International Contemporary Ensemble
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Artist in Residence: International Contemporary Ensemble


“I hope that these students will learn that they have the power and agency to create new experiences and relationships.  While there is a lot to learn from adult experts, the kids' own experiences and present views can also be extremely valuable.  Keep exploring, ask questions and make yourself heard!”

– Levy Lorenzo of ICE


Composer/musician Levy Lorenzo, a key member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, was the ongoing driving force for the musical collective's programs at Usdan.



In the International Contemporary Ensemble’s third year as Artist in Residence at Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts, Levy Lorenzo returned to co-create a new performance work with students -- this time featuring music for chamber ensemble and hacked video game controllers. The piece was developed in collaboration with students from the Video Game Art & Design course and Contemporary Classical Ensemble.

Sounds were captured from the Video Game Design course in Weeks 3 and 4 and used as source material for the Contemporary Classical Ensemble students in Weeks 5 and 6. Levy collaboratively guided the students in a process of electronic music instrument design, improvisation, composition, and performance. Two additional performers from the International Contemporary Ensemble joined during the fifth and sixth weeks of camp.

As well, by popular demand, Levy revived last year's "Knight Music" (2018) with a new group of students  at the Usdan Gala.



For the International Contemporary Ensemble’s second year at Usdan, Levy had a “crazy” idea: Bring together the seemingly disparate worlds of music and chess for a special musical composition. 

The inspiration was born during Summer 2017, as Levy was strolling to rehearse with the Junior Chorus. While walking around campus, he was delighted to encounter a chess program among arts, theater, dance, and music.  

Starting with his initial idea and knowledge of the game, Levy talked through the basics of chess play and engaged students to share what they imagined what sounds each chess piece would make. Using the feedback, Levy--along with Doc (Patrick Armann) from the Music (percussion) department--began compiling and teasing ideas to establish the specific rules for the composition. That basic arrangement was then reworked and edited based on feedback from the students in music and Chess.

The result: A new collaborative work called “Knight Music” which offers the opportunity to experience a chess match in a new way. It centers on two players engaging in a full, proper match, with all of the various pieces and moves mapped onto and matched with rhythms and musical notes.

The work experienced its world premiere at the Usdan Festival in Summer 2018.



International Contemporary Ensemble collaborated with the Usdan Junior Chorus to explore methods for creative, sonic exploration in the open Usdan environment. The result: a new experimental piece called "Flower Machine."

Levy kicked off by sitting down with the Junior Chorus and their director, Kari Francis. The two started by asking students to name all the flowers they could think of. Then, Levy asked the kids to share examples of electronic sounds from their everyday lives -- like text tones, ring tones, a washing machine, and more, which he recorded and built a musical track from. During these sessions, hand gestures were then assigned to go with each sound, creating a dedicated vocabulary for the project. 

For the live performances on the Festival stage and the 2018 Gala, the students in the chorus were conducted using those hand gestures to share the musical narrative of the Flower Machine. Weaving combinations of flower melodies with flute and bassoon accompaniment, layered over the recorded sounds, and finally a memorized flower poem. 



“A WAVE AND WAVES” – International Contemporary Ensemble + Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts (2018)

Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts music students collaborated with the International Contemporary Ensemble and several other community partners, as part of the OpenICE initiative, which was co-presented with the Mostly Mozart Festival on August 9th at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. In addition to performing in the piece, Usdan students were invited to meet Michael Pisaro and to hear his perspective when rehearsing the piece.

Echoing the environmental themes and communal experience of John Luther Adams' In the Name of the Earth, Michael Pisaro's 75-minute piece, A wave of waves (2007) embeds audience members in a grid of 100 performers, where they are slowly submerged in an ocean of sound.  Isolated, imperceptibly soft noises -- sandpaper on stone, seeds falling on glass, bowed bells -- are layered into powerful waves of sound to create an immersive experience.  A work of monumental scale, presented with uncommon immediacy, A wave of waves melds microscopic moments of friction, gravity, and vibration into a single, pulsing organism.



International Contemporary Ensemble is an artist collective composed of 35 members – all of whom are soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time and are committed to transforming the way music is created and experienced. As individuals and as a group, they aim to explore how new music intersects with communities across the world.


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