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Narong Prangcharoen Wins 2011 Underwood Commission

ACO is pleased to announce that composer Narong Prangcharoen has been named the winner of ACO's 2011 Annual Underwood Commission, bringing him a $15,000 purse for a work to be premiered by ACO in a future season. Chosen from six finalists during ACO's 20th annual Underwood New Music Readings on June 3 and 4, 2011, in one of the most coveted opportunities for emerging composers in the United States, Prangcharoen won the top prize with his work Pubbanimitta ("Foreboding")

Listen to an excerpt:

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Prangcharoen was also chosen as the winner of this year's Audience Choice Award, selected by the audience by ballot at the Readings. As the winner, he was commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone which is available to everyone who voted, free of charge. Prangcharoen's ringtone utilizes traditional Thai instruments, recorded by the Music and Performing Arts Players at Burapha University.

Of Prangcharoen's winning piece, Underwood mentor composer Paul Chihara said, "The music leaps off the page with a voluptuous sensuality from its first moments until it final perorations. It is well constructed and harmonically interesting: accessible and exotic, yet very individual and occasionally quirky in its orchestration and phrase structure. Mr. Prangcharoen writes music that reaches and moves his listeners with soaring melodies and intense rhythmic dance patterns."

Augusta Read Thomas, an Underwood mentor composer for the readings, added, "Composer Narong Prangcharoen wrote a dazzling, vibrant work, which celebrates the effervescence of the Orchestra in a manner that I found exhilarating."

Prangcharoen studied with Chen Yi and received his doctoral degree from University of Missouri-Kansas City. Prangcharoen's music has been called "absolutely captivating" by the Chicago Sun Times and has been performed in Asia, Australia, Europe and the U.S. His works have been heard at the Beijing Modern Music, MoMA Music and Grant Park Festivals, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and at the Library of Congress. Prangcharoen is also the winner of the Alexander Zemlinsky International Composition Competition and Pacific Symphony's American Composers Competition Prizes, and the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award. He is currently teaching at the Community Music and Dance Academy of the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri in Kansas City, and is the founder of the Thailand Composition Festival in Bangkok, Thailand. In 2007, the Thai government named Prangcharoen a Contemporary National Artist and awarded him the Silapathorn Award.

Upon winning the commission, Prangcharoen said, "I was astonished to be selected as the winner, especially when all of the composers who participated were so impressive. I am truly honored to be chosen, and am already looking forward to writing for ACO."

The 20th Annual Underwood New Music Readings were under the direction of ACO's Artistic Director, composer Robert Beaser, and were led by ACO Music Director George Manahan, with creative advisor Derek Bermel and mentor composers Paul Chihara and Augusta Read Thomas. The conductors, mentor composers, and principal players from ACO provided critical feedback to each of the participants during and after the sessions. In addition to the Readings, the composer participants took part in workshops and one-on-one sessions with industry professionals. This year's New Music Readings attracted 150 submissions from emerging composers around the country. In addition to Prangcharoen, the participants were:

Janet Jieru Chen (b. 1980) holds degrees from Taipei National University of the Arts, and has received scholarships to such music festivals as the International Music Courses in Darmstadt, the Composers Conference at Wellesley, and the Banff Summer Arts Festival. Composer Krzysztof Penderecki described her music as "original, no copying and truly Asian."

Mukai Kôhei (b. 1966) has studied at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and at the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he trained with Nicholas Maw. He received his doctoral degree in Composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where he studied with Chen Yi, James Mobberley and Paul Rudy.

Michael Djupstrom (b. 1980) studied composition at the University of Michigan. Other training included fellowships at the Tanglewood and Brevard Music Centers, the Aspen Music Festival, as well as studies in Paris with composer Betsy Jolas. In 2009 Djupstrom entered the Curtis Institute of Music as a composition student of Jennifer Higdon and Richard Danielpour.

Jordan Kuspa (b. 1985) was the winner of the 2010 ISCM - League of Composers Competition and the 2007 Robert Avalon Young Composers Competition. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at the Yale School of Music, where he has studied with Martin Bresnick, Ezra Laderman, Ingram Marshall, and Christopher Theofanidis.

Kate Soper (b. 1981) is a New York City-based composer and performer with a diverse background and interests. Soper received her Bachelors of Music from Rice University and is currently a DMA candidate at Columbia University, where her teachers have included Fred Lerdahl, Mario Davidovksy, Tristan Murail, and Fabien Lévy.

Writing for the symphony orchestra remains one of the supreme challenges for the aspiring composer. The subtleties of instrumental balance, timbre, and communication with the conductor and musicians are critical skills. Opportunities for composers to gain hands-on experience working with a professional orchestra are few. Since 1991 ACO's New Music Readings have provided invaluable experience for emerging composers while serving as a vital resource to the music field by identifying a new generation of American composers. To date, more than 130 composers have participated in the Readings, including such award-winning composers as Melinda Wagner, Pierre Jalbert, Augusta Read Thomas, Randall Woolf, Jennifer Higdon, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Sebastian Currier, and ACO's Creative Advisor, Derek Bermel.

The New Music Readings continue ACO's emphasis on launching composers' careers, a tradition that includes many of today's top composers, such as Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Joseph Schwantner, both of whom received Pulitzer Prizes for ACO commissions; and Robert Beaser, Ingram Marshall, Joan Tower, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse, Sebastian Currier, and Tobias Picker, whom the orchestra championed when they were beginning their careers.

ACO's 2010 winner, Christopher Stark, received the top prize for his work Ignatian Excercises. His newly commissioned work, ...and start west, was premiered by ACO at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on October 14, 2011, as part of SONiC: Sounds of a New Century -- a nine-day festival featuring music written in the 21st century by composers age 40 and under, produced by ACO and The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University. The 21st Annual New Music Readings are scheduled for June 1-3, 2012 at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City. The submission deadline for composers interested in applying is November 14, 2011 at 5pm Eastern. Complete submission guidelines and application are available at www.americancomposers.org/nmr.