Classical, Main Stage, New Music

American Contemporary Music Ensemble’s Clarice Jensen talks about founding the group, performing with Max Richter

Young contemporary string quartet

American Contemporary Music Ensemble, with Artistic Director Clarice Jensen playing cello. Photo by Mark Shelby.

On October 11, Celebrity Series will present the dynamic combination of composer and artist Max Richter with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) at the Berklee Performance Center.

Max Richter is probably most well-known for his work on film and TV soundtracks, like the Golden-Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated film Waltz With Bashir and Best Original Score for a Television Series at the 2014 International Film Music Critics Awards for The Leftovers. David Bowie once said of his music, “it has the power to produce tears.” Richter has embarked on a 10-city tour with ACME to perform music from his 2010 release, Infra, and his 2004 masterpiece The Blue Notebooks.

Recognized as a pioneering work that builds a bridge between styles of music, The Blue Notebooks connects the dots between a broad range of musical styles. Pitchfork called the album “one of the most affecting and universal contemporary classical records in recent memory.”

The American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), led by cellist and Artistic Director Clarice Jensen, is dedicated to performing the masterworks of the 20th and 21st centuries, and relishes focusing on the works of living composers. The ensemble takes a variety of shapes and instrumentations as different works require. NPR calls them “contemporary music dynamos,” making the combination between Richter and ACME a thrilling venture for Boston audiences.

Clarice Jensen took a few moments to chat about the upcoming concert with Max Richter and how ACME was founded on the premise of flexible instrumentation and contemporary works.

Celebrity Series (CS): Why did you found the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME)?

Clarice Jensen (CJ): I started ACME to continue to work with composers and explore contemporary chamber music after finishing my Masters at Juilliard. For our first season, my sister Christina who is our manager and co-founder booked four concerts at a gallery space in Lower Manhattan. We did the same thing the next season but with each new season, we started adding more and more concerts. It was all quite organic the way it progressed and grew.

CS: Why did you decide to start an ensemble with flexible instrumentation?

CJ: There is so much repertoire for different instrumentations so it is nice to have the flexibility to not be tied to any single ensemble type. It is also nice to offer a variety of ensembles within one program, it really helps to shape an overall program and to vary the sounds and timbres the audience can experience.

CS: Why is it so important to play and listen to the music of living composers?

CJ: Any art form must continue to evolve and develop; there is no limit to what we as humans can explore, artistically and otherwise, so allowing the musical continuum to simply end is just not an option. In exploring new music, we not only push boundaries and create new work, but the work of old is also brought back (deliberately or subconsciously) in new and different ways too.

CS: How did you start working with Max Richter?

Composer Max Richter

Composer and instrumentalist Max Richter

CJ: We were introduced to Max by Ronen Givony for a Wordless Music Concert which is an exceptional series that Ronen curates in New York.

CS: What can the Boston audience expect during this performance? Are there any highlights we should keep our ears open for?

CJ: I’d say the Boston audience can expect to see and hear a performance of music we love very dearly, and we are all also quite fond of each other, so, there will be a lot of love on stage!

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