I really enjoyed Q2’s broadcast tonight of New Sounds Live, a concert at Merkin Hall by the Bang on a Can All Stars that featured works by Nik Bartsch, Oscar Bettison, Christine Southworth, Michael Nyman, and David Longstreth. The first in a hopefully ongoing series of collaborations between Q2 and Merkin Hall, it was also a featured event in this week’s Composers Now festival.

I particularly enjoyed the Bettison work, The Afflicted Girl, in part because it’s quite affecting; but it also helps that I was able to study in advance and follow along with a perusal score sent over by the kind folks at Boosey. Funded by BoaC’s Peoples’ Commissioning Fund, the piece is what Bettison calls an “anti-pastorale.” Its based on a quote from Peter Ackroyd’s London: the Biography. It describes an afflicted girl frequently found in a busy thoroughfare, seemingly oblivious to the cacophony around her. Or, as in Bettison’s posits in his piece, perhaps she found a kind of music amidst the chaos.

Clangor is Bettison’s daily bread: many of his works employ junk metal percussion. The Afflicted Girl involves copious percussion batteries, prepared piano, a keyboard tuned a quarter tone flat, taped echoes of the ensemble, plenty of electric guitar harmonics, and a Shapey-esque scordatura tuning of the cellos C string – down to G for rumbled slackening. What’s more, all the players double on bicycle bells!

Alternately assaultive and contemplative, rhythmically charged and, briefly, eerily reposeful, its a demanding, challenging, harrowing, and memorable work.

Bang on a Can. Photo: Christine Southworth
Bang on a Can. Photo: Christine Southworth

Sad you missed out on the Q2 broadcast? Fear not: the performance will be featured on a March broadcast of New Sounds.

3 thoughts on “New Sounds Live”
  1. I am needling them to put the whole thing up on NPR/music, which WBGO does with Jazz concerts they originate at the Village Vanguard and J&R Music.

    Also, in case you are interested, WQXR is now in their first pledge drive. I am one of the PubRadio nut cases that listens to pledge drives. They are not pitching Q2, they are not pitching even the 105.9 stream, they are not pitching the video archive from the Greenespace and other venues, they are not pitching the comment pages. I am actively bugging them about all of this. If you are interested, or if anyone else is interested, you might also put in your two cents at
    http://blogs.wnyc.org/listenerservices/ . Yes, it says WNYC, but it is the WQXR “blog” for listeners’ comments and complaints.

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