Category Archives: Contemporary Classical

Ecstatic Music Festival brings together 5 musicians in a unique collaboration

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It’s hard to believe that the 2014 edition of the Ecstatic Music Festival is nearly over. I suppose it’s because I haven’t been able to get to most of the shows in the festival, which kicked off Jan. 31 and ends this Saturday, March 29.

Two shows remain this year: Wednesday’s bill featuring So Percussion and Buke & Gase, and Saturday’s program with Man Forever and William Basinski. Both shows start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are a reasonable $25, but if you attend both shows, you can get in for $20 apiece. Click here to buy tickets online, or visit the Merkin Concert Hall box office at 129 West 67th Street in Manhattan.

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Jherek Bischoff remains composed in the face of his heroes

Curtain call for "Jherek Bischoff Composed" at St. Ann's Warehouse on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh)

Curtain call for “Jherek Bischoff Composed” at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh)

Surrounded by some of the greatest singers and performers at work today, DIY musician Jherek Bischoff managed to remain composed Wednesday night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood.

Good thing, too, since his two-night stand at the black box arts center is titled “Jherek Bischoff Composed,” which also is the title of Bischoff’s 2012 album whose works anchor the show. Before you read further, let me tell you now that you really should attend this show. Continue reading

Asphalt Orchestra plays the Pixies: Surfer Rosa — FREE this Sunday

Asphalt Orchestra performing on the Lincoln Center Plaza. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Asphalt Orchestra performing on the Lincoln Center Plaza. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Avant-garde marching band will open for a Kronos Quartet ‘Kronos at 4o’ show

Asphalt Orchestra hits Lincoln Center Out of Doors this Sunday, July 28 with a brand-new project: a cover of the fan-favorite Pixies album Surfer Rosa.

The avant-garde marching band, a cocreation of LCOOD and Bang on a Can, is well known for its inventive reinvention of pop songs mixed with compositions written specifically for the costumed clan.

Asphalt Orchestra co-leader Ken Thomson describes the evening this way:

We are covering the classic Pixies record Surfer Rosa.
45 minutes of new music, Asphalt-style, choreographed and on stage.
All arranged by us in super-cool arrangements that use the original as a canvas for truly new versions of these tunes.

The free show starts at 6 p.m. with a set of Asphalt classics (Bjork, Zappa, Bregovic) on the plaza.

At 6:30, the music moves to the Damrosch Park Bandshell where Jacob Garchik’s “atheist gospel trombone project” The Heavens will be performed.

Asphalt plays next and then the evening’s headliner, Kronos Quartet, takes over.
Every second of music is free, with no ticket required and nobody hassling you for a  “donation” at the gate. Lincoln Center Out of Doors is one of those rare New York City institutions that truly is free — even free of guilt.

Bangin’ it up at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival

To call Mark Stewart a guitarist would be a disservice. The multi-talented redhead leads participants at MASS MoCA in making some noise with some of his homemade tubes during the 2010 Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

It’s a disservice to call Mark Stewart a guitarist. He leads a group at MASS MoCA in making some noise with some of his homemade tubes during the 2010 Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

18 days of fantastic summer music in the Berkshires

Today’s subject: MASS MoCA.

I’ve written a lot lately about the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, especially in the last month or two because of Wilco’s splendid Solid Sound Festival, held on the museum campus in North Adams, Mass., in late June.

When Wilco announced the inaugural Solid Sound back in 2010, I pretty much knew it would be great because I had already seen MASS MoCA host many, many editions of the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival — colloquially known at Banglewood.

If you’ve been a regular reader of Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?, you already know something about the Bang on a Can program. This summer’s program is the 12th annual festival on the beautiful industrial MASS MoCA grounds.

But maybe you’re not a musician, or at least not one who wants to participate in the festival. How does this matter to you?

Rain on the MASS MoCA campus. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Rain on the MASS MoCA campus. (Photo © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

That’s easy. Festival participants do their learning in public, putting on recitals six days a week and participating in a public Marathon concert on the final day. There’s also a performance of Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe‘s Steel Hammer, a full-length piece that weaves together the many variations of the John Henry folk legend.

So there’s plenty of professional-quality entertainment  for people who are just interested in listening and looking at some modern art. (Click through to the jump for schedule and ticketing information.)

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Make time for Lincoln Center Out Of Doors | ALL SHOWS FREE

Singer-songwriter Erin McKeown performs at the 2012 Lincoln Center Out Of Doors festival. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Singer-songwriter Erin McKeown was one of many performers at the 2012 Lincoln Center Out Of Doors festival. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Stellar summer lineup of free concerts

The flyer for Lincoln Center Out Of Doors arrived in my mailbox the other day. It reminded me that I hadn’t posted a single word about this free outdoor concert series yet.

So here goes. It’s a super linuep, as always, meticulously planned by Bill Bragin, director of public programming, and his amazing team.

For now, just let me mention a few names: Kronos Quartet, Asphalt Orchestra, Allen Toussaint, Sahr Ngaujah, Dan Deacon, Jherek Bischoff, Jacob Garchik, Dan Zanes and Ozomatli. (Along with Nick Lowe, My Brightest Diamond, Trixie Whitley, James Burton and Desert Blues. And Rubén Blades, Jason Isbell, Sleepy LaBeef and Amanda Palmer & Grand Theft Orchestra.)

Does that whet your appetite? If not, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

The free outdoor shows start July 24 and run through Aug. 11 at various locations around the Lincoln Center campus on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Check out the whole lineup by clicking or tapping here (http://bit.ly/15MOo6P).

I hope to see you there.

Bang on a Can Marathon: 9 hours of New Music in a new home this Sunday

A crowd of listeners at the 2011 Bang on a Can Marathon at the Winter Garden. (Photos © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

A crowd of listeners at the 2011 Bang on a Can Marathon at the Winter Garden. (Photos © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

This Sunday is a special day.

Yes, it’s Father’s Day, but that’s not it.

Sunday is also the day that Bang on a Can is throwing its big, genre-bending musical party for New York City — the Bang on a Can Marathon.

Mark your calendar and don’t miss it. But don’t head to the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center, where the free marathon New Music concert has been held for the last few years.

From 1-10 pm on Sunday (be sure to take Dad to brunch early and then bring him along to the show afterward), Bang on a Can will fill Pace University’s Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at 3 Spruce Street with nine hours of music — some of it familiar, some you’ve probably never heard before.

It’s the kickoff event of the River to River Festival, one of the city’s great free performing-arts series.

Bang on a Can had to move the marathon this year because the Winter Garden is under construction. The Schimmel Center is a smaller venue, a concert hall with fixed seating rather than a mall atrium with open, casual seating. So that means changes in the format.

Asphalt Orchestra performing at the 2011 Bang on a Can Marathon.

Asphalt Orchestra performing at the 2011 Bang on a Can Marathon.

For starters, you’ll need to get a free seating pass before you go in to sample the sounds. That’s just so the organizers can make sure the audience never exceeds the capacity of the 743-seat hall. They’ll be handing out the passing starting at noon — an hour before the first onstage event — on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early to snag a good seat.

In addition to listening to the music, be sure to jump in on Twitter, too, by following on @bangonacan.

While most of the action is in the hall, if you get there early, you’ll encounter Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation. From noon until 5 pm, it’ll be operating its Street Studio, where anyone who wants to give it a try can create and record original music. Look for it at Park Row and Spruce Street.

Check out the full schedule after the jump.

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Ken Thomson joins Bang on a Can All-Stars

When Evan Ziporyn recently left the Bang on a Can All-Stars, it seemed to us that there was inly one player who immediately came to mind as a replacement: Ken Thomson.

We met him when he was working for Bang on a Can’s Cantaloupe record label. But we quickly discovered what a fantastic, versatile wind player and composer he is.

You might know him as the peripatetic sax-playing leader of Gutbucket, or a leader of the Bang-Lincoln Center Out of Doors marching band, Asphalt Orchestra.

No matter how you know him, you know he’s up to the challenge of filling Evan’s shoes and taking the All-Stars to the next level.

Congratulations to Ken. Well done.

Here’s the press release:

Bang on a Can All-Stars Welcome Ken Thomson

We are thrilled to welcome high voltage clarinetist Ken Thomson to the Bang on a Can All-Stars! This past year, during our national search, we played with stunning clarinetists from all over the country. We were honored to share the stage with so many great performers. After a search far and wide, in the end we came back home to one of our own. Ken has been a part of the Bang on a Can family for many years. As a founding member of Asphalt Orchestra (our rad street band) and as faculty at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival at MASS MoCA, Ken has graced us with his dynamic and physical performances.

He has already jumped right in with a European tour taking place right now through Belgium, Sweden, the UK, and Iceland, to be followed by his first home-town performance as an official All-Stars at the Bang on a Can Marathon on Sunday June 16.

Welcome Ken!

Donnacha Dennehy and Alarm Will Sound leave us Hunger-ing for more

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Alarm Will Sound (Photo by Justin Bernhaut)

Famine isn’t a cheery topic. And when we’re talking about the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1852, it could seem like musty and old as well as unpleasant.

And, let’s face it, the Great Famine is not a happy subject.

Luckily, when the fantastic Irish composer and Crash Ensemble bandleader Donnacha Dennehy takes on the monumental subject, it assumes a magical, transcendent quality.

Dennehy and the awesome 20-member New Music ensemble Alarm Will Sound gave New York its first taste of The Hunger, a still in-progress theater piece that combines the ensemble with live singing by an Irish  sean nós singer and a mezzo-soprano, at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall on Saturday night, April 6.

We were mesmerized for all 45 minutes of urgent playing coupled with recordings of Irish sean nós singing and the keening of a mother for her dead child, along with and live singing by the extraordinary Rachel Calloway.

Calloway sang lyrics based on the first-hand accounts of the famine by the American nonconformist Asenath Nicholson, who spent two years in Ireland working with those dying of starvation. Her words in song are gripping, terrifying and urgent.

The piece is destined to be a full evening of performance by Alarm Will Sound, sean nós singer Iarla  Ó Lionáird and one of our very favorite mezzos, Dawn Upshaw. While Upshaw will likely put the finished work into an even higher category, we were mightily impressed with Calloway’s work on Saturday.

This taste leaves us starving to hear more.

While The Hunger was the marquee event of Saturday’s program, Alarm Will Sound got plenty of opportunity to show off its New Music chops in the first half, as well. The evening was intended to draw attention to the fact that the 12-year-old group, led by Alan Pierson (who also helms the Brooklyn Philharmonic), has amassed quite a bit of music written specifically for it.

One of its oldest commissions, David Lang‘s increase, composed in 2002, was the highlight of the first half. But the world premiere of the noisy, energetic Fly By Wire, by the suddenly ubiquitous Tyondai Braxton and New York premiere of Charles Wuorinen‘s Big Spinoff, were plenty of fun. Journeyman, composed by Alarm Will Sound’s pianist, John Orfe, also had its New York premiere Saturday.

Guilty: Babe the Blue OX makes its best album ever

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First release from Brooklyn perennial in 15 years

We didn’t really know Babe the Blue OX in its 1990s heyday, when the band was a regular(-ish) feature on bills around New York City. We heard and appreciated some of its recordings, and were charmed by its Paul Bunyan-esque name and Barbra Streisand-ish album titles.

For whatever reason, we never saw Babe live until a couple of years ago, when the members decided to come out of accidental retirement and start playing on a semi-regular basis again.

(Full disclosure: We met and became friendly with singer-guitarist Tim Thomas through his day job as a fund-raiser for a nonprofit long before we even realized he was in Babe.)

Listen to Guilty and read more after the jump. Continue reading

Bang on a Can introduces new compositions at the Peoples Commissioning Fund concert

See what a little cash from a lot of people can do

While we’re generally ecstatic about New Amsterdam Records’ Ecstatic Music Festival, we’re particularly psyched about the latest installment of Bang on a Can’s long-running Peoples Commissioning Fund concert series.

It’s slated for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at Merkin Concert Hall in Manhattan.

The contemporary classical organization since 1997 has been collecting contributions, mostly small, from lots and lots of music lovers (that’s the “Peoples” part), aggregating them (the “Fund” part), and using them to commission (the Commissioning part) new work from composers new and established.

Bang on a Can calls this “a radical partnership between artists and audiences” that uses crowd-sourcing to fund new work. While the idea probably never was unique to Bang on a Can , it no doubt opened the door to other funding machines, such as Kickstarter and PledgeMusic.

The concept shatters the longstanding model of big-bucks patrons fueling the production of new work. This crowd-sourcing concept, which predates the social media boom, has raised almost $300,000 since its inception and made it possible for Bang on a Can to help in create more than 50 new works. Continue reading