Machine Language

ACM’s last concert of the season features music inspired by machines, gears, toys and mechanisms and will be held in the beautifully restored Davis Theater in Lincoln Square.

We’ll perform the World Premiere of David Smooke’s The Mechanical Bird Museum, a piece we commissioned as part of our Composer Alive program.

Monday, May 14 7:30 PM
Davis Theater
4614 N. Lincoln Ave.
$25 door, $20 online, $10 students


Cranks and Cactus Needles by Annie Gosfield was inspired by the sound of ancient 78 RPM records, and the pops, scratches, skips, and warps that occur as they deteriorate. “Cranks” refers to the crank handles of old record players that had to be wound up before a 78 could be played, and “Cactus Needles” are the sharp cactus spines that were sometimes used as cheap phonograph needles.

The musicians are instructed to play the piece “distant and ghostly, like a victrola down the hall”, and use uneven vibratos, imperfect repeats, and unpitched scrapes to evoke the decaying music of this anachronistic technology.

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Fun With Friends Musical Table by Elisha Denburg is a hilariously creative musical reinvention of a classic kids toy.

The Mechanical Bird Museum by David Smooke is an ACM commission that will receive its world premiere performance. About the piece Smooke says I’ve long been fascinated by simulacra, especially mechanical representations of the natural. The players are spaced throughout the hall in order to surround the audience so that the each listener has a unique experience of the whole, depending on where they are situated.”

In the study of genetic algorithms, computer scientists create virtual species with virtual genetic codes and allow for spontaneous mutations within some kind of Darwinian “survival of the fittest” context. and Machine Language by Dan Trueman is in part an imagination of the sounds of the languages that virtual species might speak, or perhaps of the music they might make.

Sculptress by Nicole Lizée pays homage to the beauty of outdated machines and their potential for dysfunction, and the degradation of media: film strips, movies, vinyl, reels, VHS/Beta, video games, etc.

Chris Ramaekers – Music Director

Alyson Berger – cello
Trevor Patrick Watkin – flute
Isaac Stevenson – percussion
Cory Tiffin – clarinet
Arianne Urban – violin
Amy Wurtz – piano
Jeff Yang – electric violin



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