As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. 

TODAY

Wednesday, July 17

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Transmission
« Rock Your Valentine With White Mystery Lady Gaga Postpones Chicago Shows »

Concert Mon Feb 11 2013

Sculpting the new repertory: ICELab at the MCA

Carla.png

Like every classical art form, the avant garde has a canon. It seemed unlikely in their early lives that composers like John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen would eventually be an accepted form of entertainment (or, if we shrink from that word, let's say emotional and intellectual stimulation) for a respectable, concert-going crowd. But goalposts, they do move. In any city that of a certain size and cultural infrastructure, you can support a new music group that can play "repertory," and make a return on investment. But even with the most open-minded audience, what's hard then, now, and always is bringing a crowd out for untested talent.

For the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the thrill of the new is always the most important, but introducing crowds to the true unknown is the most important of all. It's why over half of every year's ICE events are given over to young composers. "People come for one fundamental reason: they want something unexpected to happen," says Claire Chase, flutist and artistic director of ICE. While it's fundamentally easier to fill an auditorium with promises of seldom-performed Xenakis pieces or interlaced programs of octet music by Franz Schubert and George Lewis, Chase says ICE is equally drawn to attacking the problems burdening young composers, namely lack of stage time. "It's one of the most optimistic things we can do as humans," says Chase.

For their performance this Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago Ave., 7:30 p.m.), ICE performs the works of Carla Kihlstedt (At Night We Walk In Cirlces And Are Consumed By Fire) and Phyllis Chen (Chimers) as part of their ICElab series. In speaking with Chase about ICE's collaboration with Kihlstedt on her piece, she described a process of close collaboration with Kihlstedt, a musician known better for her work in bands like Rabbit Rabbit, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and Fred Frith's Casa Nova, as more of an improvisational workshop than a rehearsal, analogous perhaps to Caryl Churchill's method of using her repertory group to improvise and sculpt the script for months along with the author.

As her piece revolves around dreams, Kihlstedt asked members of ICE to discuss their recent dreams during workshops. When guitarist Daniel Lippel described a dream where people walked on stage and de-tuned his guitar mid-song, the band acted this out in person, having Lippel play while dealing with people walking brazenly up to him and fiddling with his tuning pegs. Describing a dream is one level of reaction; experiencing it as a dreamer is a deeper connection. But to act this potentially embarrassing act out in front of a group of real people concretizes the emotions in a way that mere description of the dream cannot. "It was a living, breathing act...not like a performer interpreting a score," said Chase, who noted that the composition was constantly changing up to the last minute as each ensemble member brought a new idea to the work table.

Though the "I" word (Indie Rock) is bandied around a lot to describe Kihlstedt, Chase insists it's not altogether accurate. "Carla is beyond category. Music just pours out of her. She's a classically-training violinist, but this isn't a crossover situation because there are no lines to be crossed; the lines have disappeared completely."

Within the ICElab statement of principles, it's noted that commissioned pieces should be malleable enough to adapt to many different environments, from an intimate room to a football field. "A piece like this could live meaningfully in very different environments," said Chase, who noted that the piece will be performed in Chicago, Washington D.C., and on tour later. As the piece concerns dreams, it could be expanded and modified for years.

ICElab, an experimental program originally planned for four years, is set to end in 2014. Chase says it will almost certainly continue beyond, though perhaps with a different focus. "In 2012, we took on many large projects which were turned into small projects. After 2014, we'll be looking for smaller projects to make larger," noting that the number of composers per year will probably drop from six down to two or three.

The final goal of ICElab is not just a chance for new composers to workshop their pieces for sympathetic audiences. "Our hope is that at the end of the program, we will have created a section of the repertory that will represent some of the most exciting music of our generation," says Chase. "We are hoping that it becomes a model that can be replicable. The more new music being commissioned in the ecosystem, the better off we are all going to be."

It doesn't get more ambitious or optimistic than that.

Tickets are $28, $22 for MCA members, $10 for students. Order here.

Carla Kihlstedt: I. Factual Boy from At Night We Walk in Circles and Are Consumed by Fire (2012) from ICE on Vimeo.

 
GB store
GB store

Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

Blogroll

  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
BackStage
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
ChicagoMusic.org
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
CHIRP
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
Daytrotter
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Do312
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
Gridface
The Hood Internet
Innerview
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pitchfork
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Songs:Illinois
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock

  Venues:

Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
B.L.U.E.S
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Constellation
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
FitzGerald's
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Martyrs'
Mayne Stage
Metro
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Rosa's
Schubas
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Smartbar
Subterranean
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Township
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Atavistic
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Hozac
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

GB store

Events

Featured Series














 

Transmission on Flickr

Join the Transmission Flickr Pool.


About Transmission

Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Sarah Brooks, sarah@gapersblock.com
Transmission staff inbox: transmission@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

Transmission Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15