Zeitgeist is German for "the spirit of the age," and Zeitgeist is a chamber ensemble wholly committed to enriching and articulating that spirit. Founded in 1977 to present the music of living composers with passion and authority, Zeitgest has won the admiration of composers and audiences across North America and Europe. In its determination to map the full complexity of our pluralistic and turbulent fin de siecle, the group has explored an astonishing variety of musical idioms, developing close ties with such avant-garde luminaries as John Cage, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Frederic Rzewski and Harold Budd, and paying special attention to nurturing younger composers. Believing that the range of significant new work is wider than any individual's current sympathies, the musicians of Zeitgeist seek constantly to broaden their acquaintance with existing and emerging styles, making the ensemble a magnet for all that is vital in today's music.
As catalyst and advocate, Zeitgeist has helped reforge the links between contemporary composers and music lovers - links that, in America at least, had been fractured by the academicism of the postwar decades.
Zeitgeist's distinctive instrumentation - described by Rzewski as "two hitters, a blower, and a piano player" - has been harnessed to create an extraordinary range of timbres and textures: the ensemble, in the words of the "Philadelphia Inquirer"'s critic, "lives in a world of colors scarcely to be matched by symphony orchestras." Individually, the "Zeitgeist Four" are masters of contemporary innovations in instrumental technique; together, they exhibit the almost uncanny unanimity of a well-seasoned professional quartet. Little wonder, then, that the "Zeitgeist sound", protean yet unmistakable, has fired the musical imaginations of composers who differ greatly in their temperaments and stylistic proclivities. The group's working method also inspire composers' loyalty: every new piece is scrupulously prepared through an animated, give-and-take rehearsal process in which each player has an equal voice, and in which the composer is often intimately involved. This process, which occasionally results in significant revisions, reclaims for performing musicians their once-traditional role as "co-creators" of what they play, and invests Zeitgeist's concerts with an elan and a sense of occasion too seldom encountered on today's musical scene. The ensemble has premiered nearly 100 compositions in seventeen years and retains many of these in its active repertoire.
From its base in St. Paul, Zeitgeist tours extensively throughout the US, playing in venues that range from Carnegie Hall to the Minnesota State Fair, and appearing on radio and television. The group performs often in the Twin Cities area and has collaborated with an array of notable choreographers, filmmakers, poets, and others. Managed by a former American diplomat, the ensemble is enthusiastically devoted to bringing the best of America's music to foreign audiences as well. It has made five extended European tours, and has also introduced domestic listeners to composers representing a variety of other cultures. The musicians of Zeitgeist are also master teachers, sharing their expertise with students and colleagues through residencies, workshops, and other educational programs.
Zeitgeist consists of Artistic Co-Directors Heather Barringer and Jay Johnson (percussion), Thomas Linker (keyboards), Robert Samarotto (woodwinds), and Executive Co-Director Lawrence Fuchsberg. A non-profit organization incorpoarted in the state of Minnesota, it recieves generous support from the Dayton Hudson Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the General Mills Foundation, United Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the City of St. Paul, and other philanthropies and individuals.
Zeitgeist's website is located at http://www.spiritofthetimes.org/.
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