MusicNOW’s 2014/15 season begins Sept. 29 with a program titled Synchronicity, featuring an ambient pastoral piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams, a powerful electro-acoustic work by Chicago-based composer Anthony Cheung and a multimedia work by Michael Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison. The concert closes with a visceral sinfonietta by CSO co-composer-in-residence Mason Bates inspired by synthetic computing.

    ANTHONY CHEUNG: SynchroniCities (2012)

    Duration: 14 minutes
    Instrumentation: Large ensemble
    Commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation for the Talea Ensemble
    Premiered by the Talea Ensemble on Dec. 14, 2012, at Mannes College of Music in New York City, N.Y.
    Copyright/publisher information: Anthony Cheung

    The composer writes:

    SynchroniCities represents a kind of personal sonic travelogue over the last two years, one whose map is organized by similarities and differences of various sonic sources. I’m always struck by how concrete sounds in the world are both overwhelmingly chaotic and commonplace. In collecting and organizing field recordings during my travels, I’ve come to appreciate the overwhelming and often surprising common ground of sounds originating from disparate sources. I find the paradox of sounds related in timbre but connoting very different cultural or ritualistic practices symbolically and musically rich. And I wonder if semiotic associations and sonic significations can be redefined through the combination and juxtaposition of these differences. Through the use of sometimes subtle but noticeable processing and mutation, and a constant dialogue with the live instruments, I hope to confirm and challenge our sonic perceptions of time, place and cultural practices.

    Some paradoxes of synchronous sounds that struck me: the almost granular rhythmic jitters of subway card swipes are mechanical in their omnipresence, yet very distinctive in pitch and pattern, depending on situation and place. The electronic-sounding hum of cicadas and their blankets of white noise are region and time specific — yet almost universally alike. The hushed near-silence of visitors moving through the sacred spaces of the world resonates and amplifies itself quite audibly with the right filters, leaving artifacts of physical movement and speech not intended to be revealed. And I address these interspersed cultural dialogues in the instrumental writing as well. With the piano, for instance, the standard equal-tempered tuning is “auto-tuned” in real-time to collide with tuning systems from ancient and non-Western cultural legacies. What to make of this perceptive dissonance, and how can it be made to sound consonant and even pleasing within its newly formed identity?

    About the composer:

    Anthony Cheung (born 1982, San Francisco) is a composer and pianist. His music has been commissioned by the Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, New York Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, and also performed by Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Linea, the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW ensemble, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the French National Orchestras of Lille and Lorraine among others. He has received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and ASCAP, and first prize in the Sixth International Dutilleux Competition (2008), as well as a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome (2012). He has also received commissions from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation and the Fromm Foundation. Cheung’s music has been programmed at festivals such as Ultraschall (Berlin), Cresc. Biennale (Frankfurt), Wittener Tage, Heidelberger Frühling, Helsinki Festival and Musica Nova Helsinki, Centre Acanthes, Musica (Strasbourg) and Nuova Consonanza (Rome). A first portrait CD appears in 2014 on the Ensemble Modern Medien label, and his music and/or performances have been released on New Focus, Tzadik and Mode.

    As a performer and advocate for new music, Cheung is artistic director of the Talea Ensemble in New York, which he co-founded in 2007. With the Talea Ensemble, he actively programs and promotes new music, and has performed extensively in the United States and abroad as a specialist of new music, working with composers such as Pierre Boulez, Stefano Gervasoni, Tristan Murail, Hans Abrahamsen, Iancu Dumitrescu, Julian Anderson and Steve Coleman. As a writer and scholar, he has completed a dissertation on György Ligeti (on the Hamburg Concerto, 2010), as well as articles on contemporary music for both specialists and a general readership. Primary musical interests include notational aesthetics, jazz improvisation and transcription, microtonality and alternate tunings, rhythmic polyphony and temporal perception, and his music also engages poetic imagery, syntax and rhetoric, natural phenomena and the visual arts.

    Cheung received a bachelors degree in music and history from Harvard and a doctorate from Columbia University, where he taught and also served as assistant conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra. He was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and is currently an assistant professor of music at the University of Chicago.

    For more information about Anthony Cheung, visit