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The Curiosity Cabinet

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Primary Contact
Joe Tucker,
Executive / President
Whitney George, Artistic Director, CEO

1. curiosity cabinet (noun): 15th-century piece of furniture, typically made of wood, with many drawers and shelves of different sizes. These drawers and shelves were used to display a collection of artifacts, and these artifacts were often connected by a theme related to the collector’s profession. A scientist, for example, might exhibit remnants of botanical life or various medical anomalies, while a hunter might collect and display petrified butterflies or ravenous animal teeth. Curiosity cabinets were often the only place for laity to glimpse exotic pieces of fossilized wildlife, like the tip of the horn of a rhino or claw from a hawk. These cabinets—and the collections they housed— are often considered to be predecessors of the modern museum, and have influenced various contemporary organizations such as the grotesque Mütter Museum of medical oddities, Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum, and the NYC-based new music ensemble the Curiosity Cabinet (see definition 2).

2. Curiosity Cabinet (proper noun): founded in 2009 by composer and conductor Whitney George, The Curiosity Cabinet is a chamber orchestra dedicated to performing works of the 20th/21st-century standard repertoire and premiering works by living composers working in interdisciplinary mediums. The group began as a Pierrot Ensemble, and has since grown into a collective of more than 20 instrumentalists and 6 singers, with a core group of 10 performers and a conductor. The ensemble has been involved in a variety of festivals and performances in New York and the east coast since it’s creation. In 2010, the ensemble was awarded the Robert Engelman Award for the premiere performance of George’s 50-minute monodrama 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. In the Spring of 2011, the ensemble premiered a 13-movement work written for the ensemble by George entitled 'The Anatomy of the Curiosity Cabinet'. This performance won the CUNY Graduate Center's prestigious Robert Starer Award. In the same year, the ensemble premiered selections of a new opera by David Bridges, and was the ensemble-in-residence at the annual Hartford Women Composers' Festival. In the Fall of 2014 , the Curiosity Cabinet was in-residence with Concrete Timbre’s artist collective for a Satie-inspired work titled 'Un Lieu de Vie', and in the Spring of 2015, the ensemble is collaborating with puppeteer Daniel Fay for a performance at the Standard Toykraft Theater in Brooklyn. Since 2011, the ensemble has been involved in the annual NY-wide "Composers NOW" event. The group has performed works by composers Whitney George, David Bridges, Ellen O'Meara, Chris Danforth, Girolamo Deraco, Faye-Ellen Silverman, and Karen Powers in addition to the staples of the 20th century such as Copland, Feldman, & Cage.


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