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The International Contemporary Ensemble returns to NYU Skirball with a program of works by composer/pianist Anthony Davis and composer/vocalist Leila Adu-Gilmore. The evening will feature Adu-Gilmore’s Mahakala Oratorio (2020-23, world premiere of the live version) and Alyssum (2014);  and Davis’s Wayang No. II (Shadowdance) (1982), Clonetics (1983), and a special solo performance by Davis.

Drawing on an ultra-cosmopolitan range of musical and cultural sources, Leila Adu-Gilmore and Anthony Davis exemplify some of the many ways in which Afrodiasporic new music becomes revealed as an intercultural, multigenerational space of innovation that offers new subjects, histories, and identities.

Adu-Gilmore will sing Mahakala Oratorio, which draws inspiration directly from the Buddhist deity of the same name, live for the first time as part of this world premiere performance. In her work, Adu-Gilmore uses ancient texts describing Mahakala as a tool to empower listeners to consider the idea of radical compassion in this era of social, political, and environmental extremism. The music itself reflects Adu-Gilmore’s genre-mixing style, which draws on the traditional music of New Zealand; her informal training in punk, indie, and hip-hop as well as freely improvised music in the African-American free jazz tradition; and formal training for chamber ensemble and orchestra.

Davis’s Wayang series of compositions feature strong, memorable melodies carried by tricky polyrhythms, and sustained by forms of repetition strongly informed by Javanese and Balinese musical culture, particularly wayang kulit, the theatrical son et lumiére form that uses the shadows of articulated two-dimensional puppets in conjunction with gamelan orchestras. Wayang No. II deploys cycles within cycles, advancing complex, overlapping syncopated gestures that seem almost to spontaneously recombine. Clonetics is the fifth and final movement of Davis’s 1983 suite Hemispheres, originally written to accompany the choreography of Molissa Fenley. Davis’s sonic “clones,” or metric blocks of meaning of differing durations, frequently invoke West African forms of musical spirituality. Improvisation in these works requires both virtuoso technique and an ability to rapidly code-switch between different meters and even musical idioms. Davis himself will provide a solo piano reflection during the performance.

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Anthony Davis and Leila Adu-Gilmore
Leila Adu-Gilmore, Mahakala Oratorio (2020-23), for large ensemble (world premiere of the live version)
Leila Adu-Gilmore, Alyssum (2014), for harp and string quartet
Anthony Davis, Wayang No. II (Shadowdance) (1982), for chamber ensemble
Anthony Davis, Clonetics (1983), for chamber ensemble
Leila Adu-Gilmore, voice
Anthony Davis, piano
A discussion with the composers will take place following the performance.

About International Contemporary Ensemble

The International Contemporary Ensemble is a multidisciplinary collective of musicians, digital media artists, producers, and educators committed to building and innovating collaborative environments, inspiring audiences to reimagine how contemporary music and sound can be experienced. Acclaimed as “America’s foremost new-music group” (The New Yorker), the Ensemble has premiered over 1,000 works and is the recipient of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, as well as Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year Award.  By honoring the polyaspora of human experience and expression by commissioning, developing, recording, and performing the works of living artists, the International Contemporary Ensemble has had a major impact on  contemporary performance around the world.

About Anthony Davis

An internationally recognized composer of operatic, symphonic, choral, and chamber works, Anthony Davis (b. 1951) is one of the best-known composers of his generation in the United States. A virtuoso pianist, Davis is a 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  Davis is best known for his pioneering work in opera. Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for his opera The Central Park Five, his now-classic X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X, which played to sold-out houses at its premiere at the New York City Opera in 1986, was the first of a new American genre: opera on a contemporary political subject. A new production of X was launched in May 2022 at Detroit Opera. Directed by Robert O’Hara to great acclaim, the production made its Metropolitan Opera debut in November 2023, where it was pronounced an American classic.

About Leila Adu-Gilmore

Leila Adu-Gilmore, Assistant Professor of Music Technology at NYU, is a composer-performer who has released five solo albums, as well as composed for So Percussion, Useful Chamber, Gamelan Padhang Moncar, the Brentano String Quartet and K.A.T.E.S. She has performed her compositions internationally at Ojai Festival (2016) and as Orchestra Wellington’s Emerging-Composer-in-Residence (2014). Dr Adu-Gilmore composes and produces for dance, theatre, and short film, including rotations on the BBC Knowledge and Fox networks. Of New Zealand Pākehā and Ghanaian descent and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand, with family in London, Dr Adu-Gilmore is passionate about the role of music in social change, mental well-being, and human connection. She has worked with musicians across multiple genres including Steve Albini, Kwame Write, GAIKA (Warp Records), Silent Poets, Useful Chamber, Federico Ughi, Jeff Snyder, David Long (The Mutton Birds, Lord of the Rings), Jeff Henderson, Lord Echo, Hannah Marshall, Steve Beresford & Jack Body.


NYU Skirball’s programs are made possible in part with support from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; and by Howard Gilman Foundation; FUSED (French U.S. Exchange in Dance), a program of FACE Foundation in partnership with Villa Albertine; General Delegation of the Government of Flanders to the USA; Collins Building Services; Korean Cultural Center New York, Marta Heflin Foundation; Harkness Foundation for Dance; as well as our valued donors through memberships, commissioning, and Stage Pass Fund support.

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