2018 - 2019 ACF CONNECT Winners

On Friday, August 23, 2019 at 8pm, the American Composers Forum partners with GRAMMY-winning vocal project Roomful of Teeth in world premieres by Mingjia Chen, Mary Kouyoumdjian, and Peter S. Shin at MASS MoCA. Celebrating Roomful of Teeth’s ten years of re-imagining the potential of the human voice, the program includes both a retrospective of Roomful of Teeth’s first ten years and the world premiere of longtime collaborator Eve Beglarian’s None More Than You in a new version for live vocal octet. The three premieres commissioned through the American Composers Forum are Mingjia Chen’s a little bit, all the time (2019); Mary Kouyoumdjian’s Mustard Sweatshirts Are Forever (2019); and Peter S. Shin’s bits torn from words (2019). Composers were selected through the organization’s ACF | connect program after an international call for applications and the pieces were developed with and written specifically for Roomful of Teeth.

The nine movements of Mingjia Chen’s a little bit, all the time focuses on the unconventional beauty that lies in the messiness and awkwardness of love. Of the work, Chen says, “real love can be embarrassing and ugly, and I think that in itself is beautiful. Not (exclusively) the Hollywood would-die-for-you kind of love, but the jealous, confusing, and sometimes lonely kind that may be more familiar to some of us. Humans’ messy yet ceaseless quest for companionship – a phenomenon both wildly universal and personal – is fascinating and worthy of celebration.”

Mary Kouyoumdjian’s Mustard Sweatshirts Are Forever(2019) features interviews with each of the members of Roomful of Teeth – part of Kouyoumdjian’seffort to get to know collaborators not just as extraordinary musicians, but also as extraordinary human beings. Conversations included everything from individual backgrounds to thoughtful sentiments for their colleagues and personal reflections. Kouyoumdjian says, “It’s my humble hope that this piece is not only an exercise for the members of Roomful of Teeth to internalize their bandmates’ words, but for the audience to get to know these beautiful people as well.”

Peter S. Shin’s bits torn from words (2019) centers around Shin’s daily practice of the Korean language. Though his first language, it dissipated amid his immersion into his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. Shin explains, “I have been reconciling with my dual Korean-American identity ever since. Meditating on the 14 single consonants of the Korean alphabet, this piece reflects my daily practice of the language I desire to speak naturally again, and also serves as a reminder to dispute my day-to-day irrational anxieties. I can spend hours overthinking the right decisions for the simplest tasks. I dread being alone in social settings. I get nervous ordering a coffee in Koreatown in fear of my limited language capacity being exposed by the barista. If it doesn’t go perfectly, if I am alone in a crowd, if I do get exposed, how bad would it be?”

The program also features the world premiere of a new, fully live version of Eve Beglarian’s None More Than You. Commissioned by New York’s historic Dessoff Choir, the work has been developed with Roomful of Teeth over the course of the past year and incorporates a unique community choir including members of theDessoff Choir. Some of the ensemble’s first composers, including Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, will be present for an evening that uses the lens of the present to smile back on the group’s first decade. Garbus will also perform and Roomful of Teeth will share excerpts from a new work by Michael Gordon.

Launched in 2017, ACF | connect provides opportunities for composers to build relationships with leading American ensembles to create new work, reach new audiences, and engage with new communities. The inaugural group was the celebrated Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble (PNME) with a 2018 performance of the works of David Biedenbender, Rufus Reid, and Jung Yoon Wie. Through this program, composers are offered competitive commission fees, and have significant time to both work with performers and participate in learning/networking opportunities with industry professionals. Ensembles are able to connect to a broader composer community and invite applicants from a national call. Consistent with the mission of the American Composers Forum, the program supports meaningful, long-lasting connections between composers, performers, audiences, and the local community where the ensemble is based. The program intentionally supports a diversity of voices and music to advance creative musical expression as a core value of a global society. ACF | connect ensures a vibrant future for composers and their work by supporting their vision and creativity, and by pairing them with performers and audiences in traditional and innovative spaces and media. 

Program Information

Friday, August 23, 2019 at 8pm

American Composers Forum’s ACF | connect and Roomful of Teeth

MASS MoCA Hunter Center

1040 MASS MoCA WAY | North Adams, MA

Tickets: $18 Students + Advance; $28 Day Of; $44 Preferred

Link: https://massmoca.org/event/roomful-of-teeth-3/


Roomful of Teeth

Community Choir with singers from the Dessoff Choir

Merrill Garbus


Mary Kouyoumdjian – Mustard Sweatshirts Are Forever (World Premiere)

Peter S. Shin – bits torn from words (World Premiere)

Mingjia Chen – a little bit, all the time (World Premiere)

Eve Beglarian – None More Than You (World Premiere, Fully Live Version)

            Featuring the Dessoff Choir

Set by Merrill Garbus (of tUnE-yArDs)

Excerpts of a new work by Michael Gordon

Works by Judd Greenstein, Caroline Shaw and Rinde Eckert

*Program subject to change

About Roomful of Teeth

Roomful of Teeth is a GRAMMY-winning vocal project dedicated to reimagining the expressive potential of the human voice. Through study with masters from vocal traditions the world over, the eight-voice ensemble continually expands its vocabulary of singing techniques and, through an ongoing commissioning process, forges a new repertoire without borders.

Founded in 2009 by Brad Wells, Roomful of Teeth gathers annually at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, where they’ve studied with some of the world’s top performers and teachers in Tuvan throat singing, yodeling, Broadway belting, Inuit throat singing, Korean P’ansori, Georgian singing, Sardinian cantu a tenore, Hindustani music, Persian classical singing and Death Metal singing. Commissioned composers include Rinde Eckert, Fred Hersch, Merrill Garbus (of tUnE-yArDs), William Brittelle, Toby Twining, Missy Mazzoli, Julia Wolfe, Ted Hearne and Ambrose Akinmusire, among many others. Learn more at www.roomfulofteeth.org

About Mingjia Chen

Mingjia Chen (pronounced MING-jee-yah) is a vocalist, improviser, composer, lyricist, multi-instrumentalist, and active contributor to the ever-growing Toronto arts scene.

Recognized for her technical and stylistic versatility as a vocalist and her fresh sound as a composer, Mingjia has performed with, composed for & recorded with a plethora of musical groups. These include her own group the Tortoise Orchestra, as well as James Fernando, the science of what?, David Occhipinti, Juliet Palmer, GREX (led by Alex Samaras), Pleasurecraft, SonuSkapos Jazz Orchestra, Obsolete Vernacular, Makes Shapes, Celeste, Andi, and more. She has performed at various venues and festivals across Canada, China & the United States, and has produced 2 releases as a band leader. Feel Seen, her most recent EP, is described by The WholeNote as “beautiful, mature and exceptionally coherent.”

A graduate and the Oscar Peterson Prize recipient of Humber College’s Bachelor of Jazz and Contemporary Music program, Mingjia has had the incredible good fortune of studying with some of Canada’s most innovative artists, such as Christine Duncan, Geoff Young, Shannon Gunn, Alex Samaras, and David Occhipinti. She has been commissioned by Grammy Award-Winning Ensemble Roomful of Teeth through the American Composer’s Forum. Learn more at www.mingjiamusic.com

About Mary Kouyoumdjian

Mary Kouyoumdjian is a composer with projects ranging from concert works to multimedia collaborations and film scores. As a first generation Armenian-American and having come from a family directly affected by the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide, she uses a sonic palette that draws on her heritage, interest in music as documentary, and background in experimental composition to progressively blend the old with the new.

Kouyoumdjian has received commissions for such organizations as the New York Philharmonic, Kronos Quartet, Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alarm Will Sound, International Contemporary Ensemble [ICE], Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the American Composers Forum/JFund, Roomful of Teeth, WQXR, REDSHIFT, Experiments in Opera, the Nouveau Classical Project, Music of Remembrance, Friction Quartet, Ensemble Oktoplus, and the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble. Her music has been described as “eloquently scripted” and “emotionally wracking” by The New York Times and as “the most harrowing moments on stage at any New York performance” by New York Music Daily. In her work as a composer, orchestrator, and music editor for film, she has collaborated on a diverse array of motion pictures including orchestrating on the soundtracks to The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus Features) and Demonic (Dimension Films). 

Currently pursuing her Composition D.M.A. as a Teaching Fellow at Columbia University, Kouyoumdjian studies primarily with Zosha Di Castri, Georg Friedrich Haas, Fred Lerdahl, and George Lewis. She holds an M.A. in Composition from Columbia University, an M.A. in Scoring for Film & Multimedia from New York University, and a B.A. in Music Composition from the University of California, San Diego, where she studied contemporary composition with Chaya Czernowin, Steven Kazuo Takasugi, and Chinary Ung; new music performance with Steven Schick; and modern jazz with Anthony Davis. Dedicated to new music advocacy, Kouyoumdjian served as the founding Executive Director of contemporary music ensemble Hotel Elefant, is a Co-Founder of the annual new music conference New Music Gathering, and is a Co-Artistic Director of Alaska’s new music festival Wild Shore New Music. As an avid educator, Kouyoumdjian has taught at the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers program, Juilliard’s Music Advancement Program, Columbia University, and is currently on faculty at The New School’s Mannes Prep program. Kouyoumdjian is proud to be published by Schott’s PSNY. Learn more at www.marykouyoumdjian.com

About Peter S. Shin

Peter S. Shin (b. 1991) is a composer whose music navigates issues of national belonging, the co-opting and intermingling of disparate musical vernaculars, and the liminality between the two halves of his second-generation Korean-American identity. The New York Times described him as “a composer to watch” and his music “entirely fresh and personal.”

Peter’s music has been performed at Carnegie Hall through the “First Music” Commission, Walt Disney Concert Hall through the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Noon to Midnight” series, Chicago’s Symphony Center through the Civic Orchestra New Music Workshop, and the Cabrillo Festival commissioned by John Adams and Deborah O’Grady. Current projects include a commission for Roomful of Teeth through the American Composers Forum premiering in 2019, a film score for the 2019 Mizzou International Composers Festival with Alarm Will Sound, and a chamber orchestra work for the Berkeley Symphony’s 2018/19 season.

Additional honors include an American Academy of Arts and Letters Charles Ives Scholarship, ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Fulbright Research Grant, Tanglewood Music Center Fellowship, Aspen Music Festival Fellowship, Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, New York Youth Symphony “First Music” Commission, Civic Orchestra of Chicago New Music Workshop with coachings by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra International Call for Scores, and SCI/ASCAP Commission Competition in the Graduate Division, among others.

A native of Kansas City, Missouri and a graduate of the University of Michigan (B.M.) and the University of Southern California (M.M.), Peter is currently studying at the Yale School of Music (M.M.A.) and is a composer fellow of the Berkeley Symphony. For more information, please visit www.peter-shin.com.

*Photo Credits: Photo of Mingjia Chen by Tiffany Wu, photo of Mary Kouyoumdjian by Dominica Eriksen, photo of Peter S. Shin by Brianna Park