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The founders of Bang on a Can have been busy, and it looks like the fall season is starting in a big way for David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe.  Below are some concerts coming up in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Palo Alto and Cleveland, which are all worth checking out.

Sunday, October 3:  Music of Julia Wolfe performed by Robert Black and the Hartt Bass Band, JACK Quartet, and Matthew Welch at Le Poisson Rouge.  Wait, that was last night, sorry – whoops. Well, even though it’s too late to check out that concert, I wanted to give a tip-of-the-hat to Julia for a truly satisfying and earsplitting(!) concert last night.  She started off the evening by saying that the program was full of rarely performed music, and understandably so.  She told us that Dig Deep is her least performed quartet, and then JACK promptly tore it apart (in a good way).  She also mentioned how hard it is to get eight great contrabasses in the same place to perform Stronghold and how difficult it would be to find the right bagpiper for LAD if not for Matthew Welch.  Completely worth the wait.

Don’t worry though, there is still plenty of time to check out Julia (and Michael and David) this fall at these concerts that haven’t passed, yet.

For those of you in New York:
Thursday, October 7: David Lang’s score for the latest ballet by New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Benjamin Millepied will premiere at New York City Ballet’s Gala Performance. A repeat performance will take place on October 10 (plus four performances in February 2011).

Friday, October 8: The Kronos Quartet and the Young People’s Chorus of New York will perform the world premiere of Exalted by Michael Gordon at LPR.

Saturday, October 9: Michael Gordon will be performed AGAIN by Kronos in the New York premiere of Clouded Yellow, again at LPR.

For those of you in Los Angeles:
Tuesday, October 19: David, Michael AND Julia will all be part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella series.

Peeking into November, for those of you near Palo Alto:
Friday, November 5: The All-Stars will be performing pieces by both David and Julia at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium at Stanford University.

And finally, again in November, for those of you in Cleveland:
Saturday, November 13: David Lang will be featured at the Cleveland Museum of Art by the Oberlin Contemporary Ensemble with the Ohio premiere of his Pulitzer Prize-winning the Little Match Girl Passion.

Of course there is also Evan Ziporyn’s opera extravaganza, A House in Bali, coming up in Boston and New York – more on that in another post.

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Of all the press releases I received over the summer, none made me happier than the one saying that, yes, there would be another New Music Bake Sale this year.

It’s happening this Saturday, September 25, at the Irondale Center (85 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn) from 5-11:30pm and will be emceed by hosts from WQXR/Q2.

It looks like this year will be even more delicious than last year with more performances, more baked goods, and a silent auction.  All of the ensembles with tables have been invited to offer special items for auction (with all the money going directly to the ensemble); look for updates to the auction items here.  Want a piano lesson with Kathy Supové or a custom album written and recorded just for you by Loadbang?  The silent auction is where you’ll have the chance.

There will also be a bunch of performances, and by incredibly diverse groups: the Respect Sextet, Wet Ink, Kathy Supové, MIVOS quartet, Matthew Welch, DITHER, Todd Reynolds, Mantra Percussion, and Anti-Social Music.  Unbelievable.  $15 gets you in the door, includes 2 drink tickets, and you can come and go as you please.

I said it last year, and I’ll say it again:  even if you don’t care for all the music, it’s hard to deny the sense of community from having so many different groups all in the same room – we are all in this together! Tip of the hat to Newspeak, Ensemble de Sade, and the Exapno New Music Center for making it happen.

Finally, I’m not totally sure if you can still reserve a table as an ensemble, but if you are interested I would ask.  If you are interested in helping out I’m sure they would love to hear from you as well:

New Music, Beer, and Cookies.  Seriously, what else could you possible ask for?!

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The last thing that Alan Gilbert or the New York Philharmonic needs is another affirmation that they have done something important and memorable by producing Le Grand Macabre in May.  There were three (perhaps more?) New York Times articles over 11 days (May 18th, 23rd, 28th), an nice summary over on Anne Midgette’s Washington Post blog, and from just a few days ago there was this over at Newsweek.  Of course our own site added to the frenzy of press/buzz here, here, here, here, here, here, and here – and with good reason!  I’m quite happy to throw my hat in the camp who counts themselves lucky to be one of the few to see this amazing production.  It was everything that I had hoped it would be, and I even got a fancy collectors-edition-style booklet of the libretto with the program.

Some time has gone by since the production (I’m late on my contribution to this, as per my usual), I think it’s enough for me to say that I thought it was great, and to move on to some questions.

After reading all of the press about the production, it seems that everyone who saw it easily and quickly deemed it a huge success.  But I’d love to know if the Philharmonic thought it was a success!  All three nights sold-out, but we know that a sold-out show doesn’t necessarily mean success.  Le Grand Macabre was without question an unusual and elaborate production and must have come with a tremendous expense – just watch this video.  All the extra marketing, and YouTube videos; all the lighting and projections and costumes; (presumably) all the extra rehearsals and percussion instruments; etc, etc, etc.  I think the big question is: was this a successful enough event that the Philharmonic will continue these kinds of productions in the future? Was dealing with disgruntled subscribers worth it?  Was the cost of the “spectacle” worth it?  Was all the marketing and rogue videos worth it?

Of course I hope that the answer to all of these questions is yes.  I would love to see the New York Philharmonic continue to support contemporary music the way it has since Mr. Gilbert has arrived.  It’s clear that he feels very strongly about new music: he brought in Magnus Lindberg, started the Contact! series, and made this incredible Ligeti production happen.  I want to know what else he has planned and what else the Philharmonic is willing and capable of doing.  But, it seems that a lot of it depends on whether or not the Philharmonic thought Macabre was a success.

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The final American Modern Ensemble concerts of the season are happening this Thursday and Friday (June 24 and 25, 8pm) at Faust Harrison Pianos.

Stephen Gosling and Blair McMillen will be throwing-down on works for two pianos by John Adams (Hallelujah Junction), John Corigliano (Chiaroscuro), Mary Ellen Childs (Kilter), Amanda Harberg (Subway), Doug Opel (Dilukkenjon), Frederic Rzewski (Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues), and the world premiere of Deep Blue Ocean by AME founder and Artistic Director, Robert Paterson.

There will be limited seating over at Faust Harrison so you might want to save a couple bucks over the price at the door by ordering online (or ordering by phone at 800.838.3006).  They are even throwing in a free CD for every ticket purchased online.

You can also listen to short interviews with Blair McMillen and Robert Paterson about their experiences working with composers here (Blair) and here (Robert).

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We covered some great shows coming up this month in the Bay Area and NYC, now it’s Seattle’s turn. For the next two weekends (June 4-6 & 11-13) On the Boards will be hosting the 2010 NW New Works Festival which features “emerging and established artists from a variety of performance disciplines” and “highlights artists who are pushing themselves to take on new challenges.” Looking over the list of showcases it seems that the festival is primarily focused on new theater and dance, but there are a few music related sets in there if you look hard. The Mint Collective, Josephine’s Echopraxia, and Corrie Befort all appear to be cross-disciplinary/music/multimedia/collaborative productions.

On the Boards is also bringing back “PODFEST” as part of the festival.  From June 4-13, On the Boards will roll out 6 short videos (video podcasts featuring performance made for film), one each Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the festival. They can be viewed at and in the lobbies prior to each festival showcase.

All the information about the festival, including youtube videos for all the artists, can be found here.

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[Polly writes about great events happening in the Bay Area, here.  And, I’ll have a few cool things happening in Seattle soon.  In the meantime here are some interesting performances coming up in NYC ]

It looks like the first couple weeks of June are going to be full of tough choices.  Like, on Saturday, June 5th will I check-out, a) The JACK Quartet on the opening night of the Tribeca New Music Festival, b) Wet Ink meets Yarn/Wire at Roulette, or c) Feldman performed by Flux Quartet and Evan Ziporyn?

Here’s what’s coming up, choose wisely:

June 2: Da Capo Chamber Players will be “Illuminating Darkness” at Merkin Hall (8pm). Daniel Felsenfeld (Insomnia Redux), Carl Schimmel (Four Nocturnes), George Crumb (The Sleeper), Donald Martino (Notturno), and more.

June 4-6: Flux Quartet will be performing five works by Morton Feldman over 3 days over at Bargemusic.  Friday at 8pm: String Quartet #1; Saturday at 8pm: Structures and Three Pieces for string quartet, also Clarinet and String Quartet (featuring Evan Ziporyn); Sunday at 3pm: Piano and String Quartet (again, featuring Evan Ziporyn)(and, no, that is not a mistake!)

June 5: Four of the people behind Wet Ink (Alex Mincek, Sam Pluta, Kate Soper, and Eric Wubbels) meet Yarn/Wire at Roulette (8pm).

June 5, 7-9: The 2010 Tribeca Music Festival begins at Merkin Hall (all concerts at 8pm).  Concert #1, 6/5: JACK Quartet performs more string quartet goodness. Lisa Bielawa (The Trojan Women), David Crowell (The Open Road), Jeff Myers (Dopamine), and more.  Concert #2, 6/7: “NextGen” featuring Andy Akiho, Timo Andres, A (yet to be named) “Ted Hearne Band,” and others.  Concert #3, 6/8: “Monsters!” Mary Rowell, Geoff Burleson, and Kathleen Supove perform Eve Beglarian, Victoria Bond, Philip Glass, and more.  Concert #4, 6/9: Bora Yoon and Pamela Z with video artist Luke DuBois and the acapella group New York Polyphony.

June 8: MAYA Commissions Concert at Judson Memorial Church (8pm). Works by Gabriel Erkoreka, Yotam Haber, John Hadfield, Robert Paterson.

And as an added bonus…Over the past year (or so) I have recorded audio interviews with many of the people on these concerts.  Click on their name below to hear about their experience working with composers:
Blair McMillen (Da Capo Chamber Players)
Tom Chiu (Flux Quartet) (the background noise is really bad on this one, sorry!)
Evan Ziporyn
Laura Barger (Yarn/Wire)
John Richards (JACK Quartet)
Mary Rowell (performing on Tribeca New Music Festival)
Sato Moughalian (MAYA)

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For our friends in Southern California…

Soprano Susan Narucki (Professor of Music at UC San Diego) and her new ensemble, Kallisti, will debut this week with the West Coast premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s chamber opera To Be Sung (text by Gertrude Stein).

Check out To Be Sung on May 26, 27 and 28 at 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theater at the Conrad Prebys Music Center on the UC San Diego campus.

General tickets are $25, but get this: $1 student rush tickets available one hour before the concert. Did you see that? $1 student rush tickets!

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Conductor Alondra de la Parra and her orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, has a concert coming up at Alice Tully on May 11 that includes three US premieres of works by Mexican composers Gustavo Campa, Ricardo Castro, and Candelario Huízar.

Alondra personally researched these pieces over a period of 2 years – in some cases traveling to Mexico to meet the composers or their families and get the scores. All of the pieces on the concert will be included on POA’s 2-CD set that Sony Classical is releasing in August 2010, entitled Mi Alma Mexicana, which features rediscovered works by Mexican composers written during the last 200 years that are seldom heard in the concert hall.

The program includes the US premieres of Gustavo Campa’s Melodía with solo violinist Daniel Andai, Ricardo Castro’s Intermezzo de Atzimba, and Candelario Huízar’s Imágenes; as well as performances of Carlos Chávez’s Caballos del Vapor; Federico Ibarra’s Sinfonía No. 2; and Manuel M. Ponce’s Concierto del Sur with solo guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas.

The concert and CD celebrate Mexico’s Bicentennial, and are part of a larger project Alondra envisions where she will similarly research the music of different countries.

[update: the May 11 show is sold out, but they have added a second concert on Friday, May 21 at Alice Tully at 8pm]

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The Chiara Quartet is back on tour and has one more show in NYC this week (they actually played Sunday in Southport, CT and tonight(!) at Symphony Space but your humble/slacker correspondent wasn’t able to get this ready in time for y’all).  Anyway, you’ll still have a chance to catch them on Wednesday at (Le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street) performing Different Trains, Webern’s Five Pieces for String Quartet, and Jefferson Friedman’s 2nd Quartet.

Somehow Jonah, Becca, Julie, and Greg were able to find time between rehearsals and performances to answer a few questions for us.  Enjoy….

JH: During this tour you’ll be pairing Beethoven with Jefferson Friedman one night (Sunday in Southport, CT), and Steve Reich with Anton Webern another night (Wednesday at Le Poisson Rouge). How does the quartet come up with, and agree on, these kinds of programs? Is this just an extension of a “shuffle” musical experience that our generation is getting so used to?

Well, the “shuffle” idea is interesting, in that I’m sure there are pairings we would consider that might not have been considered in the pre-ipod era.  Having said that, we think quite a bit about our programs.  Jefferson Friedman writes very well-crafted forms–the quartets are as formally strict as much of Beethoven (especially since Beethoven was basically trying to expand and sometimes explode form).  And yet the vocabulary is completely different.  So that’s an interesting juxtaposition.  Reich (“Different Trains”) uses nearly a half-hour of repeated music and voice to build an unexpected emotional bridge between his own childhood train travel and the experience of Holocaust survivors.  Webern manages to say everything he needs to, sometimes, in only ten measures of music.  Both work brilliantly, so that’s another interesting combination for us.  Programs are often a creative collaboration between us and a presenter.  Some programs are entire evenings that we conceptualize.  Next year, we are commissioning several composers and having them curate the program for their premiere (the project is called Creator/Curator).  So, it really depends on the performance.  But, the way the four of us are, we only play music that we all believe in.

JH: Another thing that seems to be really important to the quartet is playing in lots of different kinds of venues – big concert halls, small recital halls, libraries, bars, etc. Does the venue inspire the programming or does the programming inspire the venue?

We feel that string quartet music appeals to all people, all audiences, which is one reason why we choose to perform in varied spaces.  Many spaces work well for listening to chamber music, and there is no “ideal” space (i.e. the formal silence of a concert hall can be stifling, and the clunking of an ice-machine in a bar can be distracting), so we try to create an environment on any stage that is inviting for audiences.  We do tailor programming to certain spaces but we also challenge a space to host partlcular programs.  We usually organize our club programs into two set lists, much like you would hear from a jazz quartet, and we tend to focus more on newer music for these performances.  So in the opening set you could hear a movement from a quartet by Jefferson Friedman, followed by a movement from Haydn, followed by some Webern, followed by more Friedman, maybe some Brahms, etc.  We feel like audiences often want a full piece by the second set, so we’ll perform a complete work in most of these venues, certainly not minding applause between movements (we encourage it if people are so moved!).  We have brought this more varied style of programming to concert halls, and have found that the environment is more relaxed than usual–we don’t usually bow until the end of a set, and we talk from the stage.  In these situations we also talk to individual audiences members during intermission.

The more informal atmosphere of a club and the ability to change our program on the spot is wonderfully liberating and has inspired us to be more inventive in all of our performances–this applies to the spontaneity of playing itself and the actual programming.   Most of our more interesting programs in concert halls have come from the freedom we feel in unconventional spaces and the idea that we are “curating” an evening.

JH: The quartet premiered a new piece by Ivan Moody (Monday at Symphony Space), can you tell us about it?

It is a piece written for string quartet and piano entitled Nocturne of Light.  We’ll be premiering it at Symphony Space with pianist Paul Barnes who is a colleague of ours at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (where we’re in residence).  Paul is a devout believer in the Greek Orthodox faith and is continually exploring how spirituality and music connect.  This piece is a beautiful outcome of that exploration and features Byzantine chants, one of which Paul and his son will intone before our performance.

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I recently spent some time with three amazing pianists who are all based on the West Coast:  Sarah Cahill, based in the San Francisco; Vicki Ray, based in Los Angeles; and Cristina Valdes, based in Seattle.  As usual, I asked each of them about their experiences working with composers, and you can listen to what they have to say here: Sarah, Vicki, Cristina.

It’s great to hear what these ladies have to say, but trust me, it’s even better to hear them perform live.  All three of them they will be performing (separately) across the country during March and April…

Go see Sarah Cahill:
1246478656_98_largeSaturday, March 27 at Miller Theatre, NYC – performing with trombonist Monique Buzzarte in Pauline Oliveros’ improvisational The Gender of Now.

Sunday, March 28 at Caramoor in Katonah, NY – performs the premiere of Annie Gosfield’s Five Characters Walk Into a Bar, along with Annea Lockwood’s Ear-Walking Woman and Ingram Marshall’s Authentic Presence.

Go see Vicki Ray:
Vicki_RayMonday, March 15 at The Wild Beast, CalArts – solo piano music of Chinary Ung

Thursday, March 25 at Roulette, NYC – encore performance, music of Chinary Ung

Sunday, April 11 at Walt Disney Concert Hall – new piece by Meredith Monk with the LA Master Chorale

Thursday, April 22 at University of San Diego’s Shiley Theatre – Sur Incises with Pierre Boulez

Tuesday, April 27 at Zipper Hall, LA – PianoSperes presents Olivier Messiaen‘s Harawi with soprano Elissa Johnston and video artist Lars Jan.

Go see Cristina Valdes:
valdesMarch 4th-6th at On the Boards, Seattle – performing with the Seattle Chamber players in Heiner Goebbel’s “Songs of War”

Saturday, April 10 at The Stone, NYC – performing a Wayne Horvitz premiere as well as music by John Luther Adams, Ives, Ziporyn, and Rzewski.

Friday, April 23 at The Chapel at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford (Seattle) – performing some Peter Garland “stuff”

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