The 35 members of the International Contemporary Ensemble are recent Oberlin College graduates who want to infuse the new-music establishment with fresh blood. Flutist Claire Chase, along with composer Huang Ruo, started ICE while at Oberlin; she moved to Chicago last year and has been busy working out the logistics for this festival–three concerts featuring 20 members, or “Icicles.” The half dozen recent pieces and half dozen slightly older ones on their schedule would normally require much bigger forces to organize, not to mention more money–their grassroots fund-raising campaign netted them a $7,000 budget. Many of the instrumentalists and composers in ICE are, like Chase, newcomers whose zeal and curiosity sometimes exceed their technical prowess, but they’re no slouches. Pianists Jacob Greenberg and Phyllis Chen are students of Ursula Oppens at Northwestern University, and their insights into the new are almost as impressive as their mentor’s; clarinetist Campbell MacDonald, flutist Eric Lamb, and soprano Tony Arnold are sympathetic interpreters too. The ICE festival opens on Saturday with a concert showcasing the music of Huang Ruo and Du Yun, both natives of Shanghai and both deft molders of Chinese and Eurocentric idioms and performance practices. Huang, a doctoral student at Juilliard who’s been getting a lot of press, likes to mix Western and Eastern instruments, sometimes to shocking effect; in Divergence percussion sounds from the Peking Opera jostle with the baroque melodies of the strings, and the musicians conclude by chanting a Chinese poem. The Harvard-based Du reportedly writes in a similar vein. The second program, on Wednesday, focuses on mysticism, with pieces by George Crumb, Olivier Messiaen, Erik Spangler, and Sonia Gubaidulina; the third, on Sunday, emphasizes the vernacular in American music, with works by Aaron Copland, Jacob Druckman, Steve Reich, and Rob Reich. Saturday, June 1, 8 PM, First Unitarian Church of Chicago, 5650 S. Woodlawn; Wednesday, June 5, 8 PM, ballroom, School of the Art Institute, 112 S. Michigan; and Sunday, June 9, 8 PM, Three Arts Club of Chicago, 1300 N. Dearborn. 312-573-1518.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Terese Wadden, Mike Muna.