Get ready for tomorrow’s 12-hour music marathon

Tortoise will perform for free tomorrow night, less than 24 hours after a sellout show at The Bell House in Brooklyn.

Tortoise will perform for free tomorrow night, less than 24 hours after a sellout show at The Bell House in Brooklyn.

It’s that time of year. The Bang on a Can Marathon, 12 hours of music featuring dozens of groups encompassing hundreds of performers, starts at noon tomorrow in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center in Battery Park City as part of New York City’s River to River Festival.

The marathon was created by Bang on a Can, one of the nation’s preeminent new-music organizations. You might think of it as a more civilized, air-conditioned All Points West festival for contemporary composed music.

Click here for the full schedule.

It’s a come as you are, come-and-go event. You can check out what appeals to you or what you don’t know, and leave if you don’t like it. It’s programmed in two-hour chunks, so set times are not strict and things do get moved around. But acts almost always appear somtime during their scheduled two-hour window. For example, you can count on hearing Marathon headliners like Ryuichi Sakamoto and Tortoise in the 10 p.m.-midnight segment.

Everyone will have their preference, and here are a few of my picks:

  • Noon-2 p.m.: BoaC co-founder Michael Gordon‘s seminal work Trance is on the schedule, performed by Signal, one of the best new-music ensembles around.
  • 2 p.m.-4 p.m.: Todd Reynolds String Quartet will perform Stringsongs by Meredith Monk. Todd is an amazingly talented violinist, a patient and caring teacher and a good friend of Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?
  • 4 p.m.-6 p.m.: This is a segment rich with great stuff. Lionheart and Ethel perform excerpts from Phil Kline‘s John the Revelator, a multi-part work for quartet and voice that merges elements of the Roman Catholic Mass with popular music and takes its name from the well-known American traditional song. The Smith Quartet, whose work I don’t know, will be performing Gavin BryarsThe Sinking of the Titanic. And the Bang on a Can All Stars, the Marathon’s house band, will play new works by guitarist-and-composer Bill Frisell, who will join the band.
  • 6 p.m.-8 p.m.: Ars Nova Copenhagen performs For love is strong by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang, another of BoaC’s co-founders.
  • 8  p.m.-10 p.m.: Ken Thomson, an amazingly energetic sax player and leader of Gutbucket, brings his 9-headed Saxophone Monster to the stage to perform his own composition, Rut. Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen & Ars Nova Copenhagen play Thirst by Julia Wolfe, the third BoaC founder. Another ensemble worth catching is Victoire, an electroacoustic quintet performing “Like a Miracle” and “I am coming for my things,” both writtend by Victoire founder Missy Mazzoli.
  • 10 p.m.-Midnight: Pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto will perform new works of his alone and with the All Stars, who will also play Steve Martland‘s Horses of Instruction. It’s always worthwhile sticking around for the final act of the day, which this year is slated to be Tortoise, a Chicago-based post-rock instrumental ensemble. I’m not extremely familiar with this band, but I’m excited to see them live. They have sold out The Bell House in Brooklyn tonight. So if you don’t have tickets for that show, the Marathon is the only way to see Tortoise here until July 21, when they appear at Le Poisson Rouge.

A new feature this year is the Marathon live-Tweet team. Check Twitter throughout the 12 hours for updates and impressions from the team, filed with the #bangonacan hashtag.

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