Tag Archives: Julia Wolfe

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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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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People’s Commissioning Fund: Make your own music

Want to feel like a Medici or some other patron of the arts but don’t have the treasury to make it happen?

Everyone who gives — even just a few dollars — to Bang on a Can’s People’s Commissioning Fund is a minimogul responsible for the creation of a handful of musical works every year.

Commissioners, as Bang calls its donors to the PCF, get to hear the fruits of their efforts in concert in Manhattan on Thursday evening, Feb. 10. This year’s commissioned composers are Nick Brooke, hometown hero Bryce Dessner of the Brooklyn-based rock band The National and tabla-electronic-hip hop wizard Karsh Kale

This year’s concert is programmed as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival, a two-month cornucopia of music by like-minded composers and performers being presented at Merkin Concert Hall near Lincoln Center.

If you’ve already donated and have some free time at 5 p.m. on the day before the concert, you can see the musicians, and some or all of the composers, up close in a free dress rehearsal. You’ll even get the chance to ask questions and rub elbows with the artists and other commissioners at an informal reception afterward. Contact BoaC’s director of development, Tim Thomas, tim@bangonacan.org, for more info.

The Bang on a Can All-Stars, the house band, handles the playing duties for virtually all the commissions. They also be filling out the program with some other great music, including Steve Martland‘s Horses of Instruction, Convex/Concave/Concord by Danish minimalist Pelle Gudmundsen Holmgreen, and Believing by BoaC cofounder Julia Wolfe.

Here’s how BoaC cofounder David Lang describes the PCF process in a nutshell: “Over 14 years the People’s Commissioning Fund (PCF) is as liberating a force in music as we had imagined it would be. We are still pooling together the contributions large and small of hundreds of music lovers from around the world, adding penny to penny, combining lonesome individual gifts into awe inspiring communities of power and cold cash.  And then we give that money to bold, innovative, questioning, dedicated and highly inventive composers. We commission them, we rehearse their music intensively, we hold special events so that the members of the PCF can meet the musicians and composers that their generosity supports, and then we play that music in New York and often all around the world.  It is an amazing and beautiful thing.”

Beautiful, indeed. We here at Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? have supported the PCF from the beginning. We couldn’t be more proud of what our pennies have helped create.

The details:

7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 10. Bang on a Can 2011 People’s Commissioning Fund Concert, Merkin Concert Hall, 129 W. 67th St. (between Broadway and Amsterdam), Manhattan. $25.

Music of Julia Wolfe

Bang on a Can cofounders Julia Wolfe, David Lang and Michael Gordon. (Photo copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

We’re a little overdue with sharing this, but better late than never:

Bang on a Can cofounder and composer Julia Wolfe gets the full attention on Miller Theatre’s Composer Portraits series on Thursday, Feb. 3.

The show features two New York premieres that demonstrate the depth and breadth of Julia’s work.

On the 80-minute program are Cruel Sister (2004), based on a grisly English tale of sibling rivalry, and Fuel (2007), a collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison that examines the impact of our dependence on the title subject.

“I’m thrilled the pieces are going to be done. They really haven’t been done together like this in the U.S.,” Julia says. “The intensity and the driving, relentless aspect of my writing is there in these pieces.”

You can hear more of Julia’s thoughts on the program in Miller Theatre’s video preview of the concert. You can read the complete program notes here.

Julia’s music will be performed by the incomparable New Music ensemble Signal, led by Brad Lubman, the concert will also include an onstage discussion with Julia and WNYC’s John Schaefer.

For more from Julia Wolfe, read her interview about this performance in The New York Times.

8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 3. Miller Theatre at Columbia University, 116th St. & Broadway. http://www.millertheatre.com. $25. Tickets are available online or at the box office.

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? recommends…

Shows we think you should check out during the week of Oct. 3-9

Composer Julia Wolfe (Photo by Peter Serling)

The Music of Julia Wolfe at (Le) POISSON ROUGE

Julia Wolfe is a composer of rare talent. The Bang on a Can cofounder is able to write in a classical idiom for string quartet as easily as in a rock mode for percussion ensemble.

On Oct. 3, she’ll be presenting a sampling of her work, including Stronghold for eight double basses, the string quartet Dig Deep, and LAD for bagpipes.  at (Le) Poisson Rouge. Julia will be in the house to discuss her work.

Performers include JACK Quartet, Robert Black and the Hartt Bass Band, and piper Matthew Welch.

6:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 3. (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, Manhattan. (212) 505-FISH (3474) $15. Tickets available here.

Kronos Quartet (Photo by Jay Blakesberg)

Kronos Quartet at (Le) Poisson Rouge

Kronos Quartet, the pioneering modern string quartet, make two rare club appearances in New York City this week.

On Friday and Saturday, Oct. 8 and 9, Kronos is appearing at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

The program for Oct. 8 includes the New York premiere of Maria Schneider‘s String Quartet No. 1, a world premiere by Aleksandra Vrebalov, the premiere of Bang on a Can cofounder Michael Gordon‘s Exalted with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City and works by Bryce Dessner and Missy Mazzoli. On Oct. 9 Kronos is joined by special guest vocalist Judith Berkson for several pieces. Also featured are Clouded Yellow by Gordon as well as works by Clint Mansell, J.G. Thirlwell, and Dan Visconti.

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8. (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, Manhattan. $25. Tickets available here.

Also 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9. Tickets available here.

Ólöf Arnalds at The Bell House in Brooklyn on March 24, 2010. (Photo by Steven P. Marsh)

Ólöf Arnalds at Joe’s pub

Ólöf Arnalds seemed to be an uncertain, nervous performer when we saw her at The Bell House in March. But the Icelandic singer-songwriter writes lovely songs and makes delicately beautiful records.

We’re hoping she’ll be more confident when she stops in at Joe’s Pub,

9:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 9. Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette Street, Manhattan. $15. Click here or call (212) 967-7555 for tickets and more information.

12 hours of free music at the Bang on a Can Marathon

The World Financial Center Winter Garden was packed for last year's Bang on a Can Marathon. (Photo copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Every year, the Bang on a Can Marathon brings a wide range of new music and spectacular performers to New York City to perform in a massive free concert — and this year is no exception. The Marathon is coming up in just two weeks, from noon to midnight on Sunday, June 27, at the World Financial Center Winter Garden at 220 Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan.

Burkina Electric, an African band organized by composer Lukas Ligeti (second from right) is just one of the great acts at the Bang on a Can Marathon.

This year’s program will, as always, feature Bang on a Can’s house band, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and a host of other great acts, including Living Colour’s eclectic guitarist Vernon Reid, African band Burkina Electric, John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Signal ensemble and Gamelan Galak Tika.

Bang on a Can has been presenting these marathons since 1987 at various locations around NYC. Since moving to the WFC, thanks to the generosity of co-presenter Arts World Financial Center and the River to River festival, admission has been free. The Marathon turns the Winter Garden into a big, 12-hour party, with people coming and going and the mood shifting with the performers and the changing natural light pouring through the glass walls.

Click here to check out photos and coverage of last year’s Marathon by Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?

Click to the jump for the full list of performers and schedule.

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Celebrate Julia Wolfe’s new album with four free concerts tomorrow

julia_wolfe

Composer Julia Wolfe

Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe‘s new CD, Dark Full Rid, is coming out tomorrow on Cantaloupe Music. Anyone who follows Bang on a Can closely will know most, if not all, of these pieces. The title piece is a blistering percussion suite that stands as one of my all-time favorites. It’s high time a recording became available.

To celebrate, Bang on a Can has organized a series of free concerts at four locations in Manhattan. If you are lucky enough to be able to make it to all four locations, you’ll have the honor of hearing the entire contents of the CD live on the day of release.

The shows are all free and open to the public. Here’s the full schedule:

11 am – “LAD” for 9 bagpipes
Matthew Welch plays live with eight recorded bagpipes
Roulette, 20 Greene Street (between Canal and Grand)

NOON – “Dark Full Ride” for 4 drumsets
Talujon Percussion Quartet (David Cossin, Dominic Donato, Michael Lipsey and Matt Ward).
Dauphin Human Design, 138 West 25th Street, 12th Floor (between 6th and 7th Avenues)

1 pm – “Stronghold” for 8 double basses
Robert Black and the Hartt Bass Band.
Chelsea Art Museum, 556 West 22nd Street (corner of 11th Avenue)

darkfullride.ocard.012:30 pm – “my lips from speaking” for 6 pianos
Lisa Moore, Lisa Kaplan, Blair McMillen, Timo Andres, Kate Campbell, Isabelle O’Connell on piano. Conducted by Sam Adams.
Faust Harrison Pianos, 205 West 58th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)

For more information about the album, click here.

Hey, Strange Freaks — Stew and Heidi are really Making It

Stew at the Belasco Theatre's stage door after the final performance of "Passing Strange" last summer. (Copyright 2008, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew at the Belasco Theatre's stage door on July 20, 2008, after the final performance of "Passing Strange" last summer. (Photos copyright 2008, Steven P. Marsh)

If you’re a true Strange Freak — a fan of Stew, Heidi Rodewald and their extended theater family from the musical Passing Strange — you already know that Stew and Heidi aren’t resting on the laurels they received for that show. They have a new project in the works slated for a short run next February at St. Ann’s Warehouse, the arts center in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn.

Heidi Rodewald greets fans outside the Belasco Theatre.

Heidi Rodewald greets fans outside the Belasco Theatre.

But early this morning Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? exclusively revealed that the prestigious arts-funding organization Meet the Composer‘s grant program for 2009 includes an award to Stew and St. Ann’s for the show, called Making It. This is not their next play, which has commitments from The Public Theater in Manhattan. It’s a multi-media rock-show presentation (something that should seem familiar to anyone who’s seen Passing Strange) featuring a collage of song, text, and video tracing “the unlikely careers of Stew and Heidi from the dive rock clubs of Hollywood to the footlights of Broadway — with Stew as your helpful guide to Making It,” according to the St. Ann’s web site.

Meet the Composer today announced a slate of $450,000 in grants to 61 composers, performers and arts presenters. The the majority of the grant-winners are from the classical side of the contemporary music world. So it’s truly gratifying to see Stew, a remarkable talent from the pop world, recognized alongside composers like Steve Reich, John Harbison, David Lang and Julia Wolfe.

Tickets are available to St. Ann’s members now, and go on sale to the general public on Sept. 2. Click here to join St. Ann’s online and get immediate access to tickets for all of the upcoming shows there.

Congratulations to Stew and St. Ann’s!

EXCLUSIVE: Reich, Signal, Stew, ETHEL, Muhly, DuBois and more win Meet the Composer grants

Signal performing at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

Signal performing at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

It’s an exciting morning for new music. Meet the Composer, the leading new music commissioning organization, is announcing the winners of  $450,000 in grants to composers and performers for 2009, and Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? has the list first.

The list includes many of WYMMWIG? favorites like composers Steve Reich, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Nico Muhly and R. Luke DuBois and performers like Signal, Talujon Percussion Quartet, ETHEL string quartet, Alarm Will Sound and So Percussion.

Awards also went to some pop and jazz projects, including Stew, the co-creator of the Broadway musical Passing Strange, and the Village Vanguard jazz club.

MTC doubled the pool of money this year as part of what it’s calling a “new music stimulus program,” awarding $300,000 to 31 composers through its Commissioning Music/USA program and a total of $150,000 to 30 NYC-based new music ensembles and presenters through Cary New Music Performance Fund.

MTC President Ed Harsh says: “At this critical moment for artists around the country, we wanted to be aggressive in multiplying the effect of Meet The Composer’s continuing programs. We are dedicated to keeping creative musicians on the job doing what they do best, which is to make music.”

The increased funding and extended deadlines this year flooded MTC with three times the usual number of applicants for composer awards.

Panelists for the first round of the composer awards were Christian Amigo, Elizabeth Brown, Conrad Cummings, Jenny Lin, Eleonor Sandresky, Steven Swartz, Theodore Wiprud, and Du Yun.  The panelists for the final round were Edmund Campion, Jeremy Geffen, Joan La Barbara, Oliver Lake, and Matt Haimovitz.

The committee that picked the performer winners was composed off Darcy James Argue, Allen Blustine, Margaret Leng Tan, and Randy Woolf.

See the full list of grantees after the jump. Continue reading

Steve Reich at MASS MoCA

Composers David Lang and Steve Reich at MASS MoCA on Saturday, July 25. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Composers David Lang and Steve Reich discuss the life and work of artist Sol Lewitt, whose wall drawings are the subject of a retrospective at MASS MoCA. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Every summer for eight years running, a New England museum of contemporary art becomes a museum of contemporary sound for a couple of weeks when Bang on a Can moves in.

This year’s festival started July 14 when NYC-based Bang on a Can’s founders Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe and David Lang, plus staff, and a crew of teachers joined  35 young musicians and composers at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, Mass.

While there, the students, called fellows, spend their days working with faculty members — some of the best players, conductors and composers on the contemporary music scene today — and preparing music for two gallery recitals a day over the course of the 2 1/2 week program. It’s a musical boot camp, where the boundaries between work and play are happily blurred as participants flow from gallery recitals to concerts to informal jam sessions at working-class town taverns.

Every year, the festival also eatures a major figure from the contemporary music scene as special guest, an artist who typically interacts with the fellows and often plays with them onstage.

Performing Music for Pieces of Wood while the composer looks on.

Performing Music for Pieces of Wood in a gallery adjacent to the Sol Lewitt exhbit while the composer looks on.

This year’s festival is a little different. Steve Reich, a master of minimalism, who, like Meredith Monk, Don Byron, and Terry Riley, has been in a guest artists at previous Bang on a Can summer festivals, is more  featured artist. He made an appearance on Saturday, July 25, to reminisce about his friendship with the late Sol Lewitt, whose wall drawings are the subject of a massive retrospective show at the museum.

Sol Lewitt turned to bright colors in his later wall drawings, like these on the third floor of the MASS MoCA exhibit.

Sol Lewitt turned to bright colors in his later wall drawings, like these on the third floor of the MASS MoCA exhibit.

Reich was also feted with performances of his music in the gallery and the courtyard of the museum and in a more formal way with an evening concert including one of his best-known works, Music for 18 Musicians, and one of his toughest, Eight Lines.

Reich and wife Beryl Korot listen to David Cossin play drums.

Reich and wife Beryl Korot listen to a percussion performance in the MASS MoCA courtyard.

It was a splendid day, with lost of spirited playing. Reich looked quite pleased with the results, and I was thrilled to see the black box theater packed for the evening performance.

Bang on a Can’s rendition of Music for 18 Musicians (which actually involved 19 musicians in this particular presentation) was played well and with emotionally satisfying results. Eight Lines, written for eight players, but performed herre in a version for 16, came together well. It was a testament to the professionalism and dedication of the players that they were able to pull together a credible performance of the difficult piece in less than two weeks.

If you haven’t checked out MASS MoCA yet, I urge you to do it. The museum is spectacular and the art changes dramatically from year to year. And Bang on a Can’s festival, dubbed Banglewood as a play on the much more conventional Tanglewood Music Festival nearby, will open your eyes and ears.

The crowning achievement of each summer’s festival is the marathon. This year’s six-hour marathon runs from 4-10 p.m. this Saturday, Aug. 1, in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA. It will feature a host of works, including George Antheil’s Ballet Mechanique and Shaker Loops, one of John Adams‘ early works. Tickets are available by clicking here. $24.