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ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble)
Correspondence: Cage and Boulez


The fascinating and often explosive personal correspondence between modernist icons John Cage and Pierre Boulez serves as the jumping off point for Correspondence: Cage and Boulez, the first program of ICE's third season as ensemble-in-residence at the MCA. ICE and master percussionist and conductor Steven Schick interweave Boulez's seminal chamber work Le marteau sans maître with nine groundbreaking pieces by Cage to shed new light on the work of these two extraordinary explorers of sound. Australian Jessica Aszodi performs as guest mezzo soprano.

The concert is presented in conjunction with the MCA DNA: John Cage exhibition and in celebration of Cage's centenary year.


All Boulez compositions from Le marteau sans maître(1954)

Pierre Boulez: Avant “l’artisanat furieux,” for alto flute, percussion, guitar, and viola

John Cage: Music for two, from Music For ________, for flute and viola (1984-1987)

Boulez: Commentaire I de “bourreaux de solitude,” for alto flute, percussion, and viola

Cage: Amores, Mvt. II, for tom-toms (1943)

Boulez: “L’artisanat furieux,” for voice and alto flute

Cage: Aria, for voice (1942)

Boulez: Commentaire II de “bourreaux de solitude,” for percussion, guitar, and viola

Cage: 59 and 1/2″ for a string player, for viola (1953)

Boulez: “Bel édifice et les presentiments,” version I, for voice, alto flute, guitar, and viola

Cage: 4′ 33″(1960)

Boulez: “Bourreaux de solitude,” for voice, alto flute, percussion, guitar, and viola

Cage: Radio Music, for eight radios (1956)

Boulez: Après “l’artisanat furieux, for alto flute, percussion, and guitar

Cage: Solo for flute, from Concert for Piano(1958)

Boulez: Commentaire III de “bourreaux de solitude, for alto flute, percussion

Cage: Atlas Eclipticalis, for ensemble {bio: (1961–62)

Boulez: “Bel édifice et les presentiments, version II, for voice, alto flute, percussion, guitar, and viola

Cage: Amores, Mvt. III, for woodblocks (1943)}

Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission

About the Artists

John Cage(1912–1992) was an influential and controversial American composer of the 20th century, who rejected many aspects of traditional composition. His earliest compositions were a series of Varèse-inspired works, which he created in his own atonal system. In 1939, Cage founded a percussion ensemble and also invented the “prepared piano,” in which he placed a variety of objects between piano strings to create percussionist sounds. Cage may be best known for Imaginary Landscape No. 4, completed in 1951, which limited the sources of sound to only a dozen radios.

Pierre Boulez(b. 1925) first studied mathematics then music at the Paris Conservatory, where his teachers included Olivier Messiaen and René Leibowitz. In 1954, with the support of Jean-Louis Barrault, he founded the Domaine musical in Paris—one of the first concert societies dedicated entirely to the performance of modern music—and remained their director until 1967. Boulez began conducting in 1958 with the Südwestfunk Orchestra in Baden-Baden, Germany. As a composer, conductor, and teacher, he has made important contributions to 20th-century music and inspired generations of young musicians. His recordings have earned him 26 Grammys.

After two consecutive sold-out seasons at the MCA as an ensemble in residence, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) is raising the bar again, performing three new concerts for the season that illuminate the ensemble's astonishing range. Founded in Chicago in 2001, ICE has established itself as one of the leading musical ensembles of its generation, as well as one of the most innovative young arts organizations in the US. Described by the New York Times as “one of the most adventurous and accomplished groups in new music,” ICE performs more than 50 concerts a year throughout the United States and abroad, and has commercially released six acclaimed albums. A champion of music by young composers, ICE has also given more than 400 world premieres by composers under the age of 35. On October 2, 2012, ICE's Artistic Director Claire Chase was named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow. The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.