American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME)
"such soul, passion, and excellent command" - NPR
"the ensemble gave the punchy, intricate score a tight, viscerally powerful performance"
- The New York Times
"contemporary music dynamos" - NPR
"blazing intensity," "vital," "brilliant," "electrifying" - The New York Times
"one of New York’s brightest new music indie-bands" - Time Out New York
Since 2004, led by cellist and artistic director Clarice Jensen, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) has risen to the highest ranks of American new music through a mix of meticulous musicianship, artistic vision, engaging collaborations, and unwavering standards in every regard. The membership of the amorphous collective includes some of the brightest young stars in the field. NPR calls them “contemporary music dynamos,” and Strings reports, “ACME’s absorbing playing pulsed with warm energy. . . Shared glances and inhales triggered transitions in a flow so seamless it seemed learned in a Jedi temple.” ACME was honored by ASCAP during its 10th anniversary season in 2015 for the “virtuosity, passion, and commitment with which it performs and champions American composers.”
The ensemble has performed at leading international venues including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, BAM, The Kennedy Center, Washington Performing Arts, UCLA's Royce Hall, Stanford Live, Chicago’s Millennium Park, Duke Performances, The Satellite in Los Angeles, STG Presents in Seattle, Melbourne Recital Hall and Sydney Opera House in Australia, and at festivals including the Sacrum Profanum Festival in Poland, All Tomorrow's Parties in England, Auckland Arts Festival in New Zealand, Summer Nostos Festival in Greece, Boston Calling, and Big Ears in Knoxville, TN.
World premieres given by ACME include Ingram Marshall’s Psalmbook, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Drone Mass (commissioned by ACME in 2015) Caroline Shaw's Ritornello, Phil Kline's Out Cold, William Brittelle's Loving the Chambered Nautilus, Timo Andres’ Senior and Thrive on Routine, Caleb Burhans’ Jahrzeit, and many more. In 2016 at The Kitchen, ACME premiered Clarice Jensen’s transcription of Julius Eastman’s The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc for ten cellos, the score of which had been lost since the premiere in 1981. Jensen transcribed a recording of the work to recreate the score.
ACME’s collaborators have included The Richard Alston Dance Company, Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance, Gibney Dance, Satellite Ballet, Meredith Monk, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, actress Barbara Sukowa, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, Blonde Redhead, Grizzly Bear, Low, Matmos, Micachu & The Shapes, Jeff Mangum, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Roomful of Teeth, Lionheart, and Theo Bleckmann.
In March 2022, ACME released the world premiere recording of Jóhann Jóhannsson's contemporary oratorio Drone Mass on Deutsche Grammophon, with Theatre of Voices led by Paul Hillier. Gramophone included the album on its list of Best New Classical Recordings. Of the album, Gramophone wrote, “The compelling sound world of the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is powerfully captured in this epic work” and says ACME is "superb on this recording." ACME's recordings also appear on Sono Luminus, Deutsche Grammophon, Butterscotch Records, New World Records, and New Amsterdam Records.
Photo by Mark Shelby Perry