Celebrating 50 Years of the S.E.M. Ensemble

Publikováno: 3.3.2020

50 Years of the S.E.M. Ensemble

Concert @ Bohemian National Hall
321 East 73rd St, NYC

Wednesday, April 1, 8:00pm

Free – RSVP REQUIRED! Limited Seating


The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble

Hana Kotkova, violin (Lugano)
Thomas Buckner, voice
Tom Hamilton, electronics
Petr Kotik, conductor

Miya Masaoka The River is Dark and Deep, Swim Across With Me (2020) (World premiere)
Robert Ashley The Mystery of the River  (1991)
excerpt from the opera Atalanta (Acts of God)

Christian Wolff Small Piece for Orchestra (2019) (U.S. Premiere)
Julius Eastman Joy Boy (1972)
Petr Kotik Wednesdays at RW on Spring St (2019-20) (U.S. Premiere)


Brooklyn Preview Concert:

Monday, March 30, 8:00pm
Willow Place Auditorium
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Free Admission - RSVP


In April 1970, co-founding members Julius Eastman, Petr Kotik, Roberto Laneri and Jan Williams – all part of The Center of the Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Buffalo, NY – convened at the Domus Theater (Buffalo) to perform works by John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Rudolf Komorous and others. The program was so radical for the time that out of an initial audience of 100, only 17 remained until the end. A review in the Buffalo Evening News was headlined: "Ensemble Audience in Retreat." Far from being discouraged, the ensemble has continued to perform music that makes a difference – important and rarely heard compositions – and is currently the oldest, continuously performing new music ensemble in the US.

To commemorate this milestone, the S.E.M. Ensemble will present a free evening of orchestra works and smaller pieces at the Bohemian National Hall. The concert will kick off with the world premiere of composer/sound artist Miya Masaoka’s The River is Dark and Deep, Swim Across With Me (2020). Especially composed for this concert, the work is concerned with locating a sound that is neither static nor changing, leading the listeners to question its affect. 

Baritone Thomas Buckner will perform Robert Ashley’s The Mystery of the River – an excerpt from the pioneering opera Atalanta, Acts of God (1991), which explores themes of collective memory, architecture and genealogy. Buckner will be accompanied by a recorded electronic orchestra arranged by Ashley’s longtime music director, Tom Hamilton. The version for solo voice and electronics was completed in 2014 for the Angelica Festival (Bologna).

The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble will present the American premiere of Christian Wolff’s Small Orchestra Piece, composed for Petr Kotik and the Ostrava Days 2019 festival, where it premiered last August. The score calls for wood winds, brass and strings with an optional percussion part. In line with Wolff’s lifelong pursuit of open scoring, Small Orchestra Piece offers many choices for the performers, while maintaining rigorous notation and form. Each of these pieces exists as specific versions reflecting the performance situation. The version heard on April 1st was created by Petr Kotik in consultation with the composer. It includes pasages conducted and independent of conductor, as well as a pasage where Kotik joins the orchestra on piccolo.

A founding member of the S.E.M. Ensemble, Julius Eastman composed Joy Boy for SEM in 1972, after the group returned from a European tour. The piece was performed many times up until 1975, when Eastman left the ensemble. The score suggests musical events in a manner typical of Eastman’s compositions and performances.  

For the program’s finale, the Orchestra of  the S.E.M. Ensemble will perform the American premiere of Petr Kotik’s Wednesdays at RW on Spring Street (2019-2020). Written for virtuoso Czech violinist Hana Kotková, the piece was commissioned by the Ostrava Days 2019 festival and was composed between March and August, 2019. In early 2020, Kotik made a few minor revisions and added two inserts into the composition. The composition works with independent layers and simultaneities of different material.




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