S.E.M. Ensemble

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The grand finale of the celebration of the AACM’s 50th anniversary, presented by the S.E.M. Ensemble in partnership with the Interpretations series, features major works for symphony and chamber orchestra by composers associated with the AACM – Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis and Henry Threadgill – as well as works by John Cage, Christian Wolff and Petr Kotik. April 28 includes a duo by Mitchell and Lewis (Lewis’ Bound) and on April 29, a rare performance by the distinguished improvising trio of Abrams, Lewis, and Mitchell.

Tuesday April 28, 2015 @ 8 pm
The S.E.M. Ensemble
Ostravská banda

Wednesday April 29, 2015 @ 8 pm
The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble


Thomas Buckner:
The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians was founded in Chicago in 1965, just as I was beginning to experiment with free improvisation in the San Francisco Bay Area with my friend the late David Wessel, later to found the Center for New Music and Audio Technology at the University of California in Berkeley. Two of our inspirations were LP recordings by the saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell ‘Sound’ and by the trumpet player Lester Bowie’s ‘Numbers One and Two”. Somehow David got to know them personally, and in 1968 he helped Roscoe, Lester and the bassist Malichai Favors find a small house across the street from him in East Palo Alto. One evening I visited David, and we heard live music coming from the house. It lasted through dinner and on into the night. We awoke the next morning to the sound of live music coming from the house and went over to say hello. Each musician had his setup: Roscoe multiple saxophones and a percussion cage filled with small gongs, drums and found little instruments; Lester his trumpet and a bass drum; Malichai his bass and a small percussion setup. There was a bedroll next to each setup. They simply practiced their own compositions and improvised all the time, except when they went out to perform and earn money. This encounter changed my life. The group evolved into the Art Ensemble of Chicago, one of many outstanding groups and composers to develop out of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. About ten years later I performed with the saxophonist Gerald Oshita at Karl Berger and Ornette Coleman’s Creative Music Studio, in a summer workshop curated by Roscoe, whom I had not seen since. After our performance, Roscoe invited us to join him in a trio which we called Space, with which we toured and recorded until Gerald’s untimely death. What was most amazing to me about Roscoe was his equal mastery of improvisation and long form composition. At the time, I was co -director of the Arch Ensemble for Experimental Music, and Roscoe Mitchell began composing for us. Over these many years, he has composed for me pieces ranging from voice and piano all the way up to compositions for voice and orchestra. Through Roscoe, I became familiar with the music of many other AACM members, and when I moved back to New York in 1984 I got to hear the music of many members of the New York Chapter of the AACM, including the composers on this festival, who have all composed pieces for me. The AACM continues to astound me to this day with its vision and dedication. 

Petr Kotik:
The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) was founded in Chicago fifty years ago to provide a platform to musicians who strived to express themselves in a way that did not conform to the “mainstream” – which in the late 1950s Chicago was blues, R&B, and hard bop. A large portion of the founding members of AACM were self-taught, not only as a performers and composers, but also as a colleagues who gave a helping hand to the younger AACM artists. The creative enterprise AACM, standing often against and refusing to compromise and accommodate the expectations of the conventional, aligned composers such as Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Wadada Leo Smith and George Lewis with experimental “classical” composers such as Cage, Wolff and Kotik. Works of all of these composers will be performed at the Bohemian National Hall on April 28 and 29. In the mid-1990s, the AACM (New York chapter] started to collaborate with the Czech-born composer Petr Kotik, who premiered many of their orchestral compositions. This collaboration culminated in Abrams and Mitchell taking part at the Ostrava Days Institute and Festival, which both of them visited as lectors and resident composers. Besides Ostrava Days, Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell have been featured as composers in concerts and recordings by the Janáček Philharmonic. 

Producers Information

AACM50 is presented by the S.E.M. Ensemble and the INTERPRETATIONS SERIES

Co-produced by Roulette, the Composers Now Festival, the Czech Center New York and the Ostrava Center for New Music.

S.E.M Ensemble, Inc.
25 Columbia Place,
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Petr Kotik, Artistic Director
Inés Thiebaut, Managing Director Isabelle Deconinck, Press & Marketing

PO Box 20933
New York, NY 10025

Thomas Buckner, Artistic Director & Producer Gladys Serrano, Executive Administrator James Ilgenfritz, Publicist



Composers Now Festival

The Czech Center New York

Ostrava Center for New Music 


Support for Ostravská banda has been provided by the Statutory City of Ostrava

Performances by the S.E.M. Ensemble been made possible with the generous support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; New Music USA’s Cary New Music Performance Fund; Phaedrus Foundation; Amphion Foundation, Alice M. Ditson Fund and the Low Road Fundation.

Additional support was received by the following individuals: Noni Pratt, Rackstraw Downes, Alvin Lucier, Raymond J. Learsy, Vladimíra Glatzová, John & Linda Wadsworth, David Vaughan.