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. 

The 2009 Marathon will include an invasion of Danish composers and performers, including the U.S. debuts of the choral group Ars Nova Copenhagen led by renowned conductor Paul Hillier and the new music ensemble Athelas Sinfonietta. Ars Nova will perform the U.S. premieres of music by Euro-minimalists Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and Howard Skempton, plus the U.S. premiere of Bang on a Can co-founder (and Pulitzer Prize winner) David Lang’s For love is strong, from his new CD The Little Match Girl Passion on Harmonia Mundi. Athelas Sinfonietta will present excerpts from Anders Nordentoft’s groundbreaking opera On This Planet, and Jeppe Just Christensen’s experimental Braun KSM2, composed for five coffee grinders. Together, Ars Nova and Athelas Sinfonietta will give the U.S. premiere of Thirst, a massive new work by Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe. During the 2009 Marathon, pipa virtuoso Wu Man and tabla specialist Sandeep Das will perform Sulvasutra with string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Sulvasutra, by composer and Bang on a Can All-Star clarinetist Evan Ziporyn, is based on an ancient Sanskrit treatise, dating from 800 BCE, which gives rules for the proper construction of Vedic altars. The piece is influenced by Ziporyn’s long involvement with Balinese gamelan. Wu Man and Sandeep Das will also perform solo sets later in the evening.

Two other highlights of the Marathon will be a performance of Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon’s monumental Trance by the New York new music band Signal led by Brad Lubman, and a performance of selections from Phil Kline’s John the Revelator, a Mass inspired by bluesman Blind Willie Johnson’s song of the same name, by the early music vocal sextet Lionheart and the string quartet known as Ethel. The world premiere recording of John the Revelator was released in March on Cantaloupe Music. Another high point during the Marathon will be a 15-minute set by free jazz icon bassist Henry Grimes and avant-garde jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille. Other performances will include Rut by Ken Thompson’s 9-headed Saxophone Monster; Andy Akiho’s music for ten-piece steel pan band; Meredith Monk’s Stringsongs performed by the Todd Reynolds String Quartet; electric guitar quartet DITHER and friends in Eric km Clark’s exPAT: Deprivation Music No. 4; Moritz Eggert’s One Man Band performed by pianist Shiau-uen Ding (selected for the mind-blowing YouTube performance video she submitted to the Marathon’s organizers); The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars and White Man Sleeps by Kevin Volans played by the British Smith Quartet; music by Matthew McBane performed by Build; and appearances by the New York-based all-women new music collective Victoire, as well as Ted Hearne with his band, Your Bad Self.