Soundvoice is a community engagement and educational project created by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP) that seeks to deliver a new level of relevance and celebration to San Franciscans in a participatory and collaborative celebratory format. Delivered in partnership with Hospitality House and funded by a James Irvine Foundation “Exploring Engagement” grant, Soundvoice will take place in Spring, 2014, culminating in a free public celebration to be held on May 17, 2015 at the Center for New Music from 1.00-3:00 p.m.

Learning Sessions (closed to the public)

Session 1: The Power of Story April 6 – Monday

Session 2: Intro the New Music – “What Is Concentrated Listening?” – April 8 – Wednesday

Session 3: Mobile Sound Lab – April 13 – Monday

Session 4: Telling Stories Through Sound – April 15 – Wednesday

Session 5: Sharing Stories and More – April 20 – Monday

Design Day – Sunday, May 2, 2015

Please read about the “theory” behind Soundvoice here and check out the launch press release here! Meet the participants, review the program content, and see photographs of the sessions at the Soundvoice at Hospitality House website.

Through our services agreement with the Center for New Music, the following key personnel manage and implement SFCMP’s production activities:

Adam Fong (Project Manager) Adam has worked as a composer, performer, and producer of new music since completing his MFA in Music Composition at California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with James Tenney and Wadada Leo Smith. As Associate Director of Other Minds (2006–2012), Fong produced six editions of the annual Other Minds Festival, dubbed the “premier new music festival on the West Coast” (Los Angeles Times), and many special projects including the CD reissues of Conlon Nancarrow’s Studies for Player Piano and The Complete Music of Carl Ruggles, tribute concerts to Ruth Crawford Seeger, Henry Cowell, and Dane Rudhyar, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Fluxus, and the American Premiere of 18 Microtonal Ragas based on “Solo for Voice 58″ by John Cage. Fong’s own compositions have been performed internationally in Auckland, London, Berlin, Tübingen and Darmstadt, at many US universities, and throughout California, by performers including the two-piano team Dennis Russell Davies and Maki Namekawa. In 2008, he co-founded Emerging Arts Professionals/San Francisco Bay Area, a network dedicated to the development and growth of next generation arts and culture workers; he was Chair of Business Development in 2010-11 and became Director in 2011. Adam also holds a master’s degree from Stanford University (English). He has lectured on experimental music and received international publication of his scholarly and creative work, and serves on advisory boards, panels, and committees at the local and national level.

Jon Yu (Production Manager) Jon is a composer and guitarist currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received a B.A. in Music from University of California, Santa Cruz, studying under Hi-Kyung Kim, John Sackett, and Ben Leeds Carson; and a M.A. in Music Composition from San Francisco State University, studying under Richard Festinger and Benjamin Sabey. He has received fellowships from festivals such as the June in Buffalo Festival and the Walden School Creative Musicians Retreat. His works have been performed throughout the United States by ensembles such as Jarring Sounds, Ensemble Signal, and Wet Ink Ensemble. Current projects include new pieces for the Living Earth Show and flutist Wayla J. Chambo. Besides his composition pursuits, Jon also plays in and tours with a number of Bay Area rock bands.


Looking Back on our 43rd Season

Part of the task list in closing a season is to take an assessment of all that has happened over the past twelve months. In addition to things the public hardly notices (we moved our office to the Center for New Music in August; we deployed our first-ever logo in September, 2013), we thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and look at the extraordinary season we are just concluding. Enjoy revisiting the recent past with us, and join us in the fall of 2014 for a very exciting 44th season!

2013-14 comprised a “stretch” season for SFCMP, from the three-day Crissy Broadcast event which was attended by 5,000, tour four-day Sweet Thunder Festival. Along the way, new opportunities emerged and others were laid to side. Following is a recap of the activities of our 43rd season.

CRISSY BROADCAST: SFCMP was the lead professional ensemble for this World Premiere by Lisa Bielawa, which gathered 800 amateur musicians for three one-hour performances in Crissy Field in San Francisco. Free to the public, the event reached 5,000 people directly. SFCMP ensemble members led musical workshops with their assigned groups and conducted the groups during the performances. Most of the general public, including family members of the participants and the amateur participants themselves, had never been part of a ‘new music’ performance before. Getting “outside the concert hall” was achieved in a very impressive fashion.

  • “I’ve never heard music like this before…” – audience member
  • “You’ve enabled my playing to evolve in unimaginable ways.  Thanks for the open door to the Muse” – adult amateur musician
  • “ I knew I’d enjoy it, but I didn’t realize quite how thrilling it would be. A big part of the excitement came from being so tightly connected to so many people for precisely fifty minutes. It was fun to under the command of the clock, knowing that other musicians depended on us to play the right thing at the right time in the right place. It felt a lot like a big game!” – Lowell HS band director

FALL/WINTER SEASON – We presented three “regular” subscription concerts over the course of this season:

Timber – November 13, 2013. The first concert of our 43rd season and the final concert of calendar year 2013 was a performance of a one-hour work by Michael GordonTimber. Composed in 2010 for six percussionists and sound processing, this piece has become internationally prominent as a percussive tour de force. Gordon, a founding member of Bang on a Can, was present for the performance. Also on the program was a work by Russian-born British composer Elena Langer: her 2006 composition Two Cat Songs for soprano, cello, and piano received its US premiere. This piece was performed by local soprano Amy Foote, who has been rising in prominence for the crystalline quality of her voice and her engaging theatricality.
Triptych – Tuesday, February 18. This concert featured the West Coast Premiere of Aus.Weg, a 2010 work by Georg Freidrich Haas, the World Premiere of Luciano Chessa’s 2013 work Set and Setting, for musicians and actors from ACT “delivering scents of lavender and jasmine,” and the San Francisco Premiere of James Dillon’s large-scale 2012 work New York Triptych, for musicians, radio receiver and CD player. 8:00 pm YBCA Forum. (Chessa is a naturalized American of Italian birth).
Project Anton – Monday, March 24: Project Anton. This concert showcased Anton Webern’s 1934 masterwork Concerto for Nine Instruments juxtaposed with a world commission of Polish composer Jaroslaw Kapuscinski’s Pointing Twice, an inter-media work with sculpture by Canadian artist John Grasnow and dance by Korean guest choreographer Young-Doo Jung. Also on the program were Brian Ferneyhough’s La Chute D’Icare, and In Memoriam Jon Higgins by Alvin Lucier. This concert was enhanced by the fruits of a ten-week residency with SF Montessori School, collaboratively delivered with our friends at ArtSeed.
Additionally, SFCMP’s Artistic Director Steven Schick performed a solo recital on Valentine’s Day which was paired with a fundraising event for the organization. Origins was a rare San Francisco recital, Schick’s only West-Coast recital of 2014, his first in San Francisco in 30 years. A reprise of two concerts held January 2014 at Miller Theater which have been anticipated as major events on the 2014 cultural calendar, the concert included the following works (American composers asterisked): Gustavo AguilarWendell’s History Pt. 1 (2008); Karlheinz StockhausenNr. 9 Zyklus (1959); Morton FeldmanThe King of Denmark (1964); Vinko GlobokarToucher (1972); Iannis XenakisRebonds (1989); Brian FerneyhoughBone Alphabet (1992); Alvin Lucier*: Silver Streetcar for the Orchestra (1982); Mark ApplebaumAphasia (2010); Iannis XenakisPsappha (1975); Gustavo AguilarWendell’s History Pt. 2 (2008)

SWEET THUNDER FESTIVAL: Representing the culminating event of SFCMP’s 43rd season, the SFCMP Sweet Thunder Festival of Electro-Acoustic Music was an event of regional and national significance. Held at the Fort Mason Center, it was co-curated by SFCMP Artistic Director Steven Schick and Rand Steiger, a prominent composer and conductor. Over four days, SFCMP presented seven world premieres, improvisational pieces, hosted musical and interactive installations and greeted new and longstanding audience members alike to enjoy a continuum of music from the mid-20th century to the immediacy of now.

Thursday April 24 – Festival Kick-Off Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint for flute and playback, performed by ICE’s Claire Chase; and a work by Bay Area composer Ed CampionCorail (2013), for saxophone and interactive software.
Thursday April 24- JACK Quartet – Turgut Ercetin’sString Quartet No. 1;  Palimpsest , a new work by Kevin Ernste, the West Coast premiere of Natacha Diels’ Nightmare for JACK, and in a tribute to the late Jonathan Harvey, a performance of his String Quartet No. 4. Ernste was present.
Friday, April 25 –  International Contemporary Ensemble – George Lewis’s Shadowgraph, 5  from 1977, and Artificial Life 2007, from 2007; two new works by Rand SteigerMourning Fog and CycloneNathan Davis’ 2013 piece, Ghostlight; a World Premiere of In The Light Of Air by Icelandic composer Anna Thorsvaldsdottir; a 2013 work by Maria Stankova entitled La Bouche.  Lewis, Steiger, Stankova, Thorvaldsdottir, and Davis were present.
Friday, April 25 – Morton Subotnick provided a rare performance of the seminal work From Silver Apples of the Moon to a Sky of Cloudless Sulphur IV: Lucy in a special concert. His Silver Apples of the Moon (1967), recently entered in the Library of Congress National Recording registry, has inspired a generation of young electronica musicians.
Saturday, April 26 – Solos –  Works by Ken Ueno (Talus, 2007) performed by guest violist Wendy Richman; Rand Steiger’s 2013 work Concatenation, featuring guest bassoonist Rebekah Heller; a 2011 clarinet piece written and performed by Matt IngallsCrusT; Javier Alvarez’s 2001 Shekere, with SFCMP’s Daniel Kennedy on solo percussion, and Roger Reynolds’s 1985 composition Transfigured Wind for solo flute.
Saturday, April 26 – San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (and Friends) Works by Edgard Varèse (Poème Electronique, 1958; and Déserts, from 1954, in a rare spatialization presentation), as well as Mario Davidovsky* ‘s (Argentinian-American) 1992 Synchronisms No.10 for solo guitar performed by David Tanenbaum; Kaija Saariaho’s 1986 work Io, partnered with a new commissioned work from composer Ashley Fure (Albatross), and a special performance by SFCMP Artistic Director Steven Schick with Bay Area favorite Pamela Z in a new work, (v)erstählen as well as a reprise of her popular work, Unknown Person. Of note: The Varese was performed with historic spatialization, taking advantage of the cavernous yet resonant aural chamber of the 50,000 square-foot Fort Mason Festival Pavilion.
Sunday, April 27 –2:00 pm – red fish blue fish/George Lewis/Jaime Oliver –Karlheinz Stockhausen’s 1964 Mikrophonie I, to a new composition, 9gardens, by Jamie Oliver. Also on the program, Luigi Nono’s rarely performed 1979 work Con Luigi Dallapiccola, and a new iteration of George Lewis’ 1987 Voyager, featuring SFCMP’s Kyle Bruckmann and pianist Dana Reason.
Three festival components were free to the public: Viva Vocean interactive and experimental installation by Katharina Rosenberger and Heiko Kalmbach for singers and tablet; Sweet Thunder Listening Room – curated by Tom Erbe, an installation of over 100 acousmatic works of music; Compose Yourself Awards Ceremony and Concert: A performance and awards ceremony for SFCMP’s international high school composer competition. Four finalists (three laureates and a runner-up) were present.


COMPOSE YOURSELF: We were approached by a private funder in summer 2013 to launch an international high school composer competition. Adding this project to our roster of activites was ambitious, but we are satisfied with the outcome: over 56 submissions from around the world; six finalists from Texas, Indiana, Toronto, Massachusetts, LA and Seoul, South Korea; a prestigious Jury comprised of composers Larry PolanskyElinor Armer, choral advocate and TV/movie producer Deke Sharon, and musician and journalist Cynthia Mei. The awards ceremony and concert was held during our Sweet Thunder Festival, with the three awardees and one runner up in attendance. (Please see the video at to experience just some of the excitement.)

Compose Yourself was predicated on fulfilling certain goals around youth, education, and music appreciation: Recognize talented emerging music composers at the high school level; Inspire these young people and their peers in the value of a creative life; support youth development through mentorship, national recognition and documentation; Provide visibility through professional performance; Integrate a “youth voice” into the project; Support SFCMP’s core mission of advocating and presenting new works of music and engaging expanded audience members to the art-form, both in and outside the concert hall.

PROJECT ANTON RESIDENCY: To enhance the Project Anton concert, we undertook an educational program delivered with San Francisco arts-in-schools organization Art Seed. Our residency consisted of ten day-long sessions at SF Montessori Elementary school, where we introduced six classes (pre-K through 4th grade) to the life and work of Anton Webern. We created a curriculum that included graphic scores, notation methods, the mechanics of writing and playing music, Webern’s life and the historical context of his work. The children were allowed to play with instruments and had a session with Artistic Director Steven Schick. The culmination of this work was a series of multimedia works (paintings, drawings, books, songs) that celebrated Webern’s life. These works as wella s photos of the kids in their workshops were projected as a slide show at YBCA on the concert evening,a nd students and their families were invited to the dress rehearsal and concert, receiving talking points for discussion amongst themselves about the rehearsal/creative process of a concert. This was a highly regarded model for SFCMP to deliver new pathways to relevance among the most uninitiated (yet open-minded!) audiences. It created fascinating dialogue among children, parents, and teachers alike. Our “frame” was audacious: “what does this dead, white, European composer have to say of use to me, 21st-century urban kid?” The answers we discovered together were heartening.

SFCMP PLAYERS SHOW – our newly launched series of “pop-up” performances at the Center for New Music saw three very exciting and intimate concerts showcasing our ensemble members and their talents and interests. All proceeds from these concerts went to the artists.

Sunday, July 21, 2013, featuring SFCMP guitarist David Tanenbaum with local ensembles Mobius Trio and The Living Earth Show.In addition to serving as SFCMP’s resident guitarist is chair of the guitar department at the SF Conservatory. Works were performed by local ensembles Mobius Trio and the Living Earth Show, both former students and proteges of Tanenbaum and included composers Lou Harrison, Ronald Bruce Smith, Brian Ferneyhough, Luciano Chess, Kevin Villalta, and Brendon Randall-Myers.
Thursday, October 17, 2013 – Curated by SFCMP harpist, Karen Gottlieb with her performing on harp accompanied on percussion by SFCMP Artistic Director Steven Schick and Andrew Myerson (of local duo The Living Earth Show). Also on the program was a solo performance by Mills College MFA student Stephan Haluska on extended techniques including playing with bottles, brushes, and sponges, and Oakland harpist Destiny Muhammad (a.k.a. The Harpist from the Hood) with her trio featuring bass and drums. Gottlieb, Schick and Myerson, performed Lou Harrison’s Music for Harp; other composers on the program ranged from Fred Firth to Miles Davis.
Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 – Splinter Reeds a woodwind quintet comprised 3/5 of SFCMP ensemble members (Kyle Bruckmann, oboe; Bill Kalinkos, clarinet; Jeff Anderle, bass clarinet; with David Wegehaupt, saxophone; and regular SFCMP guest artist Dana Jessen on bassoon.) They performed works by Terry Riley, Matthew Shlomowitz, Roshanne Etezady, and Ned McGowan – along with arrangements from Tom Johnson’s Rational Melodies and Bach’s Art of the Fugue. Audience members are highly appreciative of this format, which is offbeat, intimate, and energizing for performers and spectators alike.

BREAKING BREAD WITH THE COMPOSER –  These were relaxed one-hour chats with the composer on free-wheeling creative topics ranging from harnessing the creative spark to more technical aspects of music writing and making (extended playing techniques, technical dynamics of electro-acoustic music, etc.) held at the Center for New Music in the Tenderloin. We offered two events; Michael Gordon in November 2013 and James Dillon in February, 2014.

Compose Yourself Jury Day Notes

General Comments from the Juror Panel About the Program:

This was a lot of fun for me. I’m just really honored to be part of this panel…I’m so encouraged to see so many young people from all over the world so interested in contemporary music, or just composition alone. I think it’s really hopeful for the future of music. It’s been a great day!

– Cynthia Mei, Managing Director San Francisco Classical Voice

Music is one of the most powerful ways we have to communicate with each other and classical music has such a strong, long, powerful tradition. People learn to speak at a young age. I think think it’s fantastic that this competition exists to give young composers from around the world not only a voice and an opportunity for their music to be heard, but in a form in which it will be heard by people around the world.

– Deke Sharon,  singer, arranger, composer, director, producer and teacher – “The Father of A Cappella Music”

I thought it was a great event. I loved seeing the high level of musical idea and musical skill among these high school students. I really enjoyed talking with my fellow composers and I love the idea that looking at all this music forces us to articulate, each of us, what is important to us in our journeys as composers and artists. Each of the jurists was sincerely interested, very deeply, in the notion of music and the notion of art and took that responsibility very seriously in their discussion of all the young composers so that I would  hope that what we said would be of interest, not just necessarily how to win a competition, but rather as sincere discussion about the way a young composer could spend the rest of their lives doing a very sacred and beautiful thing – making music.  

– Larry Polansky – composer, guitarist, educator, publisher

What Makes a Strong Composition?

– We’re looking for Color, harmonic variety, musical imagery to illustrate the text. Thoughtful word imagery.

– A Compositional Voice: the composer knew what it was going to sound like when he/or she wrote it. It wasn’t arrived at by pecking on the keyboard, nor was it a MIDI-driven process. “Heard music” means hearing it in your mind and having an overall concept of what you’re trying for. Usually you can tell if a composer is proceeding from one measure to the next, like with a flashlight in a mineshaft or if there’s an overall vision of what he/she wants to say and what the contours and shapes of it are going to be.

– I call music that is so literally composed on the computer “Music behind bars.” If you’re working in a software like Finale, it’s screaming at you to do things a certain way. The pieces that lived for me were the ones that tried to overcome that: they used elision and phrasing, for example…

– Yes, you want to see music that breathes, has space, is ambitious and imaginative

– …that has good overall shape, holds together

– A voice that is deeply confident – the composer shows s/he can explore and control at the same time

The Jurors were Very Impressed!

– The finalists we’ve chosen today have a measure of confidence, of maturity. They aren’t trying to figure out how to compose, but they have something to say, and they’re using the instruments and the paper to say it. It’s like they would have written these pieces, even if there wasn’t a competition!

– This piece was not written for the composition. It was written because he/she needed to write it.

– I’d go even further: Any music that’s written for a competition, if that’s your only goal, I’m not all that interested, as a listener.

Adventurous instrumentation: I like seeing the person take on this challenge. I like the interaction between instruments

– I don’t think music has to be complex to be great.

Specific Mentoring for Young Composers from Composer Larry Polansky:

–  this kind of process forces you to articulate the reason why you’re making the decisions you’re making. Some of the things I was looking for was slavery to bars, lack of foreground or background, sharing phrases, density changing, breath. Innovation in someway is endemic to the idea of a good piece. I believe that innovation in some way is very important. If you’re writing modal, static, tonal music and you’re aware you’re doing it – that’s fine if that’s your aesthetic. If you’re doing it because you don’t know any other way, that’s not where I’d like to see a composer be. Staying in one key for the entire piece doesn’t exist in the history of tonal music. Tonal music modulates.

More Advice: Live Life!!

– It’s important that these composers get up from their computer as much as they can and spend time with real humans making music on instruments. (Yes, yes, echoed the other jurors).

Connecting with your Audience, from Deke Sharon:

– Music has to be communication. There can be too much introspection on the part of the composer. Something true has to be said. Sometimes you write music and sometimes it is about the frustration of the limitation of the instruments. Something must be spoken. Then the player will say ‘ this is a pain in the a–, but it’s worth it!’ We have a responsibility when looking at this music to make sure it says something that the audience will grasp. The question is, who is the audience?

Complexity for Complexity’s Sake is a No-No:

– Take a parallel: if a composer was instead writing a speech… something has to be said. It has to be speakable and deliverable.The message has to move through the words. Don’t fall into the pitfall of thinking all music has to be so complex and cerebral that stands in the way of the music.

– There is a reason the gratuitous complexity exists, not so much at the high-school level, but at the undergrad level. It is clear that they were trained that ‘this is how you write modern music’. The more complex and the more ‘ugly’ and superior it can sound, the more it’s going to torture the players, the more modern it will sound. And it is believed that this is how you’re going to get into a master’s program. (The jurors agreed this was a sad situation for listeners and for music…)

– There’s some very direct correlation between the pieces we are liking and the people who are actively making music physically and the more that happens, the more of the feel of the piece becomes human. Even what people are calling complex, the feel of the piece is going to be influenced by the activity of the instrument in you hand, making music with other human beings with other instruments in their hands. All kinds of music – in basements, band, orchestra, folk acapella. These are the activities what imbue a score with life. The scores [we didn’t choose] were sensing a certain lack of that.

– I say to my bands, “Get in, rock it, and get out”. There’s no reason to make any piece longer than it has to be. You’re not Mahler. You don’t have to be Mahler…and you’re not Mahler.

– You need to make your parts technically accurate, but they have to be fun to sing. You don’t want your singers to zone out, you want them to get swept up on the experience of conveyance.

Pitfalls to Avoid in Setting Music

– Like a lot of people first starting out to set words,  many of the compositions we saw today were all syllabic. It’s written down very much as if it were spoken, which keeps it from being as lyrical and enjoyable to sing as it might be. I expect more fluidity in how one sets the words will come with experience. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with syllabic music, and in fact, the most of the music that young people listen to today is syllabic. – Elinor Armer, composer and educator

– There are many times a piece looks beautiful on the page, but when we take it to the instruments, we find that it is not constructed for the instrument

– I would counsel any composer to consider dynamic gradiations below pp to be mythological (i.e. they don’t/shouldn’t exist!)

– A lot of the pieces were missing tempo markings, which makes it impossible to determine the duration…. BUT…

– Giving a dynamic to every single note is too busy

– Your job is to be nice to the players because they are nice to you. It’s about the honesty and the path from composer to the audience.

Don’t Get Hung up on the “Culture Wars” of the 20th Century!

– ‘Atonal’ is not a way you want to distinguish music in 2014. More salient distinctions – do they contain improvisation, are they written on the computer? Are they electro-acoustic?

Specific Notes on the Finalist Compositions:


This piece is inventive and unfolds with a good narrative. One would not stop listening to it. It’s original and adventurous. She’s trying for something and succeeding. I have a spectrum on which I rate these things – are they technically skillful and creatively imaginative. She has both. She knows what she’s doing. She knows what it’s going to sound like. It speaks; it has a real voice. It’s scored well for the instruments. There is an adventurous harmonic palette in this one. I do appreciate a stretching of the ear.

Cognitive Dissonance

This is quite ambitious and quite imaginative. The risk for these larger ensembles  in  filling up all the parts all the time. What works is textural variety so that it doesn’t ever get uniformly turgid. It has lots of good rhythmic energy and lots of good variety; it doesn’t let down.

Let me Sink

Of all the works I’ve seen today, this is the only piece that shows influence from scores from the last 50 years of a wide variety. Things are moving; the metrical changes are fun.  It’s sincere and honest – I want to play this piece. Gesture always supersedes pitch.

Memory Yields

This piece has a sense of breath and harmony. It has a beautiful notion of imitation. It has tons of rhythmic interplay. The harmony is post-chordal harmony. The composer heard this piece in his/her mind. It has a form – it goes places, goes back to places… The subdivisions grow over the course of the piece; a far-out formal rhythmic idea. It lives.

The Story of Babylon 

 The tale of the tower of Babel from Genesis is a good story. It’s part of the collective unconscious – we were all one and then we get scattered apart.  It’s a good story to be told in the modern classical idiom. It begins and follows through with a very imaginative chromatic palette. There is rhythmic interplay and character; it displays a real sense of how the instruments work. There is a reason for a measure of chromaticism, a level of dissonance that is greater than a typical average palette because you want to give people a sense of polyglotism. The melody is syllabic but accurately syllabic. The lack of melisma is actually appropriate to the bibilical text. If it got too lyrical, it wouldn’t be Genesis.

The Four Elements

Something is being said here. This was not composed ‘behind bars’. The composer wants to take the audience on a journey and he/she wants to make sure the players know their lines; it’s theater, populist theater. This was in no way encumbered by bar lines. When you’re dealing with the four elements, you’re looking at four different characters.  Tempo, key, articulation, phrasing, markings – they all focus on one clear, emotional experience for the audience. That is  what music can and must do. The extended techniques are not gratuitous, they are specific and accurate. We are in the hands of a composer who was confident and has something specific to say.

For the Non-Finalists:

“For those who don’t win, tell them their piece was liked, and they need to listen to more music and keep studying and growing.”

SFCMP 44th Season

San Francisco Contemporary Music Players – 2014-15 Season – Season 44 – Ticket information here

Mon. Sept. 22 – 5:30-8 pm – Special Screening: I Live 4 Art – Winner of the Philadelphia International Film Festival Silver Award, this is a humorous, satirical and unique philosophical exploration of the creative process – its angst, its thrills, its purpose and its methods, featuring recently commissioned SFCMP composer Mark Applebaum and other artists. The filmmakers and Applebaum will be present. Center for New Music, 55 Taylor Street – tickets $9 at

Sunday, October 12, 2014 – Special Event: Alice in Antarctica- In a special concert of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, guest Australian harpist Alice Giles will perform a solo recital Alice in Antarctica on Sunday, October 12, 2014 — a multi-media performance commemorating the Centenary of the First Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-1914. Incorporating acoustic and electric harp, spoken and sung voice, recorded spoken voice, visual and audio material, this is a scintillating journey through music and film honoring Giles’s grandfather Dr C.T. Madigan, a member of the first Australian expedition to Antarctica. This wonderful event will feature the first San Francisco appearance of the electro-acoustic harp. JCCSF Kanbar Hall, 7 pm – Tickets $30/$20/$10, available in August 2014 through JCCSF

Cal Performances and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players Present Project Ten Fourteen – A series of four programs featuring world premieres simultaneously commissioned from ten distinctive composers all challenged to reflect upon and address the human condition, common to us all. Please note all tickets for the four Project TenFourteen concerts are only available through Cal Performances’ website – individual tickets are $32. Subscribe to all 4 for only $96  

Sunday, November 16, 2014 – Project TenFourteen: Concert #1 – The World Premiere of two works by George Crumb – Yesteryear and The Yellow Moon of Andalusia  as well as his Five Pieces for Piano; the World Premiere of Corpórea by Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz; and the World Premiere of  Elena Ruehr’s It’s About Time. Also on the program: Georges Aperghis‘s Récitations 9 and 10 for solo voice. Special guest soprano Tony Arnold joins the SFCMP ensemble members led by Steven Schick. Cal Performances Hertz Hall, Berkeley – 7:00 pm (pre-concert talk 6-6:30)

Saturday, January 31, 2015 – Special Event: Steve Reich: Drumming – In an exciting collaboration, SFCMP will perform Steve Reich’s iconic work Drumming with SF Conservatory percussion students — our last collaboration of music by Reich, one of America’s most beloved living composers, was standing-room only! SF Conservatory of Music – 8 pm.

Sunday, January 25, 2015 – Project TenFourteen: Concert #2 – The World Premiere of Polish composer Agata Zubel’s where to as well as the World Premiere of Slow Portraits 3 by Du Yun. Also on the program, two works by Harrison BirtwistleThe Axe Manual and Gigue Machine. Special guest pianist Nicholas Hodges joins the SFCMP ensemble and our Steven Schick on percussion. Cal Performances Hertz Hall, Berkeley – 7:00 pm (pre-concert talk 6-6:30)

Sunday, February 22, 2014 – Project TenFourteen: Concert #3 – World Premieres of we turn in the night in a circle of fire by Laurie San Martin as well as a new work by Ken UenoZetsu. Also on the program, two iconic works of the 20th century: Luciano Berio’s  Linea and Luigi Nono’s Hay Que Caminar Soñando. Steven Schick leads the SFCMP ensemble. Cal Performances Hertz Hall, Berkeley – 7:00 pm (pre-concert talk 6-6:30)

Sunday, March 29, 2015 – Project TenFourteen: Concert #4 – The final Project Ten Fourteen concert presents the World Premiere of Koji Nakano’s, Time Song V: MandalaLei Liang’s Luminous, with featured guest bassist Mark Dresser; a work by legendary Chinese composer Chou Wen-chung; the third World Premiere commissioned work by George CrumbXylophony, and a special performance of Edgard Varèse’s Ionisation by an all-star percussion ensemble! Cal Performances Hertz Hall, Berkeley – 7:00 pm (pre-concert talk 6-6:30)

Sweet Thunder Kick Off Event


For Ticket Subscribers and Festival Sponsors Only!

Thursday, April 24, 6:00 p.m. – Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion

Join us at the Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion for a special concert to kick off our Sweet Thunder Festival, featuring Steve Reich’s exquisite Vermont Counterpoint for flute and playback, performed by ICE’s Claire Chase;  and a work by Bay Area composer Ed CampionCorail (2013), for saxophone and interactive software. Free for subscribers, sponsors and invited guests. Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine or sparkling water to start our festivities in style!

Here’s a clip of a different Ed Campion work, Losing Touch, to pique your interest! (Performed by Jose Antonio Caballero – Percusión Carlos Javier Feijoo – Electrónica at the Conservatorio Profesional de música de Burgos)

Claire Chase performs Vermont Counterpoint on a recent ICE concert

Want to go? If you are not already a 2013-14 season subscriber, you can still become one! Purchase a Festival Pass Six Pack

or  Three Pack (we’ll contact you after purchase to confirm your three selections)

-or- Make a Donation to Support SFCMP. It really is that easy!
Want to enjoy other free Sweet Thunder concert opportunities? Join our crew of volunteers!


Bill Dean




Compose Yourself Winners!

We are pleased to announce the winners of Compose Yourself!

First Place: “Let me sink” by Gabriel Hawes, Sheridan, IN –

Second Place: “Ashore” – by Rachel Hawley, Massachusetts –

Third Place: “Cognitive Dissonance” by Arie Van Der Ven, Toronto –

Congratulations to our other three finalists. What an incredibly talented pool of young composers.

“Memory Yields” by Milo Talwani, Los Angeles –

“The Four Elements” by Chung Hon Michael Cheng, Texas –

​”The Story of Babylon” by Sunghyun Lee – South Korea​ –

ADVISORY: These works are the copyright of their authors and may NOT be downloaded or used for any other purpose other than the educational benefit of listening to them on this website.

We hope you will join us on Sunday April 27, 2014 at 12:30 at Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion for the 2014 Compose Yourself Awards Ceremony and Concert. Our three  place-winners will be present!

Viva Voce

viva voce

Free and open to the public:

Thursday, April 24 – 10:00 am-8:00 pm | Friday, April 25  – 10:00 am-8:00 pm

Saturday, April 26  – 10:00 am-8:00 pm | Sunday, April 27  – 10:00 am-2:00 pm

Sponsored by swissnex, the Swiss Arts Council/Pro-Helvetia Fund and the Swiss Consulate General in San Francisco

Click here to watch a preview of Viva Voce

VIVA VOCE celebrates vocal performance art in an interactive and experimental context and through this lens explores voice, body relationships, and the self. In the process, the work investigates the root of oral tradition and its impact on shared information in the virtual versus physical social space. In real-time visitors play and re- compose performance and documentary sequences of three vocal artists—Juliana Snapper (Los Angeles), Shelley Hirsch (New York), and Pamela Z (San Francisco)—by interacting with a 3D sonic sculpture on an iPad. Sung and spoken passages appear synchronized to the visual portrayal of the protagonists on floating screens in the gallery space. By improvising with the iPad interface and triggering text and vocal passages, visitors become not only intimately introduced to the vocalists; they turn into performers themselves.

Katharina Rosenberger and Heiko Kalmbach have meet in spring 2007 during an artist residency at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, which gave rise to a wonderful friendship. Ideas for Viva Voce have been brewing in Katharina’s mind for several years, yet, it was not until late 2009 that the ball got rolling, when Heiko gave way (wholeheartedly!) to Katharina’s instigation. His unique blend of video art, documentary filmmaking and theatre directing made him an ideal partner for composer Katharina Rosenberger, who’s fascination for the voice in an experimental and interdisciplinary context has been evident in many of her earlier as well as ongoing projects.

Katharina Rosenberger, Concept, Composition, Artistic Direction • Heiko Kalmbach, Video, Artistic Co- Direction • Michael Schmitz, iPad Design, App Programming • Jason Ponce, Multimedia Programming • John Clements, Set Design, Technical Direction


katharina rosenbergerKATHARINA ROSENBERGER
Much of Swiss composer Katharina Rosenberger’s work manifests in an interdisciplinary context and is bound to confront traditional performance practice in terms of how sound is produced, heard and seen. Her compositions, installations and interdisciplinary operas have been featured at festivals such as the Weimarer Frühlingstage, Germany, Festival Archipel, Festival La Bâtie, Geneva, Zürcher Theaterspektakel, Switzerland, Festival Les Musiques, Marseille, Zoo Bizzarre, Bordeaux, New Media Art, Yerevan, “atélier trideni plus”, Prague, EMF at the Chelsea Museum, New York, Shanghai New Music Days and Shanghai International Electro-Acoustic Music Week, China, and the October Contemporary in Hong Kong. Her music has been released on HatHut Records/hat[now]ART, Unit Records and Akenaton. Katharina Rosenberger teaches composition and sound art at the Department of Music, University of California, San Diego.

Heiko Kalmbach – video / co-artistic director
Heiko Kalmbach works as a filmmaker, video artist and stage director. His films and videos have been shown at venues like Anthology Film Archives NY, Goethe Institutes in New York, Paris, Kolkata and Mexico City, Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, Pilot London, and at Festivals like Berlinale, DOX Copenhagen, Oberhausen, São Paulo and South By Southwest. His work as a stage director and projection designer has been presented at Volksbühne Berlin, Dramafest Mexico City, Aarshi Theater Group Kolkata, Thalia Theater Hamburg, the Kitchen New York and Saarländisches Staatstheater Saarbrücken. Heiko Kalmbach has been teaching in his fields of practice since 1999. In 2012 he conducted several workshops for the Goethe Institute Mexico City within the EU project RE-MEX. He is a tutor at Technical University Berlin’s MA Program ‚Bühnenbild_Szenischer Raum‘ and the Interprofessional Studio at AA London.

Jason Ponce – system design/multimedia programming
Jason Ponce is a multimedia artist, musician and interactive arts researcher. His sound and video installations have been produced internationally and highlight the many intersections between art and science, especially interactivity, group dynamics, gesture and cognition. His interactive works use process and embodiment to blur the boundary between performance and installation, and often explore the individual’s relationship to larger social processes. Musically, Jason is an active composer and improvisor, and has worked closely with many leading figures in experimental and contemporary music. Jason is the recipient of numerous grants and artist residencies from such institutions as Issue Project Room, Roulette, STEIM, CRCA, CNMAT, High Concept Laboratories, and the Australian Council for the Arts.

John Clements – Technical Director
John Clements is an audiovisual engineer and electronic musician currently based in Oakland, California. He is a classically trained pianist and guitarist who uses software such as Csound and Max / MSP to develop musical material and sound designs for new expression. Following his studies with The Csound Book author Richard Boulanger in Boston, MA, John moved west to work with Naut Humon / Recombinant Media Labs on development of the next generation of RML CineChamber installations, among other projects. John’s interests include musical gesture capture/replay, human-machine interaction, audio spatialization / perceptual encoding, and devising musical meta-compositional control structures using DSP as an instrument for performance and improvisation.

Michael Schmitz
Michael Schmitz is a designer specialized in generative design and interactive concepts. He lives in Cologne, Germany and is co-founder of the design collective NON SQUARE PIGS – a network of freelance thinkers, visual designers, product designers, editors, writers, producers and filmmakers. He is also a teacher for media design and creative coding at the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück, Germany.


Soprano and interdisciplinary artist Juliana Snapper works at the physical and expressive limits of the operatic voice. Recent projects “prepare” the vocal instrument, altering its functionality and sonic palette by positioning her body in stressful states such as hanging upside down or submerging herself in water. Snapper received her bachelors degree from the Oberlin Conservatory and a doctorate in Critical Studies/Experimental Practices in Music from UCSD. Her concert works, sound installations, and large-scale theatrical performances have been presented by REDCAT, the Hammer Museum, Machine Project, Human Resources (all LA) Participant Inc., X- Initiative, PS1/MoMA, The Guggenheim Museum (all NY), and in international music and performance festivals in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Snapper’s projects have received support from The British Arts Council, The Metropolitan Opera Council, and The Durfee Foundation.

Shelley Hirsch is “an unorthodox, extraordinary fusion of vocalist, composer, and performance artist” (Anne LeBaron) whose work encompasses story telling pieces, staged performances, compositions, improvisations, collaborations, installations, and radioplays. Her mostly solo performance pieces including the multimedia “O Little Town of East New York” and “For Jerry” (virtual duets with the late great Jerry Hunt) and “States”; staged multimedia solo pieces have been performed at The Hebbel Theater and Podewil (Berlin), WienerFestWochen (Vienna), The Theaterspektakel (Zurich), The Kitchen, The Whitney Museum at 42nd St (NYC), Experimental Festival (Buenos Aires), Helsinki Biennale (Finland), Angelica Festival (Bologna Italy), City of Women Festival (Llubliana Slovenia), Beyond Innocence Festival (Kobe Japan), The Dom (Moscow), Adelaide State Theatre (Australia), Marstall (Munich), etc. Hirsch has performed hundreds of concerts of improvised music with great musicians including Christian Marclay, Ikue Mori, Toshio Kajiwara, Min Xiao Fen, Paul Lovens, David Watson, Marina Rosenfeld, Jim Staley, DJ Olive, Mark Dresser, Ned Rothenberg, Marc Ribot, Cyro Baptista, Butch Morris, Elliot Sharp, etc, She can be heard on dozens of CDs including “The Far In, Far Out Worlds of Shelley Hirsch” (Tzadik) and “Duets” with gutarist Uchihashi Kasuhisa (Innocence Records); and her storytelling CD “O Little Town of East New York” (Tzadik); “Haiku Lingo” (No Mans Land).

Pamela Z is a composer/performer and media artist who makes solo works combining a wide range of vocal techniques with electronic processing, samples, gesture activated MIDI controllers, and video. She has toured extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Japan. Her work has been presented at venues and exhibitions including Bang on a Can (NY), the Japan Interlink Festival, Other Minds (SF), the Venice Biennale, and the Dakar Biennale. She’s created installation works and has composed scores for dance, film, and new music chamber ensembles. Her numerous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Creative Capital Fund, the CalArts Alpert Award, The MAP Fund, the ASCAP Award, an Ars Electronica honorable mention, and the NEA/JUSFC Fellowship.

consulate swissswitzswissnex

Project Anton Notes

A wager is probably a bad basis for programming a concert.  But I couldn’t help myself.

After a recent performance of challenging contemporary music I found myself arguing the merits of a rich and complex listening experience with an audience member who was, shall we say, less persuaded. Following a few thrusts and parries I averred that great music was so powerful and relevant that even the highest modernism, if properly framed, would make sense to anyone, anywhere.

“Do you think that that would work even with Webern?” she responded, and then added, “for example with elementary school students?” There was a glint of triumph in her challenge. Surely the ascetic high priest of the second Viennese School would be an impossible sell to a ten-year old.

“I’ll bet you that Webern will make sense to kids,” I countered. “In fact let’s not just present a single piece of Webern’s, let’s construct an entire concert around his music. And we won’t go in for just a perfunctory visit to a classroom, we’ll build a year long conversation around Webern and his contemporaries.”

I would be a helluva poker player if only my skill with cards matched my zeal for raising the stakes.

Tonight’s concert – Project Anton – is the moment we all show our hands. Since October, in collaboration with Josefa Vaughan and ArtSeed, we have been regular visitors to the elementary classrooms of the San Francisco Unified School District Montessori School. We have talked about Webern and his contemporaries with the students and listened to his Concerto.  We admired his extraordinary use of limited materials, and mourned his premature death. In response to his music and life the children made paintings and drawings, some of which are on display in the lobby tonight.

After my sessions with the kids I felt like I was hearing this seminal music again for the first time.  We discussed Webern’s use of the three-note motive that begins the Concerto and played a game by engaging in a (rather long) conversation using just three words at a time.  The students were electrified, not to mention far better at this than I was. In another class a younger student mentioned that maybe Webern spoke so softly as a composer because his world was so loud. I nodded in agreement. Some people just can’t shout over the noise. It was amazing!

Tonight’s concert is book-ended by Webern’s masterful Concerto, Opus 24, for nine instruments. The title tells us that this is a work for an ensemble of soloists. In Concerto the melodic lines are long even if the solos are short. Individual players emerge and retreat so quickly that what appears to our ears as a sustained musical moment is actually a mosaic of subtly intertwined colorations.

We are capitalizing on these ideas by presenting the first performance of Pointing Twice, a new work composed in response to Webern, by Jaroslaw Kapuscinski for gramophone, dancer, conductor and the nine musicians of Concerto. With choreography by Young Doo Jung and a sound sculpture designed by John Granzow, Kapuscinski applies the lens of 21st century intermedia to the cultural language of the mid-20th century. Pointing Twice is in two parts. The first part functions as a postscript to our first performance of the Concerto. Here Kapuscinski reacts to the music itself and weaves fragments of sonic material drawn from Concerto into coils of memory that simultaneously look back to Webern and forward to the complex warren of reactions he provoked. After sampling two of those reactions in the form of works by Ferneyhough and Lucier the second part of Kapuscinski’s work looks at Webern the person and serves up an atmospheric prelude to our second performance of Concerto.

Will returning to Concerto after Pointing Twice feel like a homecoming? Will it evoke the bittersweet ache so many of us feel as we try to reconcile our love for the great art of the past with the unrelenting urgencies of the present?

And what about Brian Ferneyhough’s La Chute d’Icare and Alvin Lucier’s In Memoriam Jon Higgins? Would these living composers recognize a link to Webern in their music?

Specialists might argue that the dodecaphonic music of the Second Viennese School led to experiments in total serialism and eventually to the hyper-complex scores of composers like Ferneyhough.  And there could be a view that Lucier’s investment in the most miniscule facets of musical texture emanates in some way from Webern’s indefatigable attention to detail. My connection asserts a more basic similarity. After more than a century in which European music asked us to look beyond ourselves to a grander and more exalted existence than any we could find in our daily lives – in myriad examples from Beethoven’s cry of Freude to Mahler’s of Auferstehen – Webern turns the loupe the other way ‘round. He spirals inward, as Ferneyhough and Lucier do, to look at the guts of things – at fleeting connections among ideas in the case of Ferneyhough and at music on the level of the individual vibration with Lucier. In this music small is meaningful and quiet speaks loudly.

And this brings us back to the children. I’ll never forget the young girl who said that when the world gets noisy she gets quiet, and then added, you know, like Webern. To this sage young woman and to the other children who listened intently and reacted spontaneously, who contributed their own artwork to tonight’s concert and came to this beautiful music with open hearts and open minds: This performance is dedicated to you.

Steven Schick




Notes from Triptych

Doing yoga in France can be frustrating. In order to sustain my nearly twenty-five years of practice I try to find good studios when I travel abroad. I know of a few in Paris and visit them when I’m there. I love so much about France – I admire their beautiful language and fully endorse their adoration of butter – but I never really warmed to the French view of yoga. It’s not the language barrier. My French is serviceable – and anyway chien-tête-en-bas isn’t so hard to understand when everyone around you is doing downward-facing dog. No, my problem is that French yoga instructors seem to confuse the precision that is central to yoga with rigidity of form, which is not.

So on a recent trip to Paris when I made a modification to a pose to protect a sore knee, I heard, right on cue, “Steven” (here imagine the accent on the second syllable, just as my mother would have said it when I was in trouble): “On ne fait pas comme ça!” I had just formulated a clever response along the lines of: “Yes, but if I do that you’ll hear a pop like a bottle of champagne opening on Bastille Day.”

But, alas, we had moved on and I never got to deploy my line. Later that very evening I met James Dillon for dinner. We ate cassoulet on the Ile Saint-Louis under a noisy awning as a mid-summer storm roiled around us. A few minutes of James’s healthy disregard for authority and I felt back in balance again. One of the many reasons for our long friendship has been the fact that James never mistakes structure for stricture. In fact an inventive and fruitful subterfuge has been a consistent basis for his art.

Take his new work New York Triptych, for example. By its very nature a triptych embraces an organizational principle by which identity and focus emanate from the center. In the visual domain this idea is normally presented in a set of three panels, the center of which is often (but not always) bigger and more important than the ones that flank it.

The three-ness of it seems so stable with the true authorial voice right San Francisco Contemporary Music Players there in the middle where it belongs. But pulling in the other direction with all of those “threes” is inherent instability. Beyond the unavoidable association with the Trinity, the internal groupings are by nature uneven, always one against two. There can be no tie vote in a triptych.

In New York Triptych, James exploits the tension inherent in a triptych – between a strong center-based organizational scheme and its corollary potential for instability – in New York Triptych. The work is his latest – the third, in fact – in a series of three-part pieces named after cities, following works titled for Leuven and Oslo. New York Triptych is not only in three main parts, totaling some forty minutes of music, but the arrangement of the instruments on the staff is likewise divided into threes. Three string players balance three wind players with a percussionist, pianist and shortwave/CD operator (playing processed music of the previous Triptychs) in between.

The organizational scheme seems perfectly reasonable and balanced. But in today’s cultural climate, balance, especially the kind of balance that necessarily orbits a central authority, is suspect. We prefer ecstasy – a word that comes to us from the Greek exstasis meaning literally “unbalanced.” So, a contemporary triptych like Dillon’s generates a certain kind of friction between the lure of a perfectly ordered artistic statement and the electric appeal of a world that is spinning feverishly towards ecstasy. Unlike the world of French yoga, organizational precision and eccentric (even ecstatic) applications of that organization happily co-exist in art. In fact we crave both. I know that more than one of us has lovingly quoted William Blake’s famous adage, “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom,” while secretly hoping that the road won’t be too bumpy.

As a result, what has made learning New York Triptych an utterly fascinating process is the challenge to accommodate all the classical archetypes of the triptych while also embracing typically Dillon-esque ways of subverting them. In the arena of sound, the maverick timbres of piano, percussion and CD/shortwave player are radicalizing elements in an otherwise stable and conventionally orchestrated equilibrium between a group of winds and an equivalent group of strings. The unbalancing act of the central trio catalyzes the forces of the other instruments so that every orchestrational construction threatens to teeter and every harmonic point of arrival is buffeted by the winds of onward momentum. Each moment of organizational repose is answered by the itch of its opposite. The resulting “crippled symmetry,” to use Feldman’s poetic phrase, makes Dillon’s among the most compelling music I know.

In tonight’s concert, which we also call “Triptych,” we will present, as you might imagine, two other works. We’ll start with Georg Friedrich Haas’s AUS WEG. The title is appropriately ambiguous for this gauzy and provocative exposé of sonic possibility. It could mean anything from “the way out” to “go away.” And indeed labyrinthine constructions lead us along a pathway of sonic and harmonic points of arrival. As a result the piece seems constantly both within and just out of our grasp.

The third element in our concert is the world premiere of a new work from well-known Bay Area composer Luciano Chessa, Set and Setting. In the composer’s words, it is a Misterio da Camera scored for a quintet of musicians. But as elsewhere this evening nothing is singular. And in Luciano’s piece, naturally, there are other panels. The gathering energies of this fluid and evocative score are accompanied by actors bearing baskets of scented flowers – jasmine and lavender – a synchronized lighting plot, and an appearance by the composer himself for a brief shofar solo. As with any triptych, multiple images vie for the singular attention of the spectator.

This is our first concert of the New Year, so I hope you will allow a personal message from my spouse, Brenda, and me. May 2014 be a dazzling, wondrous, rewarding and healthy year for us all! To our adventurous players, to the ever-inventive Rozie and her team, and to you, our intrepid listeners, I offer sincere thanks, warm wishes, and whatever the word in French is for Namaste. – Steven Schick

Notes from Timber

At first glance the  combination of Elena Langer’s brief Two Cat Songs for soprano, cello and piano, with Michael Gordon’s Timber, an hour-long work for six pieces of raw lumber, might seem strange. (Though I suppose the first question is, what would go well with an hour-long piece for six pieces of raw lumber?)

However, the initial shock of the pairing doesn’t come so much from differences in materials and length as it does from what seem to be two very different emotional and stylistic worlds. Elena Langer, an engaging young Russian composer who lives in London, is fond of small dramatic moments rendered in brilliant, colorful settings. She has written a provocative prequel to the great Stravinsky work in Towards Les Noces, and has a set of gorgeous songs inspired by Russian folk melodies. By apparent contrast the score of Timber consists of page after page of undulating cross-rhythms. It starts innocently enough with six players sharing a single pulse. But soon enough the pulse divides itself and a listener is led on a path that explores increasingly abstract poly-rhythms. By the time we get to 7:4 where every player has an independent crescendo and decrescendo cycle we could be forgiven for feeling like an abacus should be sent with every set of parts.

So how do these two worlds mesh – the one with the consonant harmonies and a winsome text and the one with a snarl of ratios,
repetitions, and phase cycles?

This might be a good moment to remember Schoenberg’s famous distinction between style and idea. A central premise of his dense and polemic text on the subject is that a listener can reach a deeper and more nuanced level of musical perspective by following the ideas embedded in music rather than by responding solely to its style. He had a point: reacting to music simply on the basis of style leads to remarkable lapses in judgment like, “I just don’t like atonal music.” Or, “Progressive music shouldn’t have a beat.” I cite these two examples, but there’s plenty of blame to be assigned along a full aesthetic spectrum around the lonely campfires of arbitration by style.

So by listening “beyond style,” we can hear a lot of shared ideas between the short lyrical piece and the long rhythmic one. The poetry in both pieces has something to do with rubbing. Rubbing, that is, among the layers of the multifaceted lives of each composer and the music that results.

I met Elena Langer while I was teaching at the Centre Acanthes in Avignon on a course organized by the French electro-acoustic behemoth IRCAM. She was a very evident bright spot among the doctrinaire modernists of the course, but troubled, seemingly, by the fact that she couldn’t (wouldn’t and didn’t want to) forget the history of music. She strove for reconciliation between past and present that would allow her to create as the artist she was, not as the composer the course leaders wanted her to be. This rubbing of past against present led her directly to Towards Les Noces and to the haunting quality of her current music. We listeners feel we have heard this music before, but never with the perspective that Elena offers us.

Michael Gordon is one of my oldest friends.  More than twenty-five years ago he, along with fellow Yale alumni David Lang and Julia Wolfe, invited me to perform at the second ever Bang on a Can Marathon. From that moment to the present one – including ten years as the founding percussionist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars – I have loved his music and been grateful for his support.

Like Elena, Michael is a multifaceted person, sometimes seemingly at odds with his surroundings. He is a devoutly spiritual man who lives in one of the most secular cities in the world; he is an intellectual who chafes at the stiff collars of doctrinaire theory. He is a gentle soul who is completely at home in a world of loud music. This multiplicity has always been represented in his music as strong internal friction, and therefore enormous power. I have seen the way he rubs musical textures bac kupon themselves to create heat in ensemble pieces like Trance and I Buried Paul and in the percussion solo XY, which I premiered and which serves as the structural template for Timber.

So when I listen to Timber a predictable Gordon-esque transformation takes place. At first the piece seems to be about nothing except repetition: bar after bar of the same rhythm where the only variation is the out-of-phase patterning of crescendos and decrescendos.

Then at a critical instant – and I know no other composer as gifted at finding this catalytic moment as Michael – he injects a new element. A new rhythmic subdivision seems like such a small thing to add – a single integer in a sea of numbers – but it alters the eco-system and suddenly the rubbing starts. The piece becomes about more than repetition. It becomes about the way the ongoing repetitive texture resists change at the same time as the newly charged rhythmic environment is devoted to it. In the crosshairs of these opposing forces the music begins to tremble. It trembles gently at first, and then, later, more profoundly as the idea of cross-rhythms is extrapolated in an “XY” dynamic pattern. This means simply that each percussionist plays two rhythms at the same time. The rhythm in the one hand gets louder as the one in the other gets softer. Then the process reverses itself. At the extremes, where one hand is very loud and the other very soft, one rhythm dominates clearly over the other.

But where the music becomes truly interesting – and where it reflects Michael’s own internal frission – comes at the moments of crossing, when the passing rhythmic lines chatter to one another. In two quite different styles each composer chooses a single idea: friction over organization. How different they are from the recent classicists, from early Stockhausen to late Reich, in whose music the goal of every note is to find its rightful place! But tonight we celebrate uncertainty. We celebrate the rub of ideas and the rush of warmth that always follows.

– Steven Schick

Memory Lane, with Boardmember Susan Hartzell

Feb 6, 2014

“I have observed that there are people who are interested in what’s new and what’s adventurous, and there are people who are more interested in deeply delving into what’s familiar,” says Susan Hartzell, a long-time member of the SFCMP board of directors. Susan attends San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ concerts with her husband, Harry, and with friends whom they have introduced to the group over the years. “We can’t force people to like new music,” she observes, “but we can expose people to new things, and let them decide for themselves. Even if it’s not for you, it’s important for the community, it’s important for the culture, to keep new music going, to encourage composers who are creating new art.”

image_music003Susan was introduced to music the way many have been, by starting piano lessons as a little girl. In 4th grade, thanks to an inspiring school music teacher, she fell in love with the violin. A family friend gave her his instrument, and she convinced her parents to let her have violin lessons, too. Singing in church and school choirs rounded out her musical experiences through her school years, and she is still a member of a choral society.


Evolution of “Evenings on the Roof”

While Susan’s family was living in Southern California during the Second World War, her parents had musician friends who introduced them to the flourishing new music scene in the Los Angeles area. One series they regularly attended, “Evenings on the Roof,” featured many of the culturally significant musicians of the émigré community. Susan would go to concerts with her parents when a friend of theirs was performing as a soloist, and she credits those experiences with whetting her appetite for new music. When Susan was 12 years old, her family moved to the New York City area, where art played a big role in their outings, especially trips to the MOMA. Susan’s mother was always curious about new art and music, and she communicated her excitement to her daughter. Susan grew up with a sense that new art and music were important and rewarding.

When Susan met her husband Harry, who also came from a family with a passion for music, they enjoyed listening to the opera on the radio and attending concerts together, and Harry became a new-music fan, too.

During a college summer working at the Aspen Institute, Susan had met the soprano Phyllis Curtin. Later, in Boston, she and Harry attended an afternoon new-music recital that Ms Curtin gave in a small hall at MIT, followed by an evening performance by the Metropolitan Opera star Renata Tebaldi at Symphony Hall. Susan remembers the telling contrast between the two audiences. Ms Curtin received enthusiastic applause; Tebaldi was showered with ovations and bouquets by adoring fans.


1985 poster by Walter Chardak Bercu Design

After Susan and Harry moved to the Bay Area, they pursued their interest in modern art by becoming members of SFMOMA. A brochure from the museum invited them to “Listen to Modern Art” by attending SF Contemporary Music Players’ concerts on Monday evenings in the Green Room at the War Memorial Veteran’s Building. They loved the idea of getting a babysitter for their kids and enjoying a “twofer:” attending a concert in the Green Room and seeing art during the extended intermission.


SFCMP c. 1988

Susan got hooked on the experience of hearing contemporary music in the intimate setting that the Green Room provided. She recalls many memorable moments with the organization. When she first heard a Morton Feldman piece, she admits, ““At first, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it!” Now Feldman’s work has become a favorite. SFCMP provided her first experiences of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and other seminal works, some of which were “totally puzzling” and others easily accessible.

Cage with ensemble 5 92

Rehearsal with John Cage

Susan especially remembers a performance of John Cage’s “Music for Flowerpot,” in which Willie Winant was required to drop the flower pot right on the beat. “When it shattered,” she says, “I realized how much fun there was to be had, as well as how much stimulation!” One of the joys of subscribing to SFCMP was sharing the concerts with Susan’s parents, who had moved to the Bay Area. It brought their common interest in contemporary music full circle. When her mother passed away, Susan decided to honor her by sponsoring a piece in her memory. They had both especially loved the work of Lou Harrison, so Susan underwrote a performance of his Symfoni #13. It seemed a fitting tribute to the woman who had introduced her to the joys of new music.


Lou Harrison

For Susan and Harry, one of the rewarding aspects of supporting the SF Contemporary Music Players is the connection they feel to a community that shares their interest in contemporary music—both their fellow audience members and also the Players, with whom they have become familiar over the years. During the ten years that Susan has served on the board, different artistic and executive directors have brought different styles to the organization. She is glad to see, however, that the organization has stayed true to its mission, and that the players of the ensemble have remained loyal, continuing to present challenging concerts at the highest level. Now, with Steven Schick at the helm, she is excited to see what the future will bring for this venerable but ever-new Bay Area treasure.

Involving Your Network

How Board Members can Involve their Network and Encourage Increased Support for and Awareness of SFCMP

Annual Fundraising Event
Sponsor personally (~$2k), split a sponsorship with a fellow board member (~$1k), or ask your company to sponsor ($2.5k+)
Solicit sponsorships from your network, including colleagues, vendors you use, friends, and family
Purchase extra tickets and invite guests to attend with you
Sell tickets
Solicit in-kind donations, including auction items or beer/wine sponsorships
Serve on the event auction committee

Donor identification
Refer people to the website/mailing list (they can sign up online!)
Review lists of donor prospects or foundation board/staff to identify people you might know
Ask your friends and family if they have any contacts at foundationsDonor cultivation
Attend donor previews and talk with attendees
Participate in a tour/reception at SFCMP with donors, prospects, and possibly your own guests
Host or co-host a reception at my home, off-site exhibition, or other venue with SFCMP musicians
Attend a meeting with a major donor

Donor solicitation
Write personal notes on solicitation letters twice a year (spring/winter, usually to people you know)
Solicit major gifts ($1k+) and/or accompany staff at solicitation meetings
Host a dinner at my house to benefit SFCMP or invite friends to host one
Request donations to SFCMP in lieu of birthday, anniversary, or holiday gifts
Ask company’s vendors for in-kind donations (product or service)
Invite friends to host an event to benefit SFCMP
Submit personal donations for matching gift from employer (ask them to create one if none exists)
Forward the year-end appeal e-mail to friends and familyDonor stewardship
Thank donors by phone, email, or mail when they make a contribution
Call lapsed donors to remind them how much their support meant and re-engage them<Marketing and Outreach
Share the e-newsletter or donor newsletter with friends or contacts
Many more exciting ways we can discuss together!

Board Member Responsibilities

Board Member Responsibilities

Term: Renewable three-year term.

Governance Role

  1. Participate in:
  • Defining the organization’s mission, making policy, and strategic planning,
  • Hiring and general oversight of the Executive Director and Music Director,
  • Ensuring adequate resources for the financial health and stability of the organization, and
  • Reviewing Board performance.
  1. Attend the 6-8 meetings each year and familiarize yourself with the issues discussed.
  2. Attend SFCMP concerts whenever possible.
  3. Serve on one or more of the Board’s standing committees.

Development Role

  1. Pledge and make an annual financial contribution at a level that is substantial for the individual Board member.  
  2. Understand, believe in, and help represent to the community the mission of the organization.
  3. Help recruit new audience members and prospective Board members for the organization.
  4. Participate in recruiting, cultivating, and soliciting donors.


Compose Yourself 2014 Jurors

San Francisco: January 12, 2014 – The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players‘ inaugural competition for high school composers, Compose Yourself, has announced the four jurors as well as an extended deadline to January 22, 2014Larry PolanskyDeke SharonElinor Armerand Cynthia Mei will review and select the finalists’ works. Full details.

Larry Polansky is a heralded composer, theorist, performer, editor, writer and teacher. Currently a professor of composition at UC Santa Cruz, he was the longtime Strauss Professor of Music at Dartmouth College, and also on the faculty of Bard College. As a composer and music advocate, he is known as the co-founder and co-director of Frog Peak Music (A Composers’ Collective), his widely published and performed compositional catalog including many works for just-intoned guitar, and his many musical collaborations. These include working with the Mills Center for Contemporary Music on the computer music language HMSL, and contributing to the widely-used program SoundHack. Larry’s writings on American music include works on James Tenney, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Lou Harrison, Beyer, and more.  

Larry is the co-author of Music and Computers, a web-text published by Key Publications. He has premiered and recorded works by composers and collaborators that include Christian Wolff, James Tenney, Lou Harrison, Lois V Vierk, Ron Nagorcka, Kui Dong and more. He is the recipient of prizes including Guggenheim, Fullbright, and Mellon New Directions Fellowships, and he was the inaugural recipient (with David Behrman) of the Henry Cowell Award from the American Music Center.

Deke Sharon is an accomplished performer, arranger, and producer. Trained with an opera background as a young child, Deke has shared the stage with musicians from Ray Charles to LL Cool J to Pavarotti. He currently produces “The Sing-Off” worldwide (USA, Netherlands, China), and served as arranger, on-site music director and vocal producer for Universal’s “Pitch Perfect” starring Anna Kendrick (2012).

Deke founded the Contemporary A Cappella Society, and commissioned programs including the CARAs (Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards, ICCAs (International Championship of College A Cappella), BOCA (Best of College A Cappella Compilation), the first contemporary a cappella conferences (the A Cappella Summit), the newly formed Contemporary A Cappella League, and the online channel “Inside A Cappella.” He is also a prolific arranger, having arranged over 2,000 songs, with many of them in print worldwide with Hal Leonard/Contemporary A Cappella Publishing. His first book, “A Cappella Arranging” was published in 2012.

Elinor Armer has been associated with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 1969. In 1985 she established the Composition Department and served as chair for eleven years. She studied composition with Darius Milhaud, Leon Kirchner and Roger Nixon, and piano with Alexander Libermann. Recipient of numerous awards, fellowships and commissions, Armer has performed and lectured throughout the country, and her works are performed regularly in the United States and abroad. Armer is one of the co-founders of Composers, Inc., and a member of ASCAP.

Her compositions are published by J. B. Elkus & Son, a division of Subito Music Corporation. Among her best-known works is the eight-part fantasy Uses of Music in Uttermost Parts, written in collaboration with Ursula Le Guin. Her many references include the Elinor Armer Archive in the University of California-Berkeley Music Library and Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Cynthia Mei is a veteran of the new music scene in the Bay Area, as founder and director of the Adorno Ensemble, whose commitment to fostering the creation and presentation of new music has included performances in galleries, via online radio and podcasts, and an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to music appreciation, the Kandinsky Listening sessions.

Cynthia currently manages community relations, fund-raising, and music education for San Francisco Classical Voice. Other positions have included: development director of Other Minds, and development director/administrator of California Summer Music. She has a Bachelors and Masters of Music from the Manhattan School of Music.

“This a highly illustrious and diversified Jury panel, reflecting a full spectrum of musical and pedagogical influences, experiences, and styles — perfectly aligned with the essence of the Compose Yourself competition,” says SFCMP Executive Director Rozella Kennedy. “With the deadline extended until January 22, we are receiving so many interesting submissions from young composers around the world. There will be an exciting selection of compositions for our wonderful panel to review!”

Gift Acceptance Policy

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP) solicits and accepts gifts that are consistent with its mission. Donations will generally be accepted from individuals, partnerships, corporations, foundations, government agencies, or other entities, without limitations, unless acceptance of gifts from a specific source is inconsistent with our beliefs, values, and/or mission. The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ priorities include gifts for unrestricted, restricted, and endowment purposes.

In the course of its regular fundraising activities, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players will accept donations of money, real property, personal property, stock, and in-kind services. Certain types of gifts must be reviewed prior to acceptance due to the special liabilities they may pose. Examples of gifts which would be subject to review include gifts of real property, gifts of personal property, and gifts of securities.

Times During Which Donations May be Accepted. Donations may be received at any time during the course of the calendar year, or a season, the latter comprising the July 1- June 30 time frame. When a gift is received during the season but after concert events have ended, donor benefits may be extended into the first six months of the following concert season.

Donor Acknowledgment. All gifts to the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players will be acknowledged by thank-you letter signed by the Executive Director in a timely fashion (generally within one week of receipt). Gifts of $50 and above shall be acknowledged in the earliest concert program book subsequent to the receipt of their gift. These donors shall be acknowledged in program books and other selected methods for up to the one-year anniversary of the date on which the gift is made. Serving as tax records, thank-you letters will indicate the value of any benefits associated with a  gift that have a cash value. Donors may elect to refuse any good or service attached to a benefit level, and have their gift be 100% tax-deductible.


Privacy. Any donor may request that his/her gift remain anonymous, and this request will be honored. To protect donor privacy, no individual donor acknowledgments shall be placed on the website of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Donor information will be collected and maintained on a confidential, internal system to allow the organization to better understand donors’ interest in our mission and to update donors on our plans and activities. Only staff, SFCMP boardmembers and Fund Development Committee Members will be granted access to donor records. Gift information will never be shared with any third party. Donors may elect to opt-out of any promotional mailing lists, both print or electronic.

Gifts In-Kind. Gifts in-kind are accepted by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, provided they support our mission, are consistent with our policies, and are properly accounted for and acknowledged. Gifts in-kind include items such as services or goods that a donor voluntarily transfers to the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players without charge or consideration. Such gifts may only be accepted by the Executive Director or a member of the Board of Directors.

Matching Gifts. Matching gift amounts will accrue to the total amount of the individual’s donation. If the corporation’s policy requests or permits it, the corporation will be acknowledged through its Matching Gift Program. Corporate matching funds are fully tax-deductible and no portion of this contribution shall result in the delivery of any good or service of value.

Corporate Gifts/Sponsorships. The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players welcomes corporate contributions in support of its activities and mission. Recognition of corporate gifts will provide brand placement of  the corporation’s name, logo, and url (live link) as pertinent to the sponsorship package. This recognition will be developed in cooperation with the corporate donors and will be consistent with the level of support and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ mission and purposes. The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players will seek to develop recognition opportunities that are appropriate and meaningful for both the supporting companies and our mission. A schedule of the cash-value of benefits associated with corporate gifts shall be made available to all corporate partners. Corporations may elect to refuse any good or service attached to a benefit level, and have their gift be 100% tax-deductible.

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ intangible assets, including its name, and intellectual property, will be protected at all times. Corporate donors will not be permitted to use the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ name or other items for commercial purposes.

Donor Bill of Rights

Philanthropy is based on voluntary action for the common good. It is a tradition of giving and sharing that is primary to the quality of life. To ensure that philanthropy merits the respect and trust of the general public, and that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in the nonprofit organizations and causes they are asked to support, we declare that all donors have these rights:


I. To be informed of the organization’s mission, of the way the organization intends to use donated resources, and of its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes.

II. To be informed of the identity of those serving on the organization’s governing board, and to expect the board to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities.

III. To have access to the organization’s most recent financial statements.

IV. To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given.

V. To receive appropriate acknowledgement and recognition.

VI. To be assured that information about their donation is handled with respect and with confidentiality to the extent provided by law.

VII. To expect that all relationships with individuals representing organizations of interest to the donor will be professional in nature.

VIII. To be informed whether those seeking donations are volunteers, employees of the organization or hired solicitors.

IX. To have the opportunity for their names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may intend to share.

X. To feel free to ask questions when making a donation and to receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers.


Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier 2 copyDuring an era when most contemporary music was preoccupied with the organization of pitch, since the mid-1960s the music of Alvin Lucier (b. 1931) has pursued a decidedly separate path.  Turning his focus inward to the very nature of sound itself Lucier’s work is revolutionary for its exploration of the physicality of sound as locus for compositional thought.  Employing various technological means his works explore the interaction of sound with space, bringing together human performers with technical apparatus to reveal worlds hidden within the soundscape of everyday life.  Through inventive and imaginative use of basic studio technology Lucier’s compositions coax surprising sonic complexity from everyday situations and environments seeking sounds that “would never – in ordinary circumstances – reach our ears”.

Alvin Lucier was born in Nashua, New Hampshire and educated at Yale and Brandeis before studying with Lukas Foss and Aaron Copland at the Berkshire Music Center.  After spending two years as a Fulbright Scholar in Rome he returned to Brandeis serving on its faculty throughout the 1960s as conductor of the University Chamber Chorus and as director of its electronic music studio.  It was there that he met and formed an alliance with Robert Ashley, David Behrman and Gordon Mumma to form the Sonic Arts Union, which, inspired by the prior success of Cage and Tudor, would tour the United States and Europe premiering new works. By the early 1980s Lucier began to compose for instrumental performers and these works are equally visionary in their conception.  Some explore close tunings with pure tones to cause sound waves to “spin through space” while others employ whimsical apparatus to probe new modes of listening and dramaturgy.

James Dillon

dillonJames Dillon’s work has garnered wide acclaim since the early 1980’s for its ambitious demands, imaginative textures and thoughtful, careful craft. Championed by virtuosi and by the world’s leading orchestras and chamber ensembles, Dillon projects an unmistakable voice consistently recognized for its sophisticated blending of an impressive array of influences. He has been awarded numerous commissions, honorary posts and in 2011 became the most celebrated winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award when his monumental Nine Rivers cycle earned him his 4th RPS award for large scale work – more than any other composer in the society’s 200-year history.

It is therefore all the more remarkable that Dillon is almost entirely self-taught in composition, his only academic degree coming in the form of an honorary doctorate from the University of Huddersfield in 2003.

The triptych [from Greek tri- ‘three’ + ptychē ‘fold’] holds for me a certain fascination. Perhaps it’s the symbolism, perhaps the symmetry? I first explored the form in the early 1980s. Here I differentiate the triptych as a three-fold work from the simple tripartite design. Originally the term was used for the ‘folding’ three-leaved wax writing tablets of Ancient Rome which were written on with a stylus and thus could be erased and overwritten. Pictorially of course we associate the triptych with the great medieval and early-Renaissance (three-sectioned) altarpieces which could be displayed ‘open’ or ‘closed’. The ‘New York Triptych’ explores ideas of ‘change’ and ‘duration’ between non-musical material from the two earlier triptychs is pre-recorded and mixed together to form a new set of sonic interferents. This new reservoir of possible inscriptions, folds, erasures and overwriting are the principles of organization are contained the formal outlay of ‘three parts’ being mirrored as three triptychs. ~James Dillon

 Article from the Guardian: “A Guide to James Dillon”

Composer Resources

Resources for composers and musicians recommended by Compose Yourself educators advisory council, jury members, high school council, and the staff at SFCMP. 

Ken Ueno

 Ken Ueno, educators advisory council

New Music Box
one of the most important American concert music site, with lists of opportunities, blogs, interviews with composers, concert listings, etc.

European version of the New Music Box

blog of one of the most informed colleagues I know

Society of Composers
for academic and budding academic composers

follow me on Twitter, you’ll read my convos with composers and performers from around the world (30k+)


Nick Pavkovic, educators advisory council

Arts Journal
comprehensive arts news

Slipped Disk
Norman Lebrecht’s blog at Arts Journal

BBC4 videos
music documentaries, interviews, concerts

American Composers Forum
opportunities and resources for composers


Michael Najar, educators advisory council

online notation tool

TI:ME Technology in Music Education
Blogs and tech info

My favorite up-and-coming composers
Sydney Guillaume
Shawn Crouch
Mason Bates


Rayna Saron, high school council
create your own loops and tracks



Perfect Pitch
music meets baseball – check it out!

The Future of Classical Music
Greg Sandow’s blog at Arts Journal


The Composer’s Site
a clearing house of opportunities for composers of all ages

Frog Peak
a composers’ collective


Professional Affiliations:

ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers)

ASMAC (American Society of Musicians, Arrangers, and Composers)

Society of Composers and Lyricists








Points of Entry

That’s not jargon, it’s become a core component of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ mission. As audience members, you’re familiar with our primary point of entry to the shared adventure of new music: our concert series. This year is the most ambitious in a long time, with a grand array of music, from last month’s captivating Timber concert through to the expansive four-day Sweet Thunder Festival of Electro-Acoustic Music this coming April. Add to those Steven Schick’s first San Francisco recital in 30 years, Origins, which will be a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift to music lovers!

Alongside these offerings, our new Players Show Series, (each word links to a separate show) curated by our own ensemble members and showcasing their students, associates and protégés in the Bay Area, is enabling memorable and enthralling musical exchanges: among the musicians, and of course, to grateful audience members.

Another point-of-entry is to the community at large. Just last month we welcomed thousands of people to the massive Crissy Broadcast event. Our musicians workshopped the world premiere and led groups of community musicians (800 in all) in a large-scale public celebration of the joy of music. There’s also our new office location in San Francisco’s Mid-Market area, where we are quite literally at the crux of important cultural change and exchange in our city.

A vital point-of-entry concerns youth. We’ve been invited to launch an ambitious (inter)national competition for young composers called Compose Yourself. It will connect aspiring high school composers through the youth culture of social media and the mentorship of our ensemble members, all the while supporting core standards in music creation and appreciation (not to mention, engaging future musicians and audience members).

We’re also busy with Project Anton, an eight-week collaboration with a visual arts partner and a public school where K-8 students are exploring the music and life of none other than Anton Webern, and co-creating visual responses to his work. These will be incorporated into our March concert, at which a work by Stanford composer Jaroslaw Kapuscinski will receive its World Premiere.

Quite a demonstration of inter-connectedness, wouldn’t you say? The many points of entry we seek to foster into contemporary music all reflect back to our core purpose: to nourish the creation and dissemination of new music through high-quality musical performances, commissions of new works, and education and outreach programs. We hope you share our enthusiasm about what SFCMP is doing, and that you’ll affirm your commitment our work by making a generous year-end contribution. Together, we can expand the points-of-entry to great music to more and more willing ears.

Thank you as always for your interest and support.


Donald Blais, Board President
Steven Schick, Artistic Director
Rozella Kennedy, Executive Director

Project Anton School Residency

Project Anton: When the Old Meets the New 

See the slideshow of the children’s artwork here (n.b. this is not a recording of the SFCMP concert)

anton chalkboard

Click here to see more photographs  (All photos courtesy of ArtSeed)

Visit Art Seed’s website to see lesson plans and other documents.

Grounded in our belief that contemporary music has the potential to engage even community members who have no closeness to classical music per se, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP) deploys an inclusive overall strategy to engage collaborative projects that are engaging, welcoming, valued, and above all, authentic. A recent example of this was our very-successful October 2012 John Cage Musicircus, realized in partnership with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. We welcomed over 900 people to the event, and began a deeper engagement with our community. In October, 2013, we served as the lead professional ensemble for the massive Crissy Broadcast, which attracted thousands of individuals for a world premiere of a site-specific work by composer Lisa Bielawa.

The success of these large-scale outreach events informs our plan forward for Project Anton.

As part of our March, 2014 concert, Project Anton uses the past as a touchpoint for defining the present. It centers around a new multimedia work by Bay Area composer Jaroslaw Kapuscinski: Pointing Twice. This new piece, for gramophone soloist, nine musicians, video/computer operator and conductor is itself being commissioned as a response to Anton Webern’s Concerto for Nine Instruments, Op. 24, also on the concert.

rozie and anton

The line of inquiry that interests us in working with young artists mimics the inquiry of the composer. Jarek wants to listen to Webern’s iconic work and interpret a response to it at the compositional level. We seek to construct a parallel creative process with Bay Area youth groups to consider and co-create their own responses to the Webern work. We welcome the “clash of cultures” that can emerge when “non-initiates” to twelve-tone music are invited to respond to it. To put it bluntly, we will begin from a frame of “what does this dead, white, male, European composer possibly have to say to interest me, 21st century urban kid?”

It is our hope that through a process of introduction, immersion, and co-creation, new stylistic dialogue can exist that goes beyond anything Anton Webern could have possibly imagined — but that also brings benefit, enjoyment, and esthetic questioning (and answering) to our young artist collaborators.

Screen shot 2013-10-31 at 6.26.24 PM

Why is SFCMP Interested in this process?

One of our core beliefs at SFCMP is that contemporary music has the potential to engage many members of our community, even if they don’t have a stated affinity for classical music. It is to our advantage that the public at-large has many emotive and indirect aesthetic/”crossover” connections to new music (through jazz, pop, world, and other music forms, as well as interdisciplinary and visual arts), even if they do not necessarily have experiential ones. It’s our aim to leverage this “esthetic upside” and forge a place at the community table for new music.

We also consider it to our advantage that new music has more “crossover appeal” in many instances – thanks to electronic music, tribal/ethnic polyrhythms, trance music, tape loops and other techniques that pop and underground culture have adopted from 20th century maverick composers. Some audiences will never feel comfortable in a strict concert hall experience, and they shouldn’t be made to feel they have to. Our interest is in meeting audiences “where they live” through our field of new music, and seeing what interesting results these encounters can lead to. That’s the beauty and power of art in our landscape today.

rozie and josefa

In working with our wonderful and experienced partners at ArtSeed, we seek to engage youth who have no a priori connection to Webern’s classical tradition (twelve-tone/atonal music). Often considered a “difficult” genre within 20th century classical music forms, dodecaphonic music (to use the precise term) actually holds interesting promise and relevance in our age, where dissonance, ”noise rock,” rap, electronica, and other popular styles make up an important part of the youth landscape.

Here’s how our Artistic Director Steven Schick frames the line of inquiry:

Anton Webern lived in an impossibly complicated world. His country in Europe had been in the middle of not just one, but two world wars. Towards the end of life, everywhere he looked there was rubble, destruction, enormous poverty, and chaos. How does an artist deal with a world that is spinning out of control? How do you raise your voice above the noise?  Do those sound like questions we could ask ourselves today? yes, perhaps there are more than a few similarities to early 21st America — the chaos, the competition for space, wars and other social problems. How would you make yourself be heard?

Webern did two things as a composer to make himself be heard: the first is that he didn’t try to drown out the noise by making music that was extremely loud or aggressive. Instead he responded by creating quite soft and gentle music, usually in very short pieces for pretty sweet sounding instruments. Maybe he was saying that when you can’t scream louder than everyone else, you can make yourself heard by whispering.   

The second is that he created hyper-organiz​ed music. He used several systems organize and structure his music but the most famous one was called “12 tone music.” It’s really pretty simple. You write a sequence of twelve different notes — all the notes of the chromatic scale — and number them 1 through 12. Then you use them in order. You can also reverse the order or play other mathematical gam​e​s with the ordering of the notes. And it does really seem like a game. At the end though everything in a piece is related to the original order of the notes. That mean that there is a sense of belonging among the notes — a sure knowledge of what should go where.

Does that sound overly calculating? Maybe it does. But imagine living in a world where nothing made sense, where random violence and chaos waited around every corner.  Webern made music — and saved his sanity — by making extremely orderly music. However loud and crazy it was in the world, he could find peace an a beautifully and elegantly ordered inner world.

Did the kids ever enjoy making up their own games with Steven Schick and our Program Director Mason Dille!! One of those went something like this: “Imagine having a conversation using only three words at a time.” Such is the spirit of Webern’s compositions, put into a context that young people can not only understand, but enjoy — and perhaps even teach others about?!


anton artwork

In the workshops, the students are guided by the two organizations’ collaborative creative team through an inquiry-based creative process that will be fueled by their exposure to: 1) the original Webern Concerto, 2) detailed visual arts-based workshops with ArtSeed and SFCMP staff, 3) exposure to the performing artists’ creative process (“building a concert” via rehearsals), 4) ongoing contact with SFCMP staff in a teaching role; and importantly 5) the students’ own artistic inquiry and reaction.

ArtSeed is developing and delivering a series of 10 school-based workshops at the SF Public Montessori School in fall, 2013 around the life and work of composer Anton Webern. Students will be led through an introduction to Webern’s work and aesthetic, and will be led by ArtSeed instructors in creating visual art works in “response” to the work and musical movement.

Our project will culminate in two public performances of Pointing Twice on March 24, 2013, with the World Premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum in San Francisco preceded by a “Contemporary Insights” educational performance for the public the day before. The artwork by the young artists will be scanned by ArtSeed staff and integrated into the evening through projection. Physical exhibitions of the children’s artwork are being explored. Participating students and their parents will be invited to dress rehearsals and the concert evening.

anton artEvaluative measurements exist across three outcome areas: 1) artistic quality and impact; 2) audience experience and institutional value; and 3) broad community awareness, appreciation, and learning in the arts (i.e. “new audiences” and educational outreach).

Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts


Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon New York City June 2003

Over the past 25 years, Michael Gordon has produced a strikingly diverse body of work, ranging from large-scale pieces for high-energy ensembles to major orchestral commissions to works conceived specifically for the recording studio. Transcending categorization, this music represents the collision of mysterious introspection and brutal directness.

Gordon’s music merges subtle rhythmic invention with incredible power embodying, in the words of  The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, “the fury of punk rock, the nervous brilliance of free jazz and the intransigence of classical modernism.” Deeply passionate about the sonic potential of the traditional orchestra, Gordon’s orchestral works include Rewriting Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, a radical reworking of the original, commissioned by the 2006 Beethoven Festival in Bonn and premiered by Jonathon Nott and the Bamberger Symphony; and Sunshine of your Love, written for over 100 instruments divided into four microtonally tuned groups. Under the baton of composer/conductor John Adams, The Ensemble Modern Orchestra toured Sunshine of your Love to seven European capitals in 1999. Gordon’s string orchestra piece Weather was commissioned by the Siemens Foundation Kultur Program, and after its tour was recorded and released on Nonesuch to great critical and popular success. His interest in exploring various sound textures has led him to create chamber works that distort traditional classical instruments with electronic effects and guitar pedals, including Potassium for the Kronos Quartet and Industry for cellist Maya Beiser. Also for Kronos, The Sad Park, written in 2006, uses the voices of child witnesses to September 11th as its subject. Gordon’s monumental, 52-minute Trance, originally written for the UK-based group Icebreaker, was debuted in 1997 and recently performed twice in New York City by the ensemble Signal.

About Timber

Anton Webern

webern2Anton Webern (1883-1945) was an Austrian composer, renowned conductor and devoted early pupil of Arnold Schoenberg. A trusted member of Schoenberg’s inner circle, Webern is widely recognized as one of the first champions of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone compositional technique. His works, while characteristically brief in duration, display an exquisite, meticulous construction balancing expressive demands and emotive energies against the binding constraints of their organizing system.

Born in Vienna, the son of a prominent Austrian government official, Webern was sired into minor nobility, moving between provincial capitals in Graz, Klagenfurt and Vienna. He received his first musical training from his mother who was an amateur pianist, and in his formative years, he studied piano and cello privately and at the Klagenfurt Bundesgymnasium. Enamored of Wagner, on graduating from the Bundesgymnasium in Spring 1902 he was rewarded by his father with a trip to Bayreuth to see Parsifal and Der fliegende Holländer. In 1904 he entered private composition lessons with Schoenberg in Vienna, thus beginning an allegiance that would last the remainder of his life. Though leaving his formal apprenticeship with Schoenberg in 1908, the two would remain extraordinarily close through political tumult of the ensuing decades.

Since 1913 with his Op. 9, Sechs Bagatellen for string quartet, Webern’s compositions had explored approaches to exhausting the twelve tones of the chromatic scale, but working with Schoenberg a more rigorous and complete approach to atonal construction began to coalesce into a formalized system. But whereas Schoenberg’s music deployed these structures with much bombast and privilege to dissonance, Webern’s compositions probe a decidedly divergent aesthetic, adopting a spare, pointillist approach while emphasizing sensitivity to timbre in their orchestration. By 1927 Webern’s mastery of the twelve-tone technique was evident in his Op. 20 String Trio in which he expertly weaves a conversational tapestry full of violent outbursts and points of dissonant stasis, seeded throughout with echoes of waltz rhythms. The following year brought Op. 21 Symphonie (1928) which lyrically hearkens back to Schoenberg’s Five Orchestral Pieces (1909) in its klangfarbenmelodie. Yet despite the music’s systematic construction, these pieces transcend structuralism, the systematic determination of pitch freeing the composer’s attention to focus more acutely on the discursive elements of the work.

Jaroslaw Kapuscinski

jarek2Jaroslaw Kapuscinski is an inter-media composer and pianist whose work has been presented at New York’s MOMA, Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe, Museum of Modern Art Palais de Tokyo in Paris, National Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and many other venues. He has received numerous awards, among others, at the UNESCO Film sur l’Art Festival in Paris in 1992, VideoArt Festival in Locarno in 1992 and 1993, Manifestation Internationale Vidéo et Art Éléctronique in Montréal in 1993 and International Festival of New Cinema and New Media in Montréal in 2000.

Kapuscinski’s primary interest is creation and performance of works in which musical instruments are used to control multimedia content. He was first trained as a classical pianist and composer at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and expanded into multimedia at a residency at Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada (1988) and during doctoral studies at the University of California, San Diego (1992-1997).  As of 2008 he is Assistant Professor of Composition and Director of Inter-media Performance Lab at Stanford University. He has taught at McGill University in Montreal, Royal Academy of Arts and Music in the Hague, Art Conservatory and Music Academy in Odense, Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific and lectured internationally. He has published among else “Composing with Sounds and Images”, an article outlining his inter-media theory.

Music for Gramophone, Dancer, Conductor and 9 Musicians from Webern’s Concerto op.24 
The inspiration for the work is Anton Webern’s aphoristic Concerto for Nine Instruments (1936). This seminal work like all of his music is formed out of brief, jewel-like moments that deserve more time spent in their contemplation than a regular performance allows. Steve Schick and I decided to have an event in which the Webern piece will be performed twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the concert, while I will compose a work in two parts – the first will be played after the opening performance of Webern, the second part before the closing performance. Together with choreographer Young Doo Jung and sound sculptor John Granzow we intend to create a personal, contemporary and intercultural re-reading of the Webern: providing a postscript and prelude, a new lense and a new intermedia ground for Music at its purest.

Georg Freidrich Haas

G.F. Haas 1 copyOver the past decade, composer Georg Friedrich Haas has risen to prominence on the European continent “as a highly sensitive and imaginative researcher into the inner world of sound.” (Universal Edition) Sometimes favorably compared with influential antecedents such as György Ligeti or Gerard Grisey for his embrace of microtonality, micropolyphony and techniques associated with the French Spectralist School, Hass delivers music equally influenced by multiple streams of the American avant garde with hints of the masters of the common practice era. While it is true that Haas’ work exhibits a strong affinity towards spectral construction – its tones marking out the naturally occurring harmonic series in the orbit of a strongly asserted or implied fundamental pitch – this construction only provides the framework for a larger musical discourse thrust forth through every means at Haas’ command. In response to stylistic categorizations however, Haas observes, “I am not really comfortable with being pigeonholed … I am a composer, free to use the means needed for my music.”

 Born in Graz, Austria in 1953 Haas was raised in the mountainous province of Vorarlberg near the Swiss border in an existence somewhat removed from the cultural progress of the outside world. As he notes in an interview with Bálint András Varga, in the cultural isolation of his upbringing his only contact with music came in the form of his parents’ record collection of early Romantic composers. Awareness of contemporary music would only come in his young adulthood. He recalls first hearing the music of John Cage as a young man via radio in the overnight hours of his compulsory Austrian military service. Then, returning to Graz in 1972 for musical studies in composition, piano and pedagogy at the Graz Musikhochschule one of his teachers, Gerold Amann, revealed to Haas newly premiered works of Ligeti, Berio and Penderecki.

In 2007, nominated by his former teacher Friedrich Cerha, Haas was awarded the Großer Österreichischer Staatspreis (Grand Austrian State Prize) of the Republic of Austria and this honor has been followed by the SWR Symphony Orchestra Composition Prize in 2010, the Music Award of the City of Vienna in 2012 and the Music Award Salzburg in 2013. Since 2005 Haas has lived and worked in Basel, Switzerland where he teaches composition at the Hochschule für Musik, Musik-Akademie der Stadt, Basel.  He continues to enjoy regular performances and premieres with the many of the great ensembles on the European continent and his influence continues to expand on the international stage.

Elena Langer

Elena Langer 1 copyForged in Moscow and refined in London, composer Elena Langer’s music intermingles a contemporary practice with a rich tradition drawn from her Russian upbringing. The product of an imaginative and fearless exploration of thoughtfully conceived sonic landscape, Langer’s work traverses between tumult and the sublime. Her facility with figuration animates the texture of her music with the characteristic rhythms of her Russian homeland, complemented by a musical grammar drawing on the color and bombast inherited from the experimentations of the post-modern era. At times, her music is patient, playing in a sonic-space between well defined and complimentary emotive poles, and at other times, it represents an unabashed, raw emotional energy. Langer’s work evokes an exquisite, sacred stillness struggling to predominate against a discordant and cacophonous present. One could say Langer’s music is a study and reflection of our modern world.

Elena Langer was born in Moscow, coming of age during the decline of the Soviet era. Enrolling at Gnessin Music College, she studied musicology and piano before entering the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory where she pursued composition with Yuri Vorontsov. In 1999 she moved to London, entering graduate studies at the Royal College of Music under the tutelage of composer Julian Anderson. She followed these studies with a doctorate prepared at the Royal Academy of Music under composer Simon Bainbridge. In 2002-03 Langer became the first Jerwood composer-in-residence at Almeida Theatre, London, during which time she composed two short operas, Ariadne (2002) and Girl of Sand (2003), both based on librettos by the poet Glyn Maxwell. Ariadne went on to further performances at Tanglewood Music Center as well as the Britten and Strauss Festival in Aldeburgh, where the opera won the Priaulx Rainier Prize in 2003.

audio samples:

Compose Yourself 2014 Guidelines

NEW Compose Yourself logo 4c

SFCMP Young Composer Competition – Official Guidelines

Compose Yourself is a brand new competition for school-age composers with a special twist. In this competition, all works will first be reviewed by a professional jury of established composers, and the works of six finalists will be voted on online by high school students!  The contest is open to all high school-age composers and voters, regardless of where you live — a truly global voice of young composers and their teen audiences! Click here to apply!

Who May Enter: Any individual at the pre-college/university level currently enrolled in a public or private high school or in a high school-level homeschool program is invited to apply (In the US, this generally encompasses ages 14-18). All nationalities are welcome. Compositions must be by a single composer; works by composer collectives are not permitted.

Awards: Six finalists will be chosen by the jury; of these, the first-, second- and third-place winners will be determined by an online, public vote. All six finalists will receive a recorded CD of their work.

First Place is a cash award** of $1,000 (USD) and a professionally executed composer video profile.
Second Place is a $750 (USD) cash award.
Third Place is $500 (USD) cash award.

All Awards will be presented at the Awards Ceremony/Concert on April, 27, 2014 in San Francisco. We are very sorry that due to changes in the program and the overwhelming response from out of town and abroad, we can only provide travel accommodation for the top -three awardees and up to two additional family members will be provided.

How to Enter: All entries must be submitted electronically using the online form provided by the contest and must be received by midnight Pacific Standard Time, January 22, 2014. A complete submission must contain: 1) application information 2) composer statement (see below) and  3) score in .pdf format.

Instrumentation: The entry must be an original composition for instrumentation of your choice or chorus for 3-10 musicians or voices. Choral works may be written for SSAATTBB*. A notated score is required for all compositions. Finalists will be required to supply high quality, engraved parts.

Composition Length: 5-8 minutes

Personal Statement: Each entry must be accompanied by a personal statement (maximum 500 words) that addresses at least TWO of the following:

  • – The composer’s past music experience
  • – How the composer got inspired and interested in music composition
  • – What the composer hopes to achieve in the future as a composer – how s/he hopes to inspire or engage other young listeners

Parental Approval: The submission form requires parental approval for students less than 18 years of age.

Rights: All score manuscripts and recordings remain the property of the composers who are encouraged to copyright them before submission. By submitting an entry to Compose Yourself, finalists (or their parent/guardian if under age 18) will be required to sign an Acceptance Form stating agreement to waive performance rights of the work to SFCMP San Francisco Contemporary Music Players for the purposes of a one-time recording of the work, for online presentation of the recording (for voting and educational purposes), for performance of the work at the Young Composers Awards Ceremony, and for the limited purpose of using a (30 to 60 second) segment of the winning entry to promote future Compose Yourself competitions. This recording is explicitly for educational and not for commercial purposes.

Number of entries: One submission per composer.

Criteria for Judging Works: While there are no requirements concerning musical genre, the jury will be particularly focused on the work’s ability to engage and inspire the listener. The jury will evaluate works based on creativity as well as technical skill (harmony, melody, orchestration, and form).

Selection Process: All submissions will receive electronic acknowledgment of receipt by SFCMP. A Jury comprised of professional composers and a high school student panel will select six finalists. The six finalist works will be recorded by SFCMP musicians. These recordings will be available online for public, web-based voting that will determine the First-, Second-, and Third-place winners.

Finalists: The six finalists will be selected by the Jury on Saturday, February 1, 2014. Finalists will be contacted and the finalist list announced on Monday, February 3, 2014. All six finalist works will be recorded by the SFCMP musicians during early February, 2014 and will be online for popular vote starting Monday, February 24, 2014 through midnight PST on Monday, March 10, 2014.

Popular Vote: Voting is open to any high school student or individual who registers on the site. Repeat voting is not allowed. All individuals participating in the vote will be required to provide a valid email address for the purpose of verifying unique-voter status. No email addresses will be retained for any marketing purposes and at the close of the voting period, all email address records will be securely destroyed. Voting closes at Midnight, Pacific Standard Time on March 10, 2014.

Awards Announcement: The six finalists will be notified of the popular voting results by March 15, 2014.

Awards Event: The three top finalists will be invited to the awards ceremony and concert on April 27, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Finalists who do not live in the San Francisco Bay Area will receive airfare and hotel accommodation for themselves and up to two family members for two (or three, if coming from abroad) nights in the San Francisco Bay Area with a departure of April 27.

Compose Yourself is an educational and outreach project of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, a 501 (c) 3 organization located in San Francisco, California. 

*For vocal compositions setting text, contestant must provide evidence that the text is either in the public domain or was used with written permission from the author or the author’s estate. The same requirements apply to translations

**Federal US Law requires that any gift received over the amount of $600 must require the recipient provide a US Tax 1099 form. Any winning composer under the age of 18 on April 27, 2014 must have the form filled out by his/her parent or legal guardian, who will be responsible for any US tax obligation.

Click here to apply!

Questions? Email us.

Brian Ferneyhough

Brian Ferneyhough 2 copyPerhaps one of the most daring, controversial and influential composers of our time, Brian Ferneyhough has left his mark on generations of musicians as a figure who has raised the stakes of musical performance into new realms of sonic complexity and musical thought. His music places extreme demands on performers and audiences alike, posing formidable technical challenges and probing the very essence of musical performance, examining the relationship between performer, instrument and audience. Notationally complex and peppered with apparent contradictions, his scores incorporate a level of detailed information far in excess of nearly any other musical tradition. Yet just the other side of these difficulties lies a rich musical world transcending the sonic sphere, illuminating a space in which the corporeal experience of music making is laid bare by those performers and audiences willing to take on the challenge.

Born in Coventry, England in 1943, Ferneyhough received formal musical training at Birmingham School of Music (1961-63) and later at the Royal Acadamy of Music, London (1966-67), where he studied briefly with Lennox Berkeley. During the late sixties and early seventies his work began to attract attention. Ferneyhough’s 1967 Sonatas for string quartet, a monumental 42-minute exploration of post-Webernian soundscape in 20 highly compressed miniatures, won third prize at the 1968 Gaudeamus Music Week and marks the origin of an aesthetic trajectory continuing through his entire career.

Over the past four decades Ferneyhough’s work has featured prominently on contemporary programs and festivals the world over. In addition to his compositional activities, Ferneyhough has served as a professor of composition since the early 1970s. He has held teaching posts at Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, Germany (1973-1986), University of California, San Diego (1987-1999) and since 2000 has served as the William H. Bonsall Professor in Music at Stanford University. He is closely associated with the biennial Darmstadt Summer Courses, where he has been a regular lecturer since 1976 and counts a generation of prominent composers among his pupils.

Subscriptions FAQ

Subscription FAQ
1) What the benefits of purchasing a SFCMP Season Subscription?
– Deeply discounted ticket prices
– Preferred seating (subscribers’ seating area)
– First news about special events and offers
– Peace of mind & lack of hassle

2)  I don’t want to purchase online. Can I just order by mail? 

If you prefer to purchase tickets by mail, please send a check for $250 for each Nine-Pack or $170 for each Six-Pack to: SFCMP, 55 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. Mail orders include a nominal surcharge to cover handling fees.

3) I only want to purchase a Six-Pack. How can I indicate which concerts I want to attend?

– We will contact you directly after your online purchase to confirm which concerts you wish to attend.

4) I am not happy with paperless ticketing. Can’t you just mail me my tickets?

– Yes we can mail printed tickets to any subscriber who prefers this option. Select “will call” during the checkout process, and we’ll contact you after your purchase to inquire if you would like printed tickets.

5) When will my printed tickets arrive?

We will mail tickets within four business days of receiving your order. Subscriptions purchased less than a week before the concert will be held at the door.

6) When do single tickets go on sale?

They are on sale now! You can choose to have your tickets sent to you or paperless ticketing. Do note that if you purchase a single ticket less than a week before the concert, Brown Paper Tickets will not be able to ensure your mailed ticket will be received in time, so opt for paperless ticketing in that case.

7) What about the Steven Schick “Origins” concert? Why can’t I buy that online as part of my subscription? 

– This is a special concert event and not part of our “subscription series.” All ticketing for that event is through JCCSF: Tickets are $30, $40 and VIP reception tickets are $100.

8) I want to add a contribution to SFCMP when I place my order. How can I do that?
– Thank you! There’s a box right on the order page where you can add a charitable donation.

Quick Links:

Six-Pack – $160 (online)

Three-Pack – $80 (online)

Single tickets – $30/ $12 for students (online)

Luciano Chessa

lucianoLuciano Chessa is among the most interesting and inventive minds currently working in the Bay Area. Active as a composer, performer, conductor and musicologist, Chessa’s work draws heavy influence from experimentation, blending unorthodox ideas with classical form. Imaginative in its embrace of the avant-garde, Chessa’s music quickly reveals the promise of the timbral and conceptual possibilities afforded by his innovative approach. Chessa’s music has featured prominently on programs across Europe, Australia and the United States. Recent premieres include Come un’infanzia, for guitar and string quartet (2011) premiered by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and A Heavenly Act (2011), an opera on libretto by Gertrude Stein commissioned by SFMOMA to compliment Virgil Thompson’s 1934 opera Four Saints in Three Acts. The work premiered on August 19, 2011, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, in a staged production by the Ensemble Parallèle, conducted by Nicole Paiement and featuring video by Kalup Linzy.

 Luciano Chessa attended the Conservatory of Bologna where he earned a DMA in piano and an MA in music composition. Arriving in California in 1998 Chessa continued his studies in musicology at the University of California, Davis where he earned his Ph.D. in 2004. He has lectured at St. John’s College of Oxford, UK, Columbia University, Harvard University, Sydney’s and Melbourne’s Conservatories and Universities, the Conservatory of Music in Bologna, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, and EMPAC in the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He currently serves on the composition faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.


September Radio Update

Curious about some of this season’s composers and artists? Visit Radio SFCMP to explore their work!

Sweet Thunder: SFCMP Festival of Electro-Acoustic Music


April 24-27, 2014 – The four-day event you’ve been waiting for!
SFCMP brings some of the nation’s leading interpreters of contemporary music to San Francisco. Alongside SFCMP, the Bay Area’s “premier new music ensemble,” guests include: 

Watch this great video where Steve Schick everything that is going on at Sweet Thunder! Outstanding!

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)
New York’s JACK Quartet
San Diego-based red fish blue fish
Distinguished composer Morton Subotnick
And heroes and heroines of the Bay Area taped music and electro-acoustic scene
Plus Free Installations & Events – Viva Voce, the Sweet Thunder Listening Room, and Compose Yourself Awards Ceremony!

Fort Mason Center, San Francisco – Supported in part with major funding from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University –  Steven Schick and Rand Steiger, Co-Curators 

“An enticing-looking four-day extravaganza of modern and new music, ranging from established masters to up-and-coming composers.” – SF Chronicle, Classical Music Highlights of 2014


Full Festival Pass: $100 ($40 student rate, with I.D.) Enjoy all six concerts, and hang around the Fort Mason grounds to visit Viva Voce, the Sweet Thunder Listening Room, and partake of this recent gorgeous spring weather at one of San Francisco’s most beautiful venues! Click on the image to the right to get your pass! 

Single Tickets: Click on the concert below to purchase a single ticket. All seats $20 / Student rate: $10.Online ticket sales for concerts close at 5pm the day of (the day before for matinees). Walk-up Tickets are always available for any concert. Seating is open for all events.

JACK Quartet ICE
Morton Subotnick Solos
SFCMP + Friends red fish blue fish

COMPANION TICKETS available for any ticket purchaser – for $5 you can purchase an additional ticket and share the music you like with a friend. This offer only available for walk-up sales and one companion ticket per ticket holder per concert. 

Ongoing Free Installations

Katharina Rosenberger’s Viva Voce (2012), an interactive work for electronics and tablet; and an installation. Heiko Kalmbach Artistic Co-Direction. Firehouse, FMC. Sponsored by swissnex, the Swiss Arts Council/Pro-Helvetia Fund and the Swiss Consulate General in San Francisco

“Sweet Thunder Listening Room,” featuring classic works of tape and pre-composed computer music curated by Tom Erbe. Fleet Room – click here for the concert schedule!


claire6:00 pm – Festival Kick-Off/Reception. For patrons and subscribers, this special concert opens the Festival with Steve Reich’s exquisite Vermont Counterpoint for flute and playback, performed by ICE’s Claire Chase;  and a work by Bay Area composer Ed Campion, Corail (2013), for saxophone and interactive software. FMC Festival Pavilion.

JACK7:30 pm – JACK Quartet – SFCMP’s Sweet Thunder Festival opens with a concert by special guests JACK Quartet. Works will include Turgut Ercetin’s String Quartet No. 1;  Palimpsest , a new work by Kevin Ernste, the West Coast premiere of Natacha Diels’ Nightmare for JACK, and in a tribute to the late Jonathan Harvey, a performance of his String Quartet No. 4. FMC Festival Pavilion.

FRIDAY April 25

ICE7:30 pm – International Contemporary Ensemble –  The riotously acclaimed ICE performs a concert of mostly new and significant older works. The latter include two pieces by improv/jazz/experimental icon George Lewis: Shadowgraph, 5  from 1977, and Artificial Life 2007, from 2007; two new works by Rand Steiger, Mourning Fog and Cyclone; Nathan Davis’ 2013 piece, Ghostlight; a World Premiere of In The Light Of Air by composer Anna Thorsvaldsdottir; a 2013 work by Maria Stankova entitled La Bouche.  Lewis, Steiger, Stankova, Thorvaldsdottir, and Davis will be present.

Mort10:00 pm – Morton Subotnick – our special guest, the pioneering electronic composer Morton Subotnick, will perform his seminal work From Silver Apples of the Moon to a Sky of Cloudless Sulphur IV: Lucy in a special concert. His Silver Apples of the Moon (1967), recently entered in the Library of Congress National Recording registry, has inspired a generation of young electronica musicians. Do not miss this very special event with the “Grandfather of EDM.” FMC Pavilion. (N.B.: The Afterparty has been cancelled)


Solos2:00 pm – Solos –  The solo electro-acoustic repertoire is the focus of this concert featuring works by Ken Ueno (Talus, 2007) performed by guest violist Wendy Richman; Rand Steiger’s 2013 work Concatenation, featuring guest bassoonist Rebekah Heller; a 2011 clarinet piece written and performed by Matt Ingalls: CrusT; Javier Alvarez’s 2001 Shekere, with SFCMP’s Daniel Kennedy on solo percussion, and Roger Reynolds’s 1985 composition Transfigured Wind for solo flute.  Festival Pavilion.

SFCMP+Friends7:30 pm – San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (and Friends) – Saturday April 26. SFCMP is joined by guest performers in a journey through the history of electro-acoustic music, with epic works by Edgard Varèse (Poème Electronique, 1958; and Déserts, from 1954), as well as Mario Davidovsky’s 1992 Synchronisms No.10 for solo guitar performed by David Tanenbaum; Kaija Saariaho’s 1986 work Io, partnered with a new commissioned work from composer Ashley Fure (Albatross), and a special performance by SFCMP Artistic Director Steven Schick with Bay Area favorite Pamela Z in a new work, (v)erstählen. FMC Festival Pavilion. Concert sponsored by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation.

SUNDAY April 27

SFCMP_compose_yourself_logo_4c12:30 pm – Compose Yourself – The Awards Concert of SFCMP’s international high school composer competition will celebrate the next generation of composers with a performance of the finalist works by SFCMP ensemble members along with an awards ceremony. FMC Festival Pavilion; free.

red fish2:00 pm – red fish blue fish/George Lewis/Jaime Oliver – Sunday April 27. Sweet Thunder ends with a concert for the ages, with works ranging from Karlheinz Stockhausen’s 1964 Mikrophonie I, to a new composition by Jamie Oliver. Also on the program, Luigi Nono’s rarely performed 1979 work Con Luigi Dallapiccola, and a new iteration of George Lewis’ 1987 Voyager, featuring SFCMP’s Kyle Bruckmann and pianist Dana Reason. FMC Festival Pavilion.


Thanks to our Sponsors!

 Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University

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Sweet Thunder Festival Corporate Sponsorships

Exciting Music. World-Class Artists
A Five-Decade Marriage of Music and Machines
Sweet Thunder – SFCMP’s 2014 Festival of Electro-Acoustic Music
Make a thunderous impact as a Festival Corporate Sponsor

Click here for program details.

To close our 2013-14 season, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players presents a special music festival of national significance: Sweet Thunder: SFCMP Festival of Electro-Acoustic Music, held April 24-27, 2014 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

Festival-goers will enjoy a sonic journey, with iconic works of the past 50 years alongside vital new pieces by important emerging and established composers of contemporary electro-acoustic music. Alongside SFCMP, the Bay Area’s “premier new music ensemble,” Sweet Thunder welcomes some of the nation’s leading interpreters of contemporary music to San Francisco for world premieres, improv sessions, solos, large ensemble works, video installations and more — casting  a spotlight on the exciting continuum of electro-acoustic music from the mid-20th century to the immediacy of now.

Sweet Thunder reaffirms San Francisco’s incontestable status as a cultural nexus for new music and sonic adventurism. Thematically strong, nationally impactful, this will be a major cultural event on the Spring 2014 calendar, attracting local audiences and tourists alike.

By partnering with us, your company will receive exceptional brand exposure among a diverse and desirable audience niche: culturally curious, creative and adventuresome, and innovation-minded. Exactly the kind of people you want to reach in ways that will excite and impress.

Don’t miss out on this exciting and affordable marketing opportunity! Click here for more information about the events.

Three sponsorship levels remain for Sweet Thunder

Sponsorship Levels

Festival Sponsor – $1000 – 

  • Logo placement in program, on all event signage and print advertising, as well as clickable logo on SFCMP website and in biweekly e-newsletter (Feb-May 2014)
  • Two tickets to VIP Launch Event
  • 2 Full Festival passes (value $300)
  • Quarter-page program ad (b/w) in Festival Program a
  • 2 dance party passes (value $24)

Six sponsorship packages available at this level 

Event Underwriter – $2500 – Festival Sponsor benefits, except:

  • Half-page program ad in Festival Program
  • Four tickets to VIP Launch Event
  • 4 Full Festival VIP passes (value $792)
  • 6 dance party passes (value $72)

Four sponsorship packages available at this level 

Listening Room Producer – $5,000 –  benefits as above plus:

  • Your name as sponsor of one of the free public events or spaces:
    “Sweet Thunder Listening Room”n – reach will range from 1,000-5,000 people
  • Opportunity for brand placement (collateral) handed out in association with your event


Sweet Thunder: red fish blue fish

red fishSunday, April 27, 2014
2:00 p.m. at Fort Mason Center

Sweet Thunder ends with a concert that includes Karlheinz Stockhausen’s 1964 composition Mikrophonie I, to a new work by Jamie Oliver. Also on the program, Luigi Nono’s 1979 work Con Luigi Dallapiccola, and a new iteration of George Lewis’ 1987 work Voyager, featuring SFCMP’s Kyle Bruckmann and other SFCMP improvisers.

Sweet Thunder: SFCMP Festival of Electroacoustic Music is supported in part with major funding from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.

Sweet Thunder: SFCMP & Friends

SFCMP+FriendsSaturday, April 26, 2014
7:30 p.m. at Fort Mason Center

SFCMP is joined by guest performers in a journey through the history of electro-acoustic music, with works by Edgard Varèse (Poème Electronique, 1958; and Déserts, from 1954), as well as Mario Davidovsky’s 1992 Synchronisms No.10 for solo guitar performed by David Tanenbaum; Kaija Saariaho’s 1986 work Io, partnered with a new commissioned work from composer Ashley Fure (Albatross), and a special performance by SFCMP Artistic Director Steven Schick with Bay Area favorite Pamela Z in a new work, (v)erstählen.

Sweet Thunder: SFCMP Festival of Electroacoustic Music is supported in part with major funding from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.

Sweet Thunder: Solos

SolosSaturday, April 26, 2014
2:00 p.m. at Fort Mason Center

Solo works by important composers of the electro-acoustic tradition, including Rand Steiger’s Concatenation performed by ICE bassoonist Rebekah HellerKen Ueno’s Talus (2007) performed by guest violist Wendy Richman; a 2011 work for clarinet by Matt Ingalls entitled CrusT, performed by the composer; Javier Alvarez’s 2001 Shekere performed by SFCMP percussionist Daniel Kennedy; and Roger Reynolds’s 1985 composition Transfigured Wind performed by flutist Stacey Pelinka.

Sweet Thunder: SFCMP Festival of Electroacoustic Music is supported in part with major funding from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.

Sweet Thunder: Morton Subotnick

MortFriday April 25, 2014
10:00 p.m. at Fort Mason Center

Morton Subotnick – our special guest, the pioneering electronic composer Morton Subotnick, will perform his seminal work From Silver Apples of the Moon to a Sky of Cloudless Sulphur IV: Lucy in a special concert. His Silver Apples of the Moon (1967), recently entered in the Library of Congress National Recording registry, has inspired a generation of young electronica musicians. Do not miss this very special event with the “Grandfather of EDM.” FMC Pavilion.

Sweet Thunder: SFCMP Festival of Electroacoustic Music is supported in part with major funding from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.

Sweet Thunder: ICE


 Friday, April 25, 2014

7:30 p.m. at Fort Mason Center

The riotously acclaimed ICE performs a concert of mostly new and significant older works. The latter include two pieces by improv/jazz/experimental icon George Lewis: Shadowgraph, 5 from 1977, and Artificial Life 2007, from 2007; two new works by Rand Steiger, Mourning Fog and Cyclone; Nathan Davis’ 2013 piece, Ghostlight; a World Premiere of In The Light Of Air by composer Anna Thorsvaldsdottir; a 2013 work by Maria Stankova entitled La Bouche. Lewis, Steiger, Stankova, Thorvaldsdottir, and Davis will be present.

Sweet Thunder: SFCMP Festival of Electroacoustic Music is supported in part with major funding from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.

Sweet Thunder: JACK Quartet

Thursday, April 24, 2014
7:30 p.m. at Fort Mason Center









SFCMP’s Sweet Thunder Festival opens with a concert by special guests JACK Quartet. Works will include Turgut Ercetin‘s String Quartet No. 1, a new work by Kevin Ernste, the West Coast premiere of Natacha Diels’ Nightmare for JACK, and Jonathan Harvey’s, String Quartet No. 4.

Sweet Thunder: SFCMP Festival of Electroacoustic Music is supported in part with major funding from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.

Project Anton

Monday, March 24, 2014
8:00 p.m.  |  Preconcert talk at 7:15 p.m.
YBCA Forum

Anton Webern’s 1934 masterwork Concerto for Nine Instruments is juxtaposed with the premiere of a commissioned intermedia work by Polish composer Jaroslaw Kapuscinski entitled Pointing Twice, with Korean guest choreographer Young-Doo Jung and Canadian instrument designer John Granzow, who has custom-built a gramophone for the piece. Also on the concert: Brian Ferneyhough’s La Chute D’Icare, and In Memoriam Jon Higgins by Alvin Lucier.

Click below to watch a trailer of Pointing Twice.

Click here to read about our Project Anton School Project!


Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts