Ensemble Dal Niente performing the music of George Lewis

Leading International Composers

March 1, 2020, 4 PM

Music Room

For the 2019/20 season of Leading International Composers, we present a concert profile of the iconoclastic American composer George Lewis. Awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2002, Lewis is a multifaceted creative artist recognized for his visionary work in computer music and his accomplishments as a composer, performer, improviser, and scholar. Lewis has maintained a close working relationship with the Chicago-based new music collective Ensemble Dal Niente. The group presents a wide-ranging portrait of Lewis, including a 2018 work written for the Ensemble, Assemblage, and earlier works Mnemosis (2012) and Hexis (2013). The program will showcase Lewis’s vast compositional ideas and deft synthesis of influences from different fields, from the collage techniques of 20th-century visual art to the rhetorical traditions of ancient Rome, and concepts drawn from recent philosophy and social theory. Part of Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition.

In partnership with the University of Maryland and The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.


GEORGE LEWIS (b. 1952)
Merce and Baby (2012)
For quartet

Shades of Words (2011)
For flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, and marimba 

Mnemosis (2012)
For flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, and percussion

AKIKO YAMANE (b. 1982)
Ambiguous garnet colored fragments (2012)
For flute, violin, and piano 

Assemblage (2013)
For flute, clarinet, saxophone, piano, harp, percussion, violin, viola, and cello

Hexis (2013)
For flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion

George Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, Lewis’s other honors include a MacArthur Genius Award (2002), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), a United States Artists Walker Fellowship (2011), an Alpert Award in the Arts (1999), and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Most recently Lewis received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University and became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2018).

Lewis studied composition with Muhal Richard Abrams at the AACM School of Music, and trombone with Dean Hey. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis’s work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, and notated and improvisational forms is documented on more than 150 recordings. His work has been presented by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Mivos Quartet, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, London Sinfonietta, Spektral Quartet, Talea Ensemble, Dinosaur Annex, Ensemble Pamplemousse, Wet Ink, Ensemble Erik Satie, Eco Ensemble, and others, with commissions from American Composers Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, Harvestworks, Ensemble Either/Or, Orkestra Futura, Turning Point Ensemble, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad, IRCAM, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and others. Lewis has recently completed a composition for the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) which was performed at the Banff Centre on June 29, 2018, and he is currently working on a piece for the Los Angeles Philharmonic that will be premiered in 2019. He also has new works being premiered by loadbang and the Ensemble Intercontemporain in 2019.

Ensemble Dal Niente performs new and experimental chamber music with dedication, virtuosity, and an exploratory spirit. Dal Niente’s roster of 23 musicians presents an uncommonly broad range of contemporary music, guiding listeners towards music that transforms existing ideas and subverts convention. Audiences coming to Dal Niente shows can expect distinctive productions—from fully staged operas to multimedia spectacles to intimate solo performances—that are curated to pique curiosity and connect art, culture, and people. 

Now in its second decade, Ensemble Dal Niente has performed concerts across Europe and the Americas, including appearances at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC; The Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico City; MusicArte Festival in Panama City; The Library of Congress in Washington, DC; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Darmstadt Summer Courses in Germany, where it was the first-ever ensemble to win the Kranichstein prize for interpretation in 2012. 

The group has recordings available on the New World, New Amsterdam, New Focus, Navona, Parlour Tapes+, and Carrier labels; has held residencies at The University of Chicago, Harvard University, Stanford University, Brown University, Brandeis University, and Northwestern University, among others; and collaborated with a wide range of composers, from Enno Poppe to George Lewis, to Erin Gee to Greg Saunier, and Deerhoof.

The ensemble’s name, Dal Niente (“from nothing” in Italian), is a tribute to Helmut Lachenmann’s Dal niente (Interieur III), a work that upended traditional conceptions of instrumental technique; and also a reference to the group’s humble beginnings.