Department of Music

Programs & Musicans

Program—Making Music Today

J.S. Bach: “Erbarme Dich!” (“Have Mercy!”) from Cantata BWV 55 (1726)
Matthew Aucoin: selections from Family Dinner (2022)

  “Having a Coke with You” (Frank O’Hara)
  Shaker Dance

Doug Balliett: selections from Rome is Falling (2022), text by the composer

  1.) Nicholas Wooten**: Constantine’s Conversion
  2.) Doug Balliett: Alaric to Theodosius
  3.) Doug Balliett: Alaric to Honorius
  4.) Pascale Carvalho**: Alaric’s Third Letter

**short break**

George Lewis: Artificial Life (2007)
Julius Eastman: Gay Guerrilla (1979)

Immediately following the performance, please stay for a brief discussion with the musicians, joined by Michael Steinberg (Barnaby Conrad and Mary Critchfield Keeney Professor of History and Professor of Music and German Studies), and Wang Lu (Associate Professor of Music).


Emi Ferguson, flute*
Yiyun Li, clarinet**
Moonhee Kim, violin**
Barron Clancy, violin**
Nick Bentz, violin**
Annie Wu, viola**
Aaron Gruen, cello**
Doug Balliett, bass*
Andrew Welch, piano***
Nicholas Huang, piano**
Inga Chinilina, keyboard**
Ryan Sawyer, percussion**
Srikrishnan Raju, percussion**
Paul Appleby, tenor*
Matthew Aucoin, conductor/piano*

*AMOC artist
** Brown University student
*** Brown University faculty

Program—the echoing of tenses

J.S. Bach: "Ergieße dich reichlich, du göttliche Quelle” (“Pour yourself richly, you divine spring”) from Cantata BWV 5 (1724)
Celeste Oram: the power of moss (2021), text by Jo Randerson
Matthew Aucoin: “Exodos for Tony” from Merrill Songs (2015), text by James Merrill
Lili Boulanger: Nocturne (1911)
Charles Ives: Sunrise (1926), text by the composer

**short break**

Anthony Cheung: the echoing of tenses (2022)

  The Network (Arthur Sze)
  Misconjugate (Jenny Xie)
  The Golden State (Cathy Park Hong)
  Interlude: Expenditures (Jenny Xie)
  In Search Of (Jenny Xie)
  The Gift (Li-Young Lee)
  The Gift (Ocean Vuong)
  Brownacre (Monica Youn)
  Interlude: Memory (Victoria Chang)
  Transfigurations (Arthur Sze)

*tonight’s performance of the echoing of tenses is of a slightly abridged version, and includes the recorded voices of Arthur Sze, Jenny Xie, Monica Youn, and Victoria Chang

Immediately following the performance, please stay for a brief discussion with the musicians.


Paul Appleby, tenor*
Miranda Cuckson, violin/viola*
Anthony Cheung, piano/keyboard (Boulanger, Ives, Cheung)***
Matthew Aucoin, piano (Aucoin, Bach)*
Jim Moses, sound***
David Bird, sound design (Cheung)

*AMOC artist
*** Brown University faculty

Making Music Today

A concert featuring musicians from AMOC* (American Modern Opera Company)

There are practically as many ways to make music today as there are human beings making music. We live in a time of uncontainable abundance, in which the sheer variety of available musical aesthetics, modes of sound production, and methods of musical notation can be alternately exhilarating and overwhelming.

As members of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC*), an interdisciplinary ensemble and artistic collective, we perform in many different musical idioms, depending on who our collaborators are for the project at hand. Sometimes we play music that is almost entirely improvised; at other times, we play fully-notated works from the Western classical canon.

So we wanted to organize our residency at Brown around the many possible ways of approaching the creation of music in our world. The four contemporary pieces on this program each reflect a different possible path: George Lewis’s Artificial Life is based on a series of written instructions that contain no prescriptions concerning what pitches or rhythms the musicians play, or what style they play in; Lewis’s instructions are, instead, directions for how the musicians are to interact with and listen to one another. Julius Eastman’s Gay Guerrilla contains more detailed information about pitch and timing—its harmonic changes are determined according to a stopwatch—but the musicians still have a lot of freedom when it comes to what gestures and voicings they play. Doug Balliett’s Rome is Falling, an improbably jubilant chamber opera inspired by the chaotic final days—or rather, final centuries—of the Roman Empire, draws on thousands of years of musical history, but in its execution, the musicians are free to improvise within given harmonies. My own pieces are probably the most fully notated music on this program: I found that the darting, playful, unpredictable rhythms in both pieces required some pretty specific notation if they were going to have their full effect.

We hope that what the students take away from this week is mainly a sense of possibility: that there’s no single path toward the creation of a personal musical voice, but rather an abundance of possible ways to invite your fellow human beings to make music together.

We want to extend a special thanks to Anthony Cheung, Avery Willis Hoffman, the Brown Music Department, and the students for welcoming us to campus.

—Matthew Aucoin, AMOC* co-founder

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
I look at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it

Nicholas Wooten: Constantine's Conversion

In hoc signo vinces,

"Conquer by this..."
I am Constantine, son of Constantius.
I'm the Caesar of western Rome.
Rome is torn apart into east and west.
I will make it whole again. I'm off to battle. 
I fear the war ahead, but those wicked,
idol worshipping fiends are no match for my God.
Look to the sky. The clouds are parting, 
a golden cross appears, but what does it mean?
At night, in a dream, God said to me,
"Conquer by this! Fight under Me
and I will protect the people of Rome.
Adorn your crest with symbols of Christ,
and you shall surely win!"
Constantine, uniter of Rome!
By my hands, Your will is done.
In Your name, I won the war, 
and now Rome is Yours!

Doug Balliett: Alaric to Theodosius

Dear Theodosius,

Alaric the Goth sends his greetings from one Roman to another. You know the story of my people, how we came into this land, how we only ever asked for a living, and yet you treat us like we're poison to the state. 

The Battle of the Frigidus...I saw my people sacrificed in wave after wave, mowed down for the glory of the Romans. You say a miracle saved you when the wind was reversed. I say the miracle was my people. Now we plunder just to survive. Dear Theodosius, how can you abide? Keep your promises.

Doug Balliett: Alaric to Honorius

Dear Honorius,

You said go east, so I did. When that didn't work, you said go west, so I did. When I went south, you said go north, so I did. So I did! So I did! So I did! So I did! You push me out of Greece, and you push me out of Italy. And all I ever wanted was some food and some land. Let me work for the Romans...before I really lose my patience.

Pascale Carvalho: Alaric's Third Letter

All I ask. All I need. 
Is for you to understand. 
The ease of my demand.
Instead you leave me beaten. 
Not a man worthy of your praise.
Not a Roman. 
But yet I've given everything for those seven hills.
But yet I've given everything for a dream to come true.
Though my troops have yet to eat.
Not a meal worthy of them.
As for me, all I wanted was to gain
the title that was worthy of myself.
The man who saved the east of great Rome.
All I ask. All I need. 
Is for you to understand.
Maybe I'll march once more, all the way home.
Will you feed us then? 
Will you, Romans?
With a heavy heart, and a steady hand,
I lead my army to the promised land.

[Text from “Tony: Ending the Life,” by James Merrill]

The sea is dark here at day’s end
And the moon gaunt, half-dead
Like an old woman—like Madame Curie
Above her vats of pitchblende
Stirred dawn to dusk religiously
Out in the freezing garden shed.

It is a boot camp large and stark
To which you will be going.
Wave upon wave of you. The halls are crowded,
Unlit, the ceiling fixtures shrouded.
Advancing through the crush, the matriarch
Holds something up, mysteriously glowing.

Fruit of her dream and labor, see, it’s here
(See too how scarred her fingertips):
The elemental sliver
Of matter heading for its own eclipse
And ours—this “lumière de l’avenir”
Passed hand to hand with a faint shiver:

Light that confutes the noonday blaze.
A cool uncanny blue streams from her vial,
Bathing the disappearers
Who asked no better than to gaze and gaze…
Too soon your own turn came. Denial
No longer fogged the mirrors.

You stumbled forth into the glare—
Blood-red ribbon where you’d struck your face.
Pills washed down with ouzo hadn’t worked.
Now while the whole street buzzed and lurked
The paramedics left you there,
Returning costumed for a walk in Space.

The nurse thrust forms at you to sign,
Then flung away her tainted pen
...Lie back now in that heat
Older than Time, whose golden regimen
Still makes the palm grow tall and the date sweet…
Come, a last sip of wine.

Lie back. Over the sea
Sweeps, faint at first, the harpist’s chord.
Purple with mourning, the royal barge gasps nearer.
Is it a test? A triumph? No more terror:
How did your namesake, lovesick Antony,
Meet the end? By falling on his sword

—A story in Plutarch
The plump boy knew from History class.
Slowly the room grows dark.
Stavro who’s been reading you the news
Turns on a nightlight. No more views.
Just your head, nodding off in windowglass.

[Text by the composer]

A light low in the East, –
As I lie there, it shows but does not move, –
A light – as a thought, forgotten, comes again.
The forest world is waking.
A thousand leaves are beginning to gleam.
Later on, as I rise,
It shows through the trees
And lights the dark grey rock
And something in the mind,
And brings the quiet day.
And tomorrow – tomorrow –
The light as a thought forgotten comes again –
And with it ever the hope of the New Day.

the echoing of tenses is a multi-movement “song cycle,” a series of reflections and ruminations on memory, bringing together the texts of seven prominent and multi-generational Asian-American poets. Memory here is made complicated by the circumstances and tensions of cultural and personal identity, family, migration, loss, and reflection. Opening with Arthur Sze’s “The Network,” which presents the image of a photograph lost to history – a kind of origin story of Asian-American immigration – the cycle begins by looking backwards. But in ensuing texts by Jenny Xie and Cathy Park Hong, past/present/future tenses elide and become confused in dreamlike states. Musically, these are connected by interludes in which strange and unfamiliar tunings in the keyboard overlap with processed recorded sounds. Ocean Vuong’s “The Gift” converses with Li-Young Lee’s earlier poem of the same title, turning to striking childhood memories of each author’s mother and father, respectively. Monica Youn’s raw but dispassionate style contrasts strongly with the emotionally vulnerable explorations of intergenerational trauma in Victoria Chang’s Obit and the epistolary Dear Memory. Xie’s poems from The Rupture Tense share Chang’s exploration of postmemory, which Marianne Hirsch defines as “the relationship that the “generation after” bears to the personal, collective, and cultural trauma of those who came before — to experiences they “remember” only by means of the stories, images, and behaviors among which they grew up.” With sound design by composer David Bird, the samples of processed sounds and field recordings mixed with recorded voices amplify the sensation of time and place. The choices of lyrical and contemplative texts by Li-Young Lee and Arthur Sze were directly inspired by Paul Appleby’s voice, especially in the final “Transfigurations.”

I am incredibly grateful to Ara Guzelimian at the Ojai Festival and Barry and Nancy Sanders for making this commission possible, to the staff and artistic leadership at Ojai and AMOC* (Matt Aucoin and Zack Winokur) for believing in the project, and my wonderful collaborators Paul Appleby, David Bird, and especially Miranda Cuckson – to whom the piece is dedicated – who invited me to create something together in the first place. I thank the Brown Arts Institute and Department of Music for supporting this performance and the entire AMOC* residency. And finally, thank you to all the poets whose words made every sound possible.

—Anthony Cheung

Select Texts & Notes About the Programs

About the Musicians

AMOC* (American Modern Opera Company), founded in 2017 by Matthew Aucoin and Zack Winokur, builds and shares a body of collaborative work. As a group of dancers, singers, musicians, writers, directors, composers, choreographers, and producers united by a core set of values, AMOC* artists pool their resources to create new pathways that connect creators and audiences in surprising and visceral ways.

In 2022, AMOC* served as Music Director for the Ojai Music Festival–the second ensemble and first explicitly interdisciplinary company to hold the position in OMF’s 75-year history. Over the Festival’s four days, AMOC* offered 18 performances, eight world premieres, and six new theatrical productions. In the 2022/23 season, AMOC* premiered a new production of Harawi at Festival Aix-en-Provence, an affecting interpretation of Olivier Messiaen’s song cycle that breaks open its explorations of love and death into a newly physicalized and theatrical dimension. In the spring, the production will continue to DeSingel (Antwerp), Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg), and stARTfestival (Leverkusen).

The 2022-2023 season also includes the world premiere of Bobbi Jene Smith’s Broken Theater at UNC Chapell Hill and OZ Arts in Nashville; a chamber version of John Adams’s El Niño, conceived by Julia Bullock, at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine; and the New York premieres of Carolyn Chen’s How to Fall Apart at the Baryshnikov Arts Center and Anthony Cheung’s the echoing of tenses at the 92nd Street Y.

Learn more at the AMOC* Website.

Admired for his interpretive depth, vocal strength, and range of expressivity, tenor Paul Appleby is one of the most sought-after voices of his generation. Mr. Appleby graces the stages of the world’s most distinguished concert halls and opera houses and collaborates with leading orchestras, instrumentalists, and conductors. Opera News writes, “[Paul’s] tenor is limpid and focused, but with a range of color unusual in an instrument so essentially lyric… His singing is scrupulous and musical; the voice moves fluidly and accurately.”

Paul Appleby’s calendar of the 2022-23 season includes the principal role of Caesar in the world premiere of Antony and Cleopatra by John Adams at San Francisco Opera conducted by Music Director Eun Sun Kim. Appleby reprises his internationally acclaimed title role portrayal of Bernstein’s Candide for the Opéra de Lyon in a new production by Daniel Fish led by Wayne Marshall and returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for performances of Girls of the Golden West under the baton of the composer, John Adams. No less impressive is the tenor’s international concert diary, which includes Bach’s Matthäus-Passion both with the New York Philharmonic and Hong Kong Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden as well as performances in Chicago with Music of the Baroque and Dame Jane Glover; a collaboration with the Met Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in a presentation of Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings; performances with the American Modern Opera Company; and a recital at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Miranda Cuckson, violinist and violist, delights audiences with her playing of a range of music and styles, from older eras to the newest creations. Miranda made her Carnegie Hall debut playing Walter Piston’s Concerto No. 1 with the American Symphony Orchestra. She recently premiered Georg Friedrich Haas’ Violin Concerto No. 2 with four orchestras in Japan and Europe, and the Violin Concerto by Marcela Rodriguez with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México. Reflecting her deeply felt perspective as a multiethnic American, Miranda works with an array of artists from many backgrounds. She has had many substantial works written for her and she works regularly both with promising young artists and the most renowned composers of our era.

Miranda’s albums include Világ featuring the Bartok Sonata along with new works; the Ligeti, Korngold, and Ponce concertos; music by major American composers; Bartók, Schnittke and Lutoslawski on ECM; Melting the Darkness, an album of microtonal and electronic pieces; and Nono’s La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura, which was named a Best Recording of the Year by the New York Times.

She is an alumna of The Juilliard School, having studied there from Pre-College through her doctorate degree, and she was awarded the school’s Presser Music Award.  She teaches violin and chamber music at the Mannes School of Music at New School University.

Doug Balliett is a composer, instrumentalist and poet based in New York City. The New York Times has described his compositions as "brainily bubble gum and lovable shaggy" (Rome is Falling), his poetry as “brilliant and witty” (Clytie and the Sun), and his bass playing as “elegant” (Shawn Jaeger’s In Old Virginny). The Los Angeles Times recently wrote "Bassist Doug Balliett, who teaches a course on the Beatles at the Juilliard School and writes cantatas for Sunday church services, as well as wacky pop operas, is in a class of his own." Doug has also been professor of baroque bass and violone at The Juilliard School since 2017, and leads the Theotokos ensemble every Sunday at St. Mary's church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He plays regularly with AMOC*, Les Arts Florissants, Jupiter Ensemble, ACRONYM, Ruckus, BEMF, Alarm Will Sound, and other ensembles. In August 2021 five of his Ovid Cantatas were filmed for Qwest TV with William Christie, Lea Desandre, and Nick Scott. For three years he and his twin brother hosted a weekly show dedicated to living composers on WQXR's new music channel Q2. Upcoming performances of his work include Beast Fights at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony bass section, and the annual New Year's Eve performance of his opera Gawain and the Green Knight.

Emi Ferguson stretches the boundaries of what is expected of modern-day musicians. Emi can be heard live in concerts and festivals around the world as a soloist and with groups including AMOC*, the New York New Music Ensemble, and the Manhattan Chamber Players. She has spoken and performed at several TEDx events and has been featured on media outlets including The Discovery Channel, Vox's "Explained" series on Netflix, Amazon's “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and Juilliard Digital's TouchPress apps talking about how music relates to our world today. Her debut album, Amour Cruel, an indie-pop song cycle inspired by the music of the 17th century French court was called “blindingly impressive...a fizzing, daring display of personality and imagination” by The New York Times. As a historical Flutist, in addition to her appointment as Principal Flute of the Handel and Haydn Society, Emi is a frequent guest artist with period ensembles including Tafelmusik.

​Emi is currently on the faculty of the Juilliard School teaching Ear Training, the Bach Virtuosi Festival, and has taught on the faculty of the University of Buffalo. Emi holds Undergraduate and Graduate degrees with Scholastic Distinction in flute performance from Juilliard, as well as a second Graduate degree in Historical Performance as a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow.

Matthew Aucoin is an American composer, conductor, writer, and pianist. He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2018, and is both Artist-in-Residence at Los Angeles Opera and co-founder of the American Modern Opera Company. Aucoin’s newest opera, Eurydice, a collaboration with the playwright Sarah Ruhl, had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Opera in February 2019, and will travel to the Metropolitan Opera in the 2021-22 season.

Aucoin’s orchestral and chamber music has been commissioned and performed by such artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, Salzburg’s Mozarteum Orchestra, the Brentano Quartet, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, tenor Paul Appleby, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Chanticleer. Aucoin’s operas include Crossing (2015), commissioned by the American Repertory Theater; and Second Nature (2015), a chamber opera for the young, commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Crossing has gone on to productions at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Los Angeles Opera; Second Nature has been performed all over the continent, including productions at the Canadian Opera Company and the Music Academy of the West. In 2018, Aucoin made his Santa Fe Opera conducting debut leading John Adams’s Doctor Atomic in a new production by Peter Sellars.