Philly New Music: What’s Happening

Philadelphia is an amazing city for culture and the arts. Consider the inspiring work taking place at the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Mural Arts Program, and the world-renowned Philadelphia Art Museum as a small sample. Moreover, Philadelphia’s reputation as a world-class destination for music is well-established, being home to the wonderful Philadelphia Chamber Music Series and the world-renowned Curtis Institute; but when it comes to contemporary music, the City of Brotherly Love isn’t usually mentioned among the elite centers like New York, L.A. and Toronto. 

However, that perception problem doesn’t mean exciting new music isn’t happening in Philadelphia; and Melos and other organizations are setting out to change Philly’s reputation for contemporary music on the national and world stages. Next weekend, December 7-8, will be an important one. On December 7th Melos will be hosting our third annual concert in Philadelphia, featuring premieres of 8 new works by emerging American composers from across the United States. We’ll be working in conjunction with the extremely talented ensemble39, a Philadelphia-based chamber group which is quickly gaining nationwide attention for their eclectic programming and supreme artistry. 

ensemble39 formed at the Curtis Institute of Music, and though Curtis is perhaps best known for its heritage in the more traditional classical music world, the conservatory is working to show just how important contemporary music is today’s sonic landscape.  Following Friday evening’s performance with ensemble39 and Melos Music, on Saturday December 8, Philly will see both Matthias Pintscher and eighth blackbird who are in residence at the Curtis Institute (sponsored by the Markow-Totevy Foundation and a three-year grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation) for a showcase concert with the Curtis 20/21 ensemble.  If that weren’t enough, the very same weekend, the Curtis Opera Theatre will be workshopping the first act of Jennifer Higdon’s new opera “Cold Mountain,” scheduled for premiere in 2015 with the Santa Fe Opera Company

Looking further into the season shows us even more proof that contemporary music is thriving here in Philadelphia.  Earlier in 2012, the Argento Ensemble presented a major concert of contemporary French composers at the Rodin Museum, Network for New Music presented a concert entitled “Voice of this Generation”, featuring six rising Philadelphia Composers, and the Philadelphia Orchestra hosted premieres of new pieces by Gabriela Frank and Roberto Sierra.  And this is just the beginning; in 2013 Philadelphia will be home to even more thrilling new projects, including an ongoing exhibit at the Philadelphia Art Museum dealing with John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Marcel Duchamp. The PRISM Saxophone Quartet will give a composer-portrait concert of John Cage, titled “Beyond Silence”; and the Philadelphia Opera Company will present full-evening works by Thomas Ades and Kevin Puts. All of these musicians are working to contribute to the lifeblood of contemporary music in the U.S. and abroad, and it’s all happening right here in Philadelphia!

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One Response to Philly New Music: What’s Happening

  1. Thanks for presenting your annual concert in Philadelphia this year. You are right that there is a lot of content these days surrounding contemporary music in the region. Just to name a few more examples, there are ensembles such as Orchestra 2001, Crossing Choir, Relache, Center City Opera Theater, and presenter Bowerbird, who are all dedicated primarily to new music. In fact, Crossing Choir is one of only two choirs in the US dedicated to contemporary music and the other choir is on the west coast. Then there are the composers. In addition to Higdon, there’s David Ludwig, Andrea Clearfield, George Crumb, Kile Smith, just to mention a few established names. Philadelphia surely is home to a wealth of new music.

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