Ecstatic Music is a series of collaborative, commissioned-based concerts exploring and showcasing the products of the fertile terrain between classical and vernacular musics. Introduced in 2011 with the Kaufman Center’s Ecstatic Music Festival, it is a series that is both of and about the present musical moment, one in which composers and performers bring together the best aspects of all their influences, yielding beautiful music that is sophisticated yet viscerally engaging and serving emotional, not technical ends. The contemporary music scene, examined “from above” without preconceptions of where the lines between genres ought to be drawn, looks more expansive and full of possibility than ever before. Participants in the Ecstatic series have included a talented and diverse group of groundbreaking artists paired in never-before-seen tandems: So Percussion and Dan Deacon, Merrill Garbus and Roomful of Teeth, Buke & Gass and Victoire, Clogs with Shara Worden and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, just to name a few. The series continued in 2012 and 2013, including a special free Ecstatic Summer series produced by Brookfield Arts and curated by New Amsterdam.


Ecstatic Music begins, from a curatorial perspective, with the observation that musicians from different areas of the cultural landscape are engaged in strikingly similar activity, converging on a genre-less space that seamlessly incorporates myriad influences. Composers who grew up listening to classical and popular musics on equal footing are now forming their own ensembles and performing as “bands” in clubs, while established songwriters and bands who had classical training as youths are now including classical musicians in their acts, writing for orchestras and appearing in concert halls for attentive, seated audiences. Musicians are not merely juxtaposing the vernacular and the classical — this has happened for as long as that distinction has had meaning — but are creating music that is simultaneously of both worlds, and notably, that does not draw attention to its polyglot nature. This openness to organically incorporating all influences has yielded unique, idiosyncratic compositional voices, with the twin virtues of sophistication and immediate emotional resonance emerging as the constants that tie together this pan-genre community of sound. These voices belong to composers who are gaining recognition among audiences as some of the key musical figures of our time, with the word “composer” increasingly used to describe a wide swath of musical practice, from symphonies to songs, and onto as-yet undefined forms and musical constructions.

To highlight the radically open quality of this new musical culture, the Ecstatic Music series emphasizes collaborations between artists with different musical backgrounds. Messy though the new genre-less space may be, the different musical traditions that lead into it are largely distinct. While other music festivals and series have juxtaposed artists from different traditions, the Ecstatic Music Festival uses collaboration to forge firm bonds between musical practitioners and, therefore, between and across the traditions from which they originated. By encouraging the creation of new music that brings together working methods and ideas from different musical backgrounds, the new space between genres is enriched and strengthened — along with the original musical traditions themselves, and the individual work of each collaborating artist, which will be heard alongside the new compositions and the work of their collaborator.


Ecstatic Summer, organized by New Amsterdam Presents in association with Kaufman Music Center, began in the summer of 2012 with collaborations and programs featuring such artists as Merrill Garbus (of indie sensation tUnE-yArDs), the vocal group Roomful of Teeth, composer William Brittelle, composer Judd Greenstein’s The Yehudim; sound artist Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) and string ensemble A Far Cry unveiling a new interpretation of composer David Lang’s Darker; and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society with Brooklyn disco stalwarts Escort.

Ecstatic Summer 2013 features two full sets of newly commissioned, collaboratively-based music; one for brass and the other for percussion. Part concert and part “happening,” the two sets will be completely acoustic, site-specific events, designed specifically to fill the stunning waterfront plaza of Brookfield Place with over a dozen musicians involved in each set. Composers include Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Dave Douglas, Susie Ibarra, Seth Olinsky (Akron/Family), with others to be announced, while the ensembles include a mix of musicians from different musical worlds, including members of groups such as Bon Iver, Mantra Percussion, the National, yMusic, Plastic Ono Band, and many more.