It’s time to Bang on a Can

Composer David Longstreth of The Dirty Projectors.

Tonight’s the night that Bang on a Can shows what it’s made of — and what its supporters are made of, too!

The People’s Commissioning Fund Concert kicks off at 7:30 pm at Merkin Concert Hall. The concept of the People’s Commissioning Fund is pretty simple, and pretty much what the name suggests. The lovely folk at Bang on a Can reach out to their supporters (that’s the people part of the equation) for donations (the fund) that they use to pay composer to write new works (the commissioning) for their super-talented house band the Bang on a Can All-Stars. The band is capable of playing just about anything off the shelf with a little arranging. But because of its particular lineup (piano, cello, clarinet, bass, percussion and guitar), it really shines on pieces written for it.

Christine Southworth

Of late, Bang on a Can has been using the fund to commission three new works. We’ll be hearing four commissions tonight, however. David Longstreth, the inventive composer and performer who created the pop band The Dirty Projectors, was awarded a commission last year, but was on tour and not around NYC for the PCF concert last April. So instead of premiering the piece without the composer, BoaC decided to delay it a week. That was disappointing to PCF supporters like me, but a real boon to Longstreth’s growing numbers of Dirty Projectors fans. I’m sure many will be in the audience tonight.

But let’s not shortchange this years commissions.

Christine Southworth (born in 1978),  has degrees in math from MIT and composition from Brown. She brings a scientific mind to bear on the challenge of composition. Her debut recording, Zap!, featured actual sparks and static from the Boston Museum of Science’s Van de Graaff Generator and Tesla Coils along with voices and instrumentation. She’s also co-founder and director of Ensemble Robot, a musical performance group that, you guessed it, features robots!

Nik Bärtsch

Swiss pianist-composer Nik Bärtsch (born in 1971)  performs in three guises — as a soloist, in a “zen-funk” group called Ronin and an acoustic group, Mobile. Loosely defined, he works in the jazz vein, and is known for his workshops that combine training in music and body movement.

U.K. native Oscar Betttison (born in 1975) works with invented instruments, finds unconventional uses for traditional concert instruments and combines them with rock instruments.

Oscar Bettison

This concert, which is part of WNYC’s New Sounds Live series, will also feature the All-Stars playing a recently commissioned (though not by PCF) work by Michael Nyman for film by the celebrated 1920s NY photographer Paul Strand and a selection from the group’s arrangement of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports.

Some tickets for tonight are still available at $25. Click here to buy. Showtime is 7:30 pm at Merkin Concert Hall in the Kaufman Center, 129 W. 67th St. (between Broadway and Amsterdam) in Manhattan. BoaC normally tops off the show by giving away collections of CDs from its Cantaloupe label.

If you can’t make it to the show, be sure to listen to it on WQXR’s Q2 internet feed.

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