The festivities continue at the newly reopened Alice Tully Hall tonight, with a concert they’re calling “New York, New Music, New Hall.” The evening gets underway with a preshow at 5:30 in the outer lobby where ETHEL will play a piece called Space by Phil Kline. The sold-out main event starts at 7:00 and features a smorgasbord of performances by Alarm Will Sound, the Bang On A Can All-Stars (with special guest Glenn Kotche of Wilco), and Steve Reich and Musicians with Synergy Vocals. AWS is playing music by Derek Bermel, Oscar Bianchi, and Caleb Burhans. The All-Stars are playing music by Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Glenn Kotche. Steve Reich and his posse are doing Music for 18 Musicians.
I asked a couple of the composers to tell me something interesting about their new pieces.
David Lang says:
My piece tonight – SUNRAY – came out of a giant case of writers block. Every summer, Bang on a Can runs a music institute at Mass MoCA in the Berkshires, and we teach there and hang out and write music and work with students from around the globe. I was supposed to make a new piece for the Bang on a Can All-Stars and I didn’t know what to write, and there was a rush on – it was supposed to be a surprise present for my dad on his 80th birthday, so I had to be on time and do a good job. The pressure was on. Everyday, I would just stare out of my apartment window, trying to think of something worthy to do but nothing seemed to work. The apartment was next to a dry cleaners – the store was called SUN CLEANERS and their sign had these stark, intertwined rays of the sun shooting out, in bright red and yellow, and I would just stare endlessly at it, trying to think about music. Feeling ever more miserable with my deadline fast approaching I just looked up and thought – write what you know. And so I did.
David is a modest guy and a great composer, and I have to admire his willingness to admit, on the record, to the banality of the compositional process. I haven’t heard the piece, but past experience tells me to expect good things.
Caleb Burhans says:
Let’s see. I was commissioned by Lincoln center to write this this past summer for aws. I finished “oh ye of little faith… (do you know where your children are?)” at the end of august. I had the advantage of knowing what else would be on our program so i composed the piece trying to show off the groups strenghths which were not featured in the other works. The title is a reflection on having sung too many weelkes and morely madrigals (more or less) and the subtitle comes from “it’s 10pm…” and also the idea of “children” of god. The piece is for a pretty standard chamber orchestra with the exception of flugelhorn in place of trumpet and the addition of e. guitar & e. bass.
Caleb is playing guitar. The piece is being premiered tonight, but I was lucky enough to hear a preview (special thanks to the Nabi Gallery, which made it possible) and I can tell you that it is breathtakingly beautiful.