down to the essentials for creating exciting, category-defying new music.

The projects proposed by our 2014 ICElab collaborators captured our imaginations in very different ways.  Rick Burkhardt invited us on an archeological dig in ancient Mesapotamia, using sound and theater instead of shovels.  Zosha di Castri and David Adamcyk want us to join in on quite a different exploration of origins, in contemplation of the joint impact of Muybridge perfecting the high-speed camera and Edison inventing the phonograph in 1877.  Juan Camilo Hernández Sánchez concocted an encounter between Depression-era American poetry and the instrumentation of an early jazz combo.  Suzanne Farrin sees us unleashing the underlying operatic energy of the love poems of Michelangelo in a contemporary evocation of Vivaldi’s heroic countertenor arias – with electronics.    Sabrina Schroeder was struck by a startling contrast between urban planning techniques and the desire paths humans actually make when they move through cities, and asked us to join her in forging new musical and visual paths in an “imaginative mapping” of urban experience.   Sam Pluta and Jeff Snyder want to harness the improvisational chops of ICE musicians along the intersection of contemporary classical music, experimental music, electronics, and free jazz.

How these ideas will sound, look, and feel like in just over a year’s time is anybody’s guess.  That’s the beauty of ICElab – because in the lab, the most exhilarating discoveries are the accidental ones that can transform the way we see the world.

A typical ICElab commission takes a year to complete.  Things kick off with week-long incubation residencies at the beginning of the year, when composers and musicians have time and space to experiment with new ideas and sonic possibilities (in other words, they spend quality time together in a sandbox).

At the end of the residency, selections are performed in free work-in-progress showings – which we are planning to take to local schools and cultural centers as well as hosting at our ICEHaus studio – and the audience is invited to join the collaboration both in formal presentations and over refreshments.

ICE keeps in close contact with the composers until the works are  premiered in December – another reason why it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Then ICElab goes global with international touring and on-demand video.

You can watch HD videos of ICElab performances, workshops and composer interviews for free at digitice.org; learn about the 2014 ICElab collaborators at iceorg.org/icelab/2014; and read what previous ICElab composers and enthusiasts have to say about their commissions at iceorg.org/blog.


Project Media

On the Nature of Thingness – Nathan Davis (ICElab 2011 commission)
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ICE’s relationships with ICElab composers are bigger than a single commission. ICE seeks every opportunity to engage with the entire oeuvre of a composer before, during, and after its completion. In the case of Nathan Davis, ICE composer and percussionist, ICE has performed this and other works at Lincoln Center and other NYC venues, in Chicago, on tour in four US States, Darmstadt and Berlin, and on an all-Davis CD chosen by Time Out New York as one of The Best Classical Albums of 2011.

Glass Clouds – Phyllis Chen (ICElab 2011 commission)
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Phyllis Chen is an ICE composer, pianist, toy pianist and multimedia artist.

ICE has performed multiple new works by Chen at Lincoln Center and other NYC venues, in Chicago, on tour in three US States, and in Darmstadt. In November, ICE will perform the European premiere of Chen’s “Mobius” at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Chen was the first ICElab composer to incorporate multimedia production elements into her commission, and this has now become a regular feature.

Gurre-Klänge – Patricia Alessandrini (ICElab 2012 Commission)
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Patricia Alessandrini is a composer who employs live electronics and interactive video in works with strong multimedia and theatrical elements. ICE has also premiered works by Alessandrini at Lincoln Center and at MCA Chicago.

Many composers see ICElab as an opportunity to create immersive experiences that employ the full range of ICE musicians’ performance skills in a multidisciplinary context. Four of the six ICElab 2014 commissions are being created in multidisciplinary frameworks.

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

2 updates
Last update on April 27, 2015

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New York, New York
Founded in 2001, the International Contemporary Ensemble is dedicated to reshaping the way music is created and experienced. With a rotating roster of 36 members who perform in forces ranging from soloists to large ensembles, ICE functions as performer, presenter, and educator, advancing the music of our time by developing innovative new works and strategies…

In Collaboration With

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