Monday, October 8, 2012


    Following last week’s class and the announcement of one of the 2012 MacArthur award recipients, Claire Chase, I decided to look her up.  Although I’d met her several times in Chicago, and even crashed at her Brooklyn apartment during a brief visit to NYC, I hadn’t seen her or been in contact with her for several years.  I confused the success of her organization with that of Eighth Blackbird, another Chicago-based chamber group which collaborates with “a motley crew of composers, young and old, modernist and indie.”  I incorrectly informed the class that Claire had been co-founder of Eighth Blackbird, when in fact, she is co-founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble: ICE.  Both groups were initially created in Chicago, and while they each have exciting and lofty goals, for now, I prefer to explore Claire’s organization and present a glimpse of what this ICE is all about.  
    First of all, I was impressed by the comprehensiveness of their website.  Not only does it have a clear calendar of events but it invites its visitors to interact, experience and participate in an active discussion on music and its evolution.  For instance, IceLab is a program created to bring new composers to the forefront of the music scene: Six composers are selected annually to participate in this project, and are given the chance to discover, learn and interact with each other, as well as with the members of the ICE ensemble for whom they will be creating their pieces: “The ICElab structure embraces the essential composer-performer collaboration through which radical musical ideas emerge.
    Furthermore, the blog entries that may be accessed through the website, offer a peek into the thoughts of these various composers, sometimes with images or video footage of the process they went through to create their compositions.  It is an unusual privilege that allows the audience member to be privy to the creative process, helping to bridge the gap that seems to have been so deeply gouged between performer and listener.  ICE performers contribute as well, giving their impressions of particular performances, compositions, or simply to write about various ideas that may help shed some light on the process of music-making.  
    ICE has also created an educational program that is innovative and full of potential, called The Listening Room, which targets “public schools with no formal music program, the curriculum draws on the rich vocabulary of experimental music—improvisation, graphic scores, team-based performances, and non-traditional instruments—to teach collaborative creative skills to students of all ages and skill levels.”  Although this program is only in its first year, I believe it is a great example of how to reach children at a young age and introduce them to the world of music, with all of its possibilities, from classical to rock to contemporary.  The group also hopes that “by exposing young people to the creative process through which new compositions emerge, we hope to plant the seeds for a more diverse, more engaged audience for the experimental music of tomorrow.”
    The more I read, listen, and learn about ICE, the more honored I am to have had the opportunity to hear this group play live, and the more excited I am that Claire Chase was one of this year’s MacArthur recipients.  She and her colleagues certainly deserve it.  Their investment in the future of music is exemplified by the promoting of new composers and by their desire to involve the next generations of audiences in the creative process, thereby ensuring that music will not only be created, but more importantly, that it will be heard.  

For more information, please visit their website at

No comments: