Two weeks ago at the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights, 25 different organizations in New York’s new music scene assembled for a the first annual New Music Bake Sale; an event that was a cross between a music festival and a the vendor fair at a conference. I mean that second part in only the best possible sense–in fact the sense of community created by the setup was the best part of the whole event. Each of the ten ensembles that performed, and fifteen other groups, all had tables lining the main room and the entry area, where they gave out promotional materials, sold baked goods and CDs, collected names for mailing lists, and in some cases bought names for mailing lists with the enticement of baked goods in exchange. The modestly sized space was packed throughout the evening, and the participants and audience members were like a who’s-who of the 20-and 30-something music scene. (Our old friend Ian Moss was even there.) Everyone milled around, listening to the music and hanging out, and it felt more like a genuine community event than anything I’ve been to in New York except for Bang On A Can.
The performances by So Percussion, itsnotyouitsme, Lisa Moore and Martin Bresnick, Lukas Ligeti, Newspeak, ACME, JACK Quartet, Dither, Loadbang, and Ensemble de Sade were all excellent (okay, I missed a couple of them, but I have no reason to suspect that the ones I missed were any less good than the ones I saw). Highlights included David T. Little’s “Sweet Light Crude,” performed by Newspeak, an epic guitar quartet rockout by Lainie Fefferman, performed by Dither, the brilliantly simultaneously creepy and funny “The Exaltation of Grace Budd” by Matt Marks, performed by Ensemble de Sade (“You clap when we tell you to clap”), and So Percussion’s pieces which featured audience participation, conceptual an performance art elements, and a fascinating blurring of the boundaries of what was part of the piece and what wasn’t.
Organized by Newspeak and Ensemble de Sade, this was the first of what should become an annual event. It’s hard to know for certain where it will go from here, but the concept is brilliant, the execution was spot-on, and we may well have witnessed the birth of a critical New York institution.