Tag Archives: Nico Muhly

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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Tonight’s the night: Sam Amidon solo banjo show at Rockwood Music Hall

Sam Amidon at the Mercury Lounge, New York City.

Sam Amidon on banjo at the Mercury Lounge in New York City last year. (Photo © 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

If you’re in the mood for some great banjo music rooted in old-timey tradition but presented with a very modern flair, head to Rockwood Music Hall at 7 p.m. tonight (Wednesday, Dec. 28) to catch Vermonter Sam Amidon in a solo show.

Here’s how he describes the show:

End Of Year Contemplation through Banjosong

While I cannot even dare hope to match the fine calibration of Kirsten Dunst’s recent acting performances (most notably Marie Antoinette, Wimbledon, and Melancholia), I do wish that as 2011 draws to a close we can sing a few murder ballads and old love songs together and maybe it will snow.

Amidon is  an ace on the banjo, and delivers murder ballads and other traditional numbers in creative and compelling ways. He’s a bit of a deadpan performer, but there’s humor beneath the surface, too.

And even though this is billed as a solo banjo show (probably a good thing, because Rockwood’s stages aren’t particularly suited to bands of any size), Sam has lots of friends in New York. So you can never be sure who might drop in to join him or just to check out his set.

His talented circle of friends includes Beth Orton, Thomas “Doveman” Bartlett, violist Nadia Sirota and composer/pianist Nico Muhly,  to name just a few.

Even if none of his pals show up, chances are you’ll wind up feeling like a friend by the end of his set.

$15. Doors at  7 p.m. Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen Street, Manhattan. (212) 477-4155

Doveman delivers the best show of the year so far

May edition of The Burgundy Stain Session featured Rufus Wainwright and The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl)

Doveman opening his latest edition of The Burgundy Stain Sessions at (Le) Poisson Rouge. (Photos copyright 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

I’m not sure what it is about Thomas Bartlett, aka Doveman, that makes him so brilliant.

Like many of you, I first discovered him when he was the man behind Salon‘s late, lamented Daily Download feature. At that point, I had no idea who he was, but enjoyed his tight writing about music and really enjoyed his taste and his ability to spotlight tunes that I might have missed and would have lived to regret.

Rufus Wainwright.

But soon he gave that up and turned to his real love, making music. Those who were paying attention soon discovered that Thomas is a very talented singer-songwriter in his own right with his beautiful, fragile style that he calls “insomnia pop.” He’s made some beautiful albums under his nom de stage.

But Thomas is probably more familiar to audiences as the guy will lots and lots of amazingly talented musical friends.

Rob Moose, Doveman, Rufus Wainwright and Brad Albetta.

He’s been presenting The Burgundy Stain Sessions (the next edition is June 24) shows on a more or less monthly basis lately at (Le) Poisson Rouge. The format is pretty straightforward. He gets  the room set up in the round, invites some of his talented friends, does a little rehearsing and puts on a show. It’s the kind of event where just about anything can happen.

The sessions we’ve see have been beautiful, sloppy things. And we don’t mean sloppy in a bad way. No, we mean sloppy in a warm, wonderful surprise-wet-kiss way.

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Radical opera defies definition

It seems to me that the only thing The New Yorker Festival’s Radical Opera panel settled last Sunday afternoon at City Winery was that nobody’s quite sure exactly what radical opera really is.

The 90 minute discussion featured director Peter Sellars — who’s so deeply involved with John Adams‘ operas that he’s not limited to directing in the most conventional sense. He helped create the libretto for Doctor Atomic — along with performer-composers Nico Muhly, Rufus Wainwright, and Lisa Bielawa. Nico and Lisa are closely associated with Philip Glass, one of the world’s leading composers of opera, while Rufus, who’s primarily a pop musician, has no prior formal connection to the opera world.

I was hoping that The New Yorkers’ brilliant music writer, Alex Ross, would encourage some spirited debate. (Secretly, I was hoping for some bitch-slapping, if not actual fisticuffs.) Alas, that was not to be. It turned into a very un-radical love-fest and discussion of upcoming projects. I had a livelier discussion with the young composer at my table than anything I heard coming from the stage that afternoon. Continue reading

In C Remixed web site launches

Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble at (Le) Poisson Rouge in NYC.

Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble at (Le) Poisson Rouge in NYC.

The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble — the group that made the splendid recording of Steve Reich‘s Music for 18 Musicians in 2007 — is at it again. This time the group has commissioned a bunch of artists to record, remix and reinvent Terry Riley‘s seminal work, In C.

You can get a taste of what they’re up to by checking out the project’s web site, which  was launched today.

In this project, a slew of invited artists took  GVSUNME’s recording of In C and remixed it to create their own version. The only rule was to produce a 4- to 8-minute track. Contributors include: Jad Abumrad, Masonic (Mason Bates), Jack Dangers, Dennis DeSantis, R. Luke DuBois, Mikael Karlsson/Rob Stephenson, Zoë Keating, Phil Kline, Kleerup, Glenn Kotche, David Lang, Michael Lowenstern, DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, Nico Muhly, Todd Reynolds, and Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR).

Their versions  are being assembled into a album, In C Remixed, due out digitally on Oct. 27 and on CD on Nov. 17. It’s available for preorder here. The ensemble is also performing the reinventions live, and will bring the show to NYC’s (Le) Poisson Rouge on Sunday evening, Nov. 8. $15.

Wood and wire: Nadia Sirota and Line C3 play Galapagos

Nadia Sirota performs OMFG with the composer, Our Lady J, on the piano at Galapagos last night. .

Nadia Sirota performs OMFG with the composer, Our Lady J, on the piano at Galapagos last night. .

New Amsterdam Records has a reputation for taking risks with  lesser-known cutting-edge musicians and giving them a chance to really shine. The label last night launched a new monthly series call Archipelago at Galapagos Art Space in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. New Amsterdam tested the waters, so to speak, in the spring with a short series dubbed Undiscovered Islands. The new series ‘ name continues the water-land theme (appropriate at a venue where some of the seats appear to float in a pool of water).

There’s plenty of self-interest involved, as virtually all of the Archipelago performers are New Amsterdam artists. But because the label has such an interesting mix of talented performers, there’s little chance of a dud.

The series kicked off last night with a set by one of the label’s most inventive and skilled artists, violist Nadia Sirota, and the percussion quartet Line C3. The six-year-old quartet (Haruka Fujii, John Ostrowski, Eric Poland, and Chris Thompson) doesn’t appear to be on New Amsterdam’s roster — though I wouldn’t be surprised if that were in the works — and I was not familiar with them before last night.

The performers mixed it up, playing together and separately throughout the all-too-short program. Nadia kicked off the evening with the premiere of Future Shock by New Amsterdam co-director William Brittelle, a percolating blend of Nadia’s viola and electronics. Line C3 took the stage to perform a 2004 piece written for the quartet by Nico Muhly, Ta and Clap.

Line C3 performs Speak Softly by David T. Little.

Line C3 performs Speak Softly by David T. Little.

Go to the jump to see Line C3’s video of Ta and Clap and read more about last night’s show. Continue reading

A musical road trip from 802 to 212

The 802 Tour: Thomas Bartlett, Nadia Sirota, Nico Muhly and Sam Amidon.

The 802 Tour: Thomas Bartlett, Nadia Sirota, Nico Muhly and Sam Amidon.

When Sam Amidon, Thomas Bartlett and Nico Muhly took the stage of Miller Theater at Columbia University last night, it was immediately apparent that the audience was in for an unusual show.

Nico was quick to point out that this performance of what they have been calling The 802 Tour (all three headliners are originally from Vermont, in area code 802), was going to be a collaborative thing, not a conventional presentation of three separate sets. For reasons that were not made clear, violist Nadia Sirota was absent from the announced lineup, although ACME, an ensemble of which Nadia is a part, performed beautifully with the three headliners.

The evening, part of the Wordless Music Meets Miller Theatre Festival, was never less than interesting, even during moments when it felt like a shakedown run or a dress rehearsal — a strange feeling given that The 802 Tour started rolling over a year ago. It was marred by technical problems with the sound. Nico, Thomas and Sam are not just Vermonters, but longtime NYC collaborators — Thomas and Sam made music together in Vermont, and Nico and Thomas met when the latter was, briefly, a student at Columbia.

The three clearly have grown quite comfortable with each other over the years. And that comfort level allowed them to reach for new sounds and play around with their styles. Early on, Nico’s super-strong personality threatened to turn the evening into a celebration of excess. Nico overindulged in effects and beats, overpowering Sam’s beautifully fragile vocals in the first number. And Thomas seemed spurred on by Nico, joining in some over-the-top piano flourishes. But things started coming together as the evening went on.

Nico, who noted that last night was the 10th anniversary of his arrival at Columbia as a freshman (he graduated with a Columbia-Juilliard degree), stuck mostly to compositions from his days at the university. His Skip Town is a piece that starts strong but seems to morph in an unsettling way near the end. Quiet Music — the title of which he described as “a lie” — proved to be a perfectly polished piano gem.

Nico’s string arrangements for songs from Thomas’ forthcoming Doveman album ran hot and cold. The first number was nearly swamped by washes of strings and Nico’s electronic wizardry, but Thomas’ subsequent songs, including Angel’s Share, were beautifully augmented by ACME’s reading of the Nico-penned strings.

The closing number of the main set, The Only Tune, written by Nico for Sam, was a spectacular, multi-layered reinvention of a traditional folk tune that let Sam play his voice off against a beautiful violin line (played effectively by Yuki Numata, a terrific young violinist, who recently moved to NYC from Miami, where she was a member of the New World Symphony) , and experiment with banjo and guitar against well-arranged effect. It was a potent reminder of what such great talents are capable of producing.

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