Archive for the “Bang on a Can” Category

If you thought there couldn’t possibly be any more we could tell you about Bang on a Can events the past couple months, you’re so so wrong!  Starting today and running to the end of the month, The “Banglewood” summer festival at Mass MoCA is underway in North Adams, Massachusetts. (Mass MoCA is the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art there, and the fest’s co-sponser.)  Head on up to find public performances, workshops for participants in everything from Balinese music to improvisation, master classes, music business seminars, and more.

Festival events open to the public this year include daily gallery recitals at 1:30pm and 4:30pm, free with museum admission; the perennially popular Kids Can Too event (July 18, 11:30am); an afternoon conversation with the big guy — Steve Reich — about Sol LeWitt (July 25, 3pm); a performance by Bang on a Can artists of Reich’s seminal work, Music for 18 Musicians (July 25, 8pm); and what BoaC event would be complete without a Marathon – six hours of non-stop new music featuring more than thirty composers and performers (August 1, 4-10pm). There are also two recitals daily in the galleries at 1:30 and 4:30 from July 16-July 31.  The Marathon will include a performance of George Anthiel’s 1924 classic Ballet Mećanique, John AdamsShaker Loops – heard here in its version for seven solo strings, David Lang’s Pierced, Julia Wolfe’s Dark Full Ride, Michael Gordon’s Potassium, music by Meredith Monk, Frederick Rzewski, and more. In between these events, come and hear music by Todd Reynolds, Eric Chasalow, Daniel Wohl, Walter Zimmerman, Olivier Messiaen, Art Jarvinen, Aaron Jay Kernis, Steve Mackey, Jeff Stanek, Louis Andriessen, Gregg August, Derek Johnson, Brad Lubman, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Morton Feldman.

This year’s Festival faculty members include Gregg August (bass), David Cossin (percussion), Katie Geissinger (voice), Michael Gordon (composition), David Lang (composition), Brad Lubman (conducting), Nicholas Photinos (cello), Vicki Ray (piano), Todd Reynolds (violin), Derek Johnson (guitar), Ken Thomson (clarinet, saxophone), and Julia Wolfe (composition). The Festival will be attended by 10 composers and 24 performers  from across the US, as well as from Russia, South Korea, New Zealand, Scotland, Spain, The Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Yeah, it’s not totally free (but not bank-breaking, either) and you’d better bring bug spray, but other than that what’s not to love?

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Last week the BBC reported that the seminal electronic act Kraftwerk wowed the crowd at the Manchester Velodrome, not just with their music but a live riding appearance by the British Olympic cycling team during their classic song “Tour de France”!  But also interesting was the opening act: Bang on a Can premiering Steve Reich‘s newest composition “2×5“.  Scored for two sets of five instruments (hence “2×5”), the 21-minute piece calls for a total of ten musicians: four electric guitars, two pianos, two bass guitars, and two drum sets.  And this from Reich:

“It took me until 2009 to finally hear their [Kraftwerk’s] music, although I knew of their existence and their name and that they looked like robots and were interested in electronics,” he explained. “When I heard Autobahn, it reminded me of the world I was living in, in the 1970’s. It was the beginning of people doing repetitive music and I guess in rock ‘n’ roll, Kraftwerk were an extreme example of that, very deadpan.”

As someone who spent the ’70s listening to both Kraftwerk and Reich in almost equal measure, I’ll offer from one Steve to another both a bravo and a “what took you so long?!?”

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Yes, it’s that time of year again… The Bang On A Can Marathon is about to take flight once more, this Sunday, May 31 from noon to midnight at the World Financial Center Winter Garden (220 Vesey Street, NYC).  And yes, it’s all FREE.

Knowing we can’t all be every place at once, a band of nine volunteers will all be tweeting their reactions and observations in real time! — @anastasiat, @talkmusic, @sethcolterwalls, @espyem, @ogiovetti , @memilybk, @cryfok, @dotdotdottweet and @elimaniscalco.  To simplify things, you can follow all in one centralized spot (even if you’re not an active twitterer) by checking this link (or searching the tag “bangonacan”). Should be oodles of fun, especially for us folk out in the hinterland.

Acting as kick-off for the larger, citywide River to River Festival, the BOACM packs so much great music and so many great performers that even 12 hours can end up flying by (maybe in a haze, but what a glorious haze!). Why not just quote a bit from their own press release?…

The Marathon features two world premieres commissioned especially for the occasion – one from Oscar winning-pianist, composer, producer and actor Ryuichi Sakamoto and the other from innovative guitarist Bill Frisell. Both works will be performed at the Marathon by the Bang on a Can All-Stars with Sakamoto and Frisell as guest soloists. Sakamoto, who began his career with the synthpop trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, has gone on to release numerous albums with artists as diverse as David Byrne, Iggy Pop, Brian Wilson, Youssou N’Dour, and DJ Spooky, and score films including The Last Emperor, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Little Buddha, Wild Palms, Snake Eyes, and Femme Fatale. Bill Frisell has been recognized as one of the world’s leading guitarists since the late 1980s, and his eclectic music touches on jazz, progressive folk, classical music, country music, noise and more. The Marathon will also feature post-rock band Tortoise, bringing their signature merging of dub, dance, jazz, techno, rock, and classical minimalism to the Winter Garden. Tortoise will perform selections from their upcoming album, Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey, June 2009), their sixth full-length album and first release of new material in five years.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Apropos this Wednesday’s Michael Gordon Trance performance mentioned just a few posts previously:  Besides the pre-concert talk and videotaping, we’ve got a bit more fun for you all…

Along with the good folk at Bang On A Can and Cantaloupe Records, Michael Gordon himself had the idea of offering the tracks to Cantaloupe’s Trance CD, performed by Icebreaker, as free downloads for you all. The only catch: Each of the seven tracks are hosted at a different blog, and it’s up to you to follow the clues to find all seven.

Besides the music itself, there’s a further reward for the quick: the first three people to correctly identify all seven blogs in an e-mail to will receive a free pair of tickets to the April 22nd concert at Le Poisson Rouge!

We get to lead off the hunt with the simplest clue of all: a link directly to the first track. And to get to the next blog & track you only have to decipher this:

The most famous bridge in New York City carries the name of this borough, where a person who avoids eating any animal product like the plague blogs about all events musical, metal, comedy — or whatever’s happened to grace the fair city this or that week.

Those wishing to experience the full sonic glory of the physical Trance CD can purchase it here. Good luck!

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First, a quick introduction and thank you are in order.  My name is James Holt and I am a composer living in New York.  I started a podcast where I interview musicians specializing in performing contemporary music, and I ask them about their experiences with composers.  Simple. I want to thank Sequenza21 for inviting me to come on the site every couple weeks as a recurring feature to tell you about the new episodes.

This week is my interview with Evan Ziporyn…I’m sure that he’s someone who needs no introduction to most of the s21 audience, but just in case: Evan is probably best know as the clarinetist in the Bang on a Can All-Stars and as director of Gamelan Galak Tika.  He is also producing a new music festival in Boston called the Beeline Festival which happens to begin today if you’re in the area.

The easiest way to listen and subscribe to the podcast is through iTunes.  You can search the iTunes Store for “my ears are open” or click here to go there directly.  If you have any suggestions for musicians you’d like me to interview you can do that here (you’ll need a google account though).

I hope you enjoy this project as much as I do.  Coming up on April 19:  Alex Lipowski, percussionist.

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Composer Michael GordonThis week the Next Wave Festival 2008 is raging at BAM, and there are several chances next week to hear Lightning at our feet, the latest from Ridge Theater and Michael Gordon at the Harvey Theater. (Dec 9, 11-13)

Gordon and I spoke on the phone about the new work that premiered in Houston. Listen to our conversation here – Lightning Interview with Gordon and Clare.
Here’s an added bonus, Gordon has a new EP coming out Tuesday, a fascinating “Purgatorio: Popera” on Canteloupe. We talked about it, as well as being married to a composer (Julia Wolfe) and everyone’s favorite 100 year old on Thursday, Elliott Carter! mp3 file

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The last concert I attended that involved one of the great minimalist composers was a concert over the summer at the Dream House–a three hour long close encounter (small, hot and sweaty room) with La Monte Young and crew. While I enjoyed the music, I felt that I had my fill of hot and sweaty for the rest of the year.

So it was a surprise when I saw La Monte Young talking to Terry Riley at a specially reserved table just some 10 feet away from me (as well as the fact that I was hot and cramped once again). As a young musician, and fan of the two composers, I imagined Riley’s and Young’s close interactions as just another story out of my not-so-favorite music history book and not something of real life, played out so many decades later before my eyes. It was a warm scene and I found myself wondering what they could be talking about, if only I could get a few feet closer.

The show began with a BOAC All-stars solo set. The set included two pieces, Glamour Girls by Lukas Ligeti and a BOAC arrangement of four player piano pieces by Conlon Nancarrow.

Glamour Girls was apparently written just a few years back, but overall felt like it was born out of the 1980s funk scene. The piece was purposely disconcerting with its tendency toward disjunct lines, mismatched rhythms and wild speech. Of course, none of these qualities make it a terrible piece but it certainly is one where it is more enjoyable to be on the performing end than on the listening, if only because it makes you feel just slightly frantic when the musical rapport streaming off stage hits your ears. At times I was reminded of Cartesian Reunion Memorial Orchestra (the group flourished in the eighties), but on an acid trip. Either way, the piece was performed well and it is apparent that BOAC All-stars are called all-stars for their great technical expertise.

The Nancarrow suite was a mixture of jazz and varying tempos going on simultaneously. One of the pieces was so characteristic of the 1950s, with its combination of jazz and Nancarrow’s playfulness with tempo and rhythm, that it would have been the perfect follow-up for Marty Mcfly’s Johnny B Goode. Like the Ligeti piece it followed, there was a strong sense of intentional discontinuity and uneasiness and despite all of the complexities of music written originally for a machine with the ability to outperform the strong performer, the ensemble was tight and clean. Had they not, the nuances that evolve from the tension created by the rhythmic complexity would have been totally lost. So it is good to feel uneasy after all.

There was a short intermission, and I heard a LCD Soundsystem song that I knew I had heard piping out of the speakers the last time I was at Le Poisson Rouge. The club was crowded, or so it appeared crowded as there were several tables along the floor cramping people in the back. It seemed like a good turnout, nonetheless. I surveyed the faces of the crowd, trying to surmise whether it was young or old; while there were people under their thirties and even in their twenties (such as myself), the crowd still maintained a strong forty-plus following. I wondered what the connection was between each individual member of the audience and the headliners. I thought, it could not be possible that they were all classically trained musicians like myself. Some of them were lawyers and CEO’s and New Kids On The Block fans, right?

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Thursday morning I talked with composer Terry Riley, who is in New York this week to collaborate with the Bang on a Can All-Stars in the US premiere of his work Autodreamographical Tales at Le Poisson Rouge on 8 November.

Riley is famous for being one of the “Big Four” of American minimalist composers (the others: LaMonte Young, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass). But while his early works, such as A Rainbow in Curved Air, Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band, and the seminal In C, were musical rallying cries during minimalism’s ascendance in the 1960s, Riley’s been involved with many other important pieces, styles, and activities since then. His palette encompasses North Indian music, jazz, electronics, various intonation systems, and increasingly in recent years, projects incorporating guitar and spoken word.

As an admirer of his music, it’s somewhat frustrating to read review after review in which he’s asked to talk about the importance of In C and his work is then pigeon-holed as minimalist in style. In planning for the interview, I promised myself that both minimalism and In C would be off-limits. When the composer mentions in passing an upcoming performance of In C (April 24, 2009 at Carnegie Hall, but you didn’t hear that from me), I tell him of my secret pact and he enthusiastically agrees! Instead, we focus on recent, current and future projects.

Riley says, “Autodreamographical Tales started out a while ago as a piece for radio in which I narrated and played all the instruments. There were overdubs and samples. The Bang on a Can All Stars wanted me to create a new version of the piece to perform with them. My son Gyan, who’s also a guitarist and composer, helped me to orchestrate the piece. While there are still a few samples, we’ve figured out how to perform live many of the things that were looped or overdubbed.”

“The piece is based on a dream journal that I was keeping at the time. Some of my dreams had evocative images and stories that I felt would work well in the piece for radio and, now, in this new version for Bang on a Can. We got together and rehearsed it this past summer during a week-long residency in Italy. A performance there was the world premiere and this one in New York is Autodreamographical Tales’ second performance.”

Riley also spent time this past summer in New England at Bang on a Can’s Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA. “It was an inspiring setting: a number of talented composers and performers, the galleries, and so many excellent concerts.”

We return to the subject of his son, a talented musician in his own right who encouraged the elder Riley to explore composing for the guitar. “Gyan came home with all of these recordings of the guitar: he was just crazy about it and wanted to share his enthusiasm with me. We listened to all sorts of players, especially classical and Brazilian artists.”

During the past two decades, Riley has created a number of works for the instrument, including the solo collection Book of Abbeyozzud and Cantos Desiertos, a beautiful set of pieces for flute and guitar. When I comment that Riley has managed to combine expected, idiomatic passages with some very fresh-sounding guitar writing, he replies, “It was challenging to write for the guitar as a non-guitarist. I really worked hard to learn about the instrument: there’s a lot to know in order to compose effectively for it.”

New music guitarist David Tanenbaum, Gyan’s principal instructor, has also been the beneficiary of several recent works for the instrument, including a 2008 piece for national steel and synthesizer entitled Moonshine Sonata. Riley says, “The national steel for which I wrote the sonata is a special model, redesigned so that it’s tuned in just intonation. The company that made the instrument for David loaned me one while I was composing the piece; it’s amazing how resonant, how loud it is all by itself – it doesn’t need amplification!”

Tanenbaum and Gyan Riley, along with violinist Krista Bennion Feeney, premiered another 2008 Riley work: the Triple Concerto Soltierraluna. The concerto form is one to which Riley is drawn of late: a project in the pipeline is a violin concerto commissioned by a symphony orchestra in Bari, Italy for soloist Francesco D’Orazio. “I don’t approach the concerto form in the conventional manner, as this heroic thing; I like to find ways to integrate the soloist into the ensemble; to foster interactions between them that you don’t get in the big Classical or Romantic pieces. In a sense, what I’m writing is more akin to the concerto grosso form.”

Since the 1970s, Riley has frequently collaborated with the Kronos Quartet, producing a number of pieces for them. He’s currently at work on another, titled Poppy Nogood and the Transylvanian Horns. The title refers to one of Riley’s best known early works, Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band; but this successor also includes the Kronos group playing some newly adopted instruments. The “Transylvanian horns” in question are called “stro instruments:” string instruments fitted with trumpet or trombone bells. The composer seems to relish the challenge of learning about and composing for these hybrid instruments. Even when called upon to revisit ideas from his past, Terry Riley is ever eager to try something new.

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David Lang, who you will recall won this year’s Pulitzer with his piece The Little Match Girl Passion, will be submitting himself to the hard-hitting S21 interview next week.  I’ll be asking him what he plans to do about the financial meltdown, the war in Iraq, and whether he stands by his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate.  Or something–I haven’t written the questions yet.

In the meantime, those of you who live in New York may want to know that Wordless Music is presenting a concert of Lang’s music next Wednesday, November 5th, at Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street, New York).  Doors at 7:00, show starts at 7:30.  The show will consist of the American premiere of his piece Pierced with the Real Quiet.  Special guests include the Flux Quartet and Theo Blackmann singing Lang’s version of Lou Reed¹s Velvet Underground song “Heroin.”  Both pieces appear on Lang’s new Naxos disc, which I’ve been listening to a lot and recommend.

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Big Ups to David Lang and Christopher Theofanidis who have just been appointed to the faculty of the Yale School of Music. They will teach graduate students in the school’s composition program as well as teach courses and participate in the performances of their works. Both earned masters and DMA degrees from the Yale School of Music before embarking on their illustrious careers.

Lang, professor of composition (adjunct), is the most recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music. Theofanidis, associate professor of composition (adjunct), is both a frequently-performed composer and a respected educator.

The composition appointments were announced at the same time as faculty appointments in four other disciplines: Jana Baty, mezzo soprano, assistant professor (adjunct) of voice; Richard Holzer, Ph.D., associate professor (adjunct) of music history; Tiffany Kuo, assistant professor (adjunct) of hearing; and Michael Roylance, lecturer in tuba.

Meanwhile, David Shifrin, who has served as professor of clarinet at the Yale School of Music since 1987, will assume full-time responsibilities.  He will continue his studio teaching and will play a leading role as advisor to the School’s highly regarded chamber music program. He will also serve as artistic director of both the Chamber Music Society at Yale and the School’s concert series at Carnegie Hall.

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