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“Impact Performance” Competition

9 Finalists Announced!

We’re thrilled to announce the 9 Finalists of the Ariel AVANT “Impact Performance” competition, an open call for performance proposals and engagement events designed to generate productive conversation and offer positive means of action around a social justice issue. Read on to learn about the top nine performance proposals and associated commissions, and the artists who are passionate about these topics.

Argus Quartet

“Our Land”
New commissioned work by: Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti 

Improvisations by Argus Quartet, 5-10min
Katie Balch (*1991), Drip Music, 11min
Ted Hearne (*1982), from Exposure: movements 1 and 2, 11min
Juri Seo (*1981), from Infinite Season: Winter-Spring, 13min
Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti (*1983), Ahupuaʻa, 15min

This project juxtaposes two versions of how land has been treated by those who own it, live on it, or till its soil: the pollution, brutalization, and destruction of Navajo and Lakota lands and peoples through uranium mining in the 1940s-50s; and the Native Hawaiian concept of ahupuaʻa, sustainable community regions designed to give each community access to crops, fresh water, and oceanfront, through the division of slices of land. Through these two examples, the performance tells a story about the effects of humans’ and societies’ treatment of their lands. The performance will be a single, through-line experience: the first half, exploring destruction, will give way to the second, which promotes health, hope, and inclusivity. Spoken texts, fixed media, images, lighting, and improvisations between works thread the evening together into a unified experience. Most of the works on the program, including pieces by Katie Balch and Juri Seo, were written for and premiered by the Argus Quartet in past seasons. The newly commissioned work by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, a composer of Native Hawaiian descent (Kanaka Maoli), draws inspiration from the structures and language of that culture.

Gabriel Cabezas, cello

“Serotinous Cones”
New commissioned work by: Alyssa Weinberg 

Alyssa Weinberg (b. 1988), Serotinous Cones (65″)

Serotinous Cones is an evening length semi-staged piece exploring the themes of decay and regeneration, with all new music composed by Alyssa Weinberg for cellist Gabriel Cabezas. This interdisciplinary performance will be in partnership with duende, a Philadelphia-based new music and contemporary dance collective which focuses on the interaction between performers and dancers in the live realization of new scores. In addition to the solo cello, music for this performance will include two percussionists playing found urban objects, sampling of found sounds and field recordings, and will be choreographed with two dancers. This piece explores two different sides to the idea of decay: natural decay as part of a healthy ecosystem, and artificial decay as a result of unwanted human interference and destruction. This dichotomy will be at the center of the work, which will be structured by a number of different “scenes” moving through specific ecosystems, ie: desert, coastline, forest and mountain. The performance will rely on movement, a diverse electroacoustic soundscape, and basic lighting design adaptable to a range of performance spaces to create vivid, transforming landscapes for the audience to experience.

Del Sol Quartet

“World On Fire”
New commissioned work by: Takuma Itoh 

Kerwin Young (b. 1969): In the Amazon (10’)
Peter Sculthorpe (1929-2014): String Quartet no. 14 (18’)
Gabriela Lena Frank (b.1972): Kanto Kechua (10’)
Takuma Itoh (b.1984): World on Fire (25’) **COMMISSION (visuals by Carlin Ma)

“World on Fire” is a journey into a story that has become too common — a natural disaster wreaking destruction on your home. For us personally, it is about our community literally burning to the ground through wildfires. In California, the 2017 fire season set records for devastation with the Tubbs Fire. Despite a “never again,” it was quickly eclipsed by the tragedies in 2018 and 2019, including the highly destructive Kincade, Getty, Woolsey, and Camp Fires. Centered on this theme of fire, the program explores our human connection to the land, both as victims impacted by these changes as well as those who have the power to create change and a new future. Woven in between the music of Kerwin Young, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Peter Sculthorpe, photographs will guide the audience through the evening’s narrative. They will explore the sensations of fire, from devastation into the hope of new beginnings.

EcoSono Ensemble

“World On Fire”
New commissioned work by: Takuma Itoh 

Mona Kasra (media, 1980) and Matthew Burtner (music, 1971), “New Work,” 30’ (new commission)
Matthew Burtner (1971), “Sound Cast of Matanuska Glacier”, 9’ (newly commissioned arrangement)
Scott Deal (media, 1958) and Matthew Burtner (music, 1971) “Auksalaq”, 30’
Matthew Burtner (1971), “Threnody (Sikuigvik)”, 6’ (newly commissioned arrangement)

“Icefield” is a multimedia classical music concert experience offering a meaningful engagement for diverse audiences to explore global warming in the 21st century through multimedia music. EcoSono Ensemble will commission a new work from media artist Mona Kasra and composer Matthew Burtner. The new piece will be premiered along with a concert version of Scott Deal and Burtner’s ground-breaking climate-change opera, “Auksalaq,” an award-winning piece set in the far north of Alaska where the composer was born. The concert will also feature newly created arrangements of “Threnody (Sikuigvik)” and “Sound Cast of Matanuska Glacier”, two recent chamber music compositions commissioned by the US State Department under President Obama. The new composition will explore the Harding Icefield, a major source of ice-locked fresh water in North America, one that is highly susceptible to global warming.

icarus Quartet

“Wilderness Suite”
New commissioned work by: Ruby Fulton 

Ruby Fulton (b. 1981), Wilderness Suite, 60 minutes

Piano-percussion ensemble icarus Quartet, composer Ruby Fulton, and video artist Benjamin James have set out to create a multimedia counterpart to a rephotography project in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness led by geographer Teresa Cavazos Cohn. Wilderness Suite will use live music, pre-recorded electronics, and video to examine the impression of humankind on the spaces it inhabits. Located in central Idaho, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is the largest federally protected wilderness area in the contiguous United States. Because of legislation passed in 1980 which prevents human development and the use of mechanical equipment, the Wilderness’ protected 2,361,767 acres tell a unique story of “anti-development” that illuminates the effects of taking humans out of a space. This story is best told through the lens of rephotography, a technique used in many disciplines as a way to examine change over time by comparing old photographs to current photographs in the same places. Ruby Fulton’s composition for four-hands piano, marimba, vibraphone, and drumkit will evoke these images and evolutions through soaring lines, stark dynamic contrasts, and grooves that distort, taking on new forms. Cohn’s study also involves recorded interviews with various stakeholders about their experience of and ideas about environmental change in the area, including outfitters, recreationists, members from the Shoshone-Bannock and Nez Perce Tribes, private landowners, and USFS employees. Fulton will sample and morph recordings of these individuals’ voices to create Wilderness Suite’s electronic track. Video artist Benjamin James will create an original video to sync with the live and pre-recorded sound, using the old and new rephotography samples. This pseudo-documentary work, using a combination of data, stories, and music, will bring science to people in an artistic and emotional way, inciting real communication on the challenging yet pressing question of the impact of human-environmental relationships.

Latitude 49

“Don’t say a word”
New commissioned work by: Shelley Washington

Gity Razaz (b. 1986): New Work (Commissioned by Chamber Music America), 15 min
Shelley Washington (b. 1991): New Work, 15 min
Annika Socolofsky (b. 1990): Don’t say a word, 40 min

Don’t say a word is a curated concert program of music and visual art of feminist expression built by a creative team of women for exactly the time in which we find ourselves. Don’t say a word sets its sights on the deeply problematic gender inequalities that lullabies and nursery rhymes have perpetuated for centuries. It’s time to retell those old lullabies for a new, queer present through a new genre of song: feminist rager-lullabies. All eight lullabies were recently commissioned and premiered, with the song cycle presented in its entirety in October 2019 at Princeton University’s Princeton Sound Kitchen. Our program is curated to feature Annika’s work as the central feature, with composers Gity Razaz and Shelly Washington deepening and expanding the program’s voice. We wanted to embrace a diverse range of female-identifying perspectives and experiences, where the concert experience is itself a representation of three American women with unique backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences. Shelley Washington has written music that comments on issues of identity and injustice towards women (including exploring the repulsive pervasiveness of sexual harassment in her work BIG Talk). Annika and Shelley are colleagues and friends with an ongoing collaborative relationship, ensuring an open and creative exchange. Additionally, Annika suggested the involvement of Iranian-American composer Gity Razaz, resulting in a recent commission through Chamber Music America, expected in September of this year. Beyond the music itself, we have commissioned the brilliant media artist and filmmaker Xuan to create visual projections and media art for these works. This multidisciplinary performance will allow for the aural and visual to blend, sharing the experiences of self-acceptance, gender discrimination, and the staggering importance of inclusivity. 


“No Unsacred Place”
New commissioned works by: Eve Beglarian and James Diaz

Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016), “Tuning Meditation,” 5 min. 
Eve Beglarian (1958), New Commission with fixed audio media, 12 min. 
*Audio Interlude, 2-3 min. 
James Diaz (1990), New Commission with video installation, 12 min. 
*Audio Interlude, 2-3 min. 
Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016), “Tree/Peace” with video installation by Pascal Perich, 23 min. 
*Audio Postlude, 2-3 min. 
*Interludes and postlude composed by members of Longleash, featuring field recordings, recorded speaking, and musical fragments inspired by Hildegard von Bingen’s “O viriditas digiti dei.”

“No Unsacred Place” is an immersive multimedia performance project that invites audiences to cultivate practices of eco-responsiveness. The project’s live concert component features Longleash (violin, cello, piano) as the performers of works for acoustic piano trio (Pauline Oliveros, Tree/Peace), trio and soundscape (Eve Beglarian, new commission), trio and video installation (James Diaz, new commission) as well as performer-created audio interludes featuring field recordings, recorded speaking, and musical fragments inspired by Hildegard von Bingen’s O viriditas digiti dei. The project, which also will feature community sound walks and green touring practices, will invite listeners to contemplate sensory attunement, interdependency, bioregion, and the meaning of touring in a post-COVID state of climate crisis.

New Morse Code

“The Language of Landscapes”
New commissioned work by: Andy Akiho

Christopher Stark (b. 1980), The Language of Landscapes, 22’
Viet Cuong (b. 1990), New Commissioned Work, 8’
Andy Akiho (b. 1979), New Commissioned Work inspired by OSIRIS-REx with new video component by Hannah Wasileski, 30’
“The Language of Landscapes” is a concert of works for cello, percussion, electronics, and video which engages the audience in a conversation about the challenges and urgencies of climate action and responsible consumption while also presenting optimistic possibilities for renewable energy, scientific discovery, and innovative technologies in space exploration. The program will open with Christopher Stark’s The Language of Landscapes, commissioned for New Morse Code in 2014 by Chamber Music America. Stark’s work draws the audience into the sound world of climate action and responsible consumption by creating soundscapes made from dozens of natural field recordings in combination with sounds from synthetic materials and digital manipulation, as a way of repositioning the listener and opening their ears. The Language of Landscapes will be paired with a newly commissioned work by Andy Akiho inspired by the OSIRIS-REx project on the Bennu asteroid. Akiho will use sound from the OSIRIS-Rex mission to comment on the extent to which space exploration can power a more sustainable future for earth. These two works—both with video and electronics—will be bridged by a new work from composer Viet Cuong, focusing on renewable energy.

Quadre: The Voice of Four Horns

“Our Time, Our Stories”
New commissioned work by: Nina Shekhar

Jamie Keesecker (1981), The Impetuous Winds, 4:40
Michael Kaulkin (1967), By Hook or By Crook, 6:44
Nathan Pawelek (1968), Midlife Crisis, 11:01
Daniel Wood (1974), A Streetcar Named, 8:45
Mark Adam Watkins (1971), Shepherd’s Call, 3:17
Christopher Wiggins (1956), Fanfare for Quadre, 1:57
Nina Shekhar (1995), revolve, 10:00 (commission)
Daniel Wood (1974), In Time, 16:21

Quadre – The Voice of Four Horns performs with collaborators Kristopher Grant (multimedia artist) and James Kassis (percussion). The performance presents stories connected to the theme: Homelessness: Hope, Humanity, and Heart. The stories reflect challenges and opportunities told through families struggling to get by. Poignant and interpersonal, they are read by the 6 performing artists on stage or broadcast onto the screen using original content, news articles, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for source material. Shekhar’s revolve serves as the climax of the program. Raw, gorgeous, inviting, and personal, it chronicles the lives of homeless youth through the often revolving door of their situation. Intertwining samples by artists that have been homeless, audiences reflect on what home means to them. As part of a visual call for entries that Quadre is doing this season, art will flash on the screen, devolve, and reconstitute itself as Grant affects the visuals of each piece. Using the uplifting work done by social organizations such as the United Way, multimedia artist Kristopher Grant brings subtle awareness to the issue of homelessness by creating an interactive installation in the lobby. 

Impact Performance Competition Guidelines

Ariel AVANT’s Impact Performance prize goes to the most compelling interdisciplinary and/or multimedia performance designed to generate productive conversation and offer positive means of action addressing a social justice issue, particularly one related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prioritized to be achieved by 2030. Applying artists should also propose one or more new works (of at least 10 minutes total) which will be commissioned for the performance itself and integral to its implementation. 

In an effort to mitigate existing bias, the competition will be judged by three tiers of judging panels made up of varying ratios of concert presenters, industry thought leaders, and Ariel roster artists, all from diverse backgrounds. The best ideas win, with four levels of recognition: Grand Prize Winner, Second and Third Place winners, and a Heart winner, an honorable mention for a proposal “with heart.” The grand prize includes a $20,000 touring fund to support five performances with paired engagement events, a $10,000 development and commissioning fund, and a two-week incubation residency for beta testing at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Second and third prizes are honorariums of $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.
The AVANT competitions are open to classical music soloists and chamber ensembles of every background, regardless of age, ensemble instrumentation, race, gender identification, sexual orientation, or any other factor. 
The only eligibility requirements to apply are the following:

  • An active performance history of at least two years
  • Established membership of at least two years (in the case of chamber ensembles)
  • The total number of touring artists/collaborators (including accompanying technicians) must range from 3-6 people
  • Applicants must be able to tour in the United States during the Grand Prize touring period (approximately September through December 2021)
  • Commissioned works must be completed and delivered to artists/collaborators well in advance of the Grand Prize touring period
  • Applications Due: June 1, 2020
  • Semi-Finalists Announced: July 2020
  • Finalists Announced: August 2020
  • Grand Prize Winner Announced: September 2020
  • Approximate Touring Period: September – December 2021

For Full Competition Guidelines, Visit:

Competition Timeline:

Applications Due: June 1, 2020
Semi-Finalists Announced: July 2020
Finalists Announced: August 2020
Grand Prize Winner Announced: September 2020
Approximate Touring Period: September – December 2021