The DownTown Ensemble

“In so many words…”

“This intrepid group of conceptualists cuts no aesthetic corners.” (The Village Voice)

On Wednesday, June 26, at 8pm, the DownTown Ensemble will perform a program emphasizing music featuring the spoken word. In this vein, the poet/musician George Quasha will present a specially created, new piece Axial Transmission, part of his series of Axial Music. Other new word/music works will be premieres by Daniel Goode, Co-Director of the DownTown Ensemble, and Ensemble member, Alex Waterman. Featured performer/reciter will be longtime Columbia County resident, Bill Hellermann. Also on the program will be a new composition by Leyna Marika Papach and a trio by the renowned composer, Jon Gibson.

Featured instrumental performers will be downtown stalwarts Alex Waterman and Daniel Goode, as well as guest artists Leyna Marike Papach and Charles Stein.

George Quasha, artist and poet, explores a principle (axiality/liminality/configuration) in language, sculpture, drawing, video, sound, installation and performance. Most recent of his 17 books are Axial Stones: An Art of Precarious Balance (2006, foreword Carter Ratcliff); An Art of Limina: Gary Hill’s Works and Writings (2009, with Charles Stein and foreword by Lynne Cooke); Verbal Paradise (2011, preverbs) and Scorned Beauty Comes Up From Behind (2011, preverbs). A 2006 Guggenheim Fellow in video art, his art is: Speaking Portraits recorded over 1,000 artists/poets/composers in 11 countries, which is available online at He often performs with Gary Hill, Charles Stein, David Arner and John Beaulieu.

Axial Transmission (approx. 10 min.) is a work of “axial music,” which follows a principle of spontaneous composition without reference to precedent or previous patterns. The music is guided instead by a radical following of actual sounds and languages generated. The emerging sound event is presumed to have an intelligent life independent of the musicians and hence may produce an altered state of listening. In addition to sound and language events, the performance has visual components and sometimes includes video or live axial drawing. In this performance poet/artist/musician Charles Stein contributes vocal-axial-abstract language in dialogue with George Quasha’s axial percussion.

Jon Gibson is a composer, multi-wind instrumentalist and visual artist who has been active in new music since the 1960’s. His output includes music for solo instruments, various ensembles, dance, music theater, film and opera. His music has been performed worldwide by his own groups and others, including the S.E.M. Ensemble, DownTown Ensemble, TILT Brass and Ne(x)tworks. He has performed and collaborated with a host of musicians, choreographers and artists, including Merce Cunningham, Nancy Topf, Nina Winthrop, Lucinda Childs, Harold Budd, Thomas Buckner, David Behrman, Petr Kotik, Alvin Curran, Terri Hanlon, and JoAnne Akalaitis. Gibson was involved in the early work of Steve Reich, Terry Riley, LaMonte Young and Philip Glass, and has been a member of the Philip Glass Ensemble since its beginnings. His work Chorales for Relative Calm has been extracted from a larger work, entitled Relative Calm (1981) that was commissioned by the Lucinda Childs Dance Co. as a part of an evening-length work of four pieces.  “Chorales” consists of a series of short, repeated stop-and-go pieces that is reminiscent of the chorale form (hence the title) in three-part harmony, for any combination of pitched instrument.

Daniel Goode, is Co-founder/Director of the DownTown Ensemble, formed in 1983. In 2004 he initiated the Flexible Orchestra, a rethinking of the symphony orchestra. In its 10th season, he has composed six works for the Flexible Orchestra in various orchestrations. A new CD on New World Records will have his work for the orchestra, Annbling. His innovative music for solo clarinet includes Circular Thoughts (Theodore Presser Co.) and Clarinet Songs on the XI label. His music has been in national and international festivals including New Music America and Bang on a Can, Sounds Like Now. His works are available at Frog Peak Music, His web site is

Goode’s new work Interpolating is the latest in a series of texts he has composed for Bill Hellermann to recite, with music accompaniment by the DownTown Ensemble. The text narrates the sometimes fantastical events in the life of the Ensemble. Most prominent is a “guerrilla” performance in the ground floor bar of the Trump Soho in the very neighborhood that gave rise to the group, some thirty years ago when Soho was the experimental laboratory of many groups in the arts. The music chosen to go with Bill Hellermann’s narration is taken from the last thirty years of the DownTown Ensemble’s repertoire.

Leyna Marika Papach, when writing wait game, imagined animating the air around an unsolved crime – the charged air moving, talking and waiting for relief. She is a composer, artist and violinist from Japan and the United States. Her work ranges from chamber music to musical theater pieces where text, dance, music and video work together to tell a story. Her work has been performed in Western and Eastern Europe as well as in Japan and the US. As a violinist and improviser, she performs her own work as well as interpretive work with bands and composers (Geraldine Fibbers, JG Thirwell/Monerexia and many others), occasionally performing as an accompanist of Ragas (North-Indian traditional music). She is currently working on a dance-theater piece as a long-term resident artist at the HERE Arts Center, NY. Ms. Papach studied violin at the Prague Academy of Music and has a Masters in Theater from Dasarts, Amsterdam.

Alex Waterman has worked with musicians such as Robert Ashley, Helmut Lachenmann, Marina Rosenfeld, Anthony Coleman, Elliott Sharp, Ned Rothenberg, Gerry Hemingway, Chris Mann, and Alison Knowles. He is publishing a book about the composer Robert Ashley (coming out this summer). Alex participated in the Armory for the 2008 Whitney Biennial writing a new work based upon Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener. He is currently producing and directing an all-new Spanish language version of Robert Ashley’s classic television opera, Perfect Lives. Waterman teaches at the MFA program at Bard College and will be teaching at the Banff Centre for the Arts in August this year. His writings have been published by Dot Dot Dot, Paregon, FoArm, BOMB and Artforum.

This performance of Beacons of Ancestorship will consist of selections from the first 63 landscapes of the film script. The final script will have closer to one thousand. The script is based on the original 128-page poem by John Barton Wolgamot, in which each page is a landscape composed of the names of writers, artists and librarians. Beacons is a highly subjective rendering of the poem into a film script that brings to life the memory theater that Wolgamot created in which every name in the poem contains all the others. Waterman’s piece has existed in several forms: installation, publication and radio-play. In the present iteration Bill Hellermann narrates a live radio piece with live Foley and musical accompaniment by the Ensemble.

Bill Hellermann, well known as a composer guitarist in the downtown scene in the 70’s through the 90’s, has in the last ten years increasingly appeared as a reciter/narrator of texts in experimental music works. Among his many awards is a Prix de Rome from The American Academy in Rome. As a curator at PS 1, the Clock Tower and the Alternative Museum, he launched some of the first exhibitions of sound sculpture and audio art, and in the process bringing into usage the term “Soundart”.

The DownTown Ensemble was founded in 1983 by its Co-directors, Daniel Goode and William Hellermann, as a response to a perceived need for repertoire customarily under-represented in today’s new music world. “This intrepid group of conceptualists cuts no aesthetic corners” (The Village Voice). The Ensemble has made its reputation performing a number of different types of experimental music, such as: traditionally notated and graphic music scores; sound/text music; ritual/intermedia pieces; performance art and Fluxus; improvisation in a number of traditions; large ensemble scores for variable (unspecified) instrumentation; and interactive computer music. The group regularly features composers performing and directing their music often written expressly for the Ensemble. There have been over 150 such collaborations since the group’s inception.

This program is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency and private contributors.