Welcome to the first live blogging event on I Care if You Listen! We are at the World Financial Center covering the 25th Bang on a Can Marathon… The full program is here. I’m going to put the freshest stuff on top, OK? Just scroll down to see the previous sets…
Due to a loss of Wifi, I wasn’t able to live blog the 10pm set but I will write down some notes when I get home… I will also publish a recap video soon. Thank you for following this live blogging post!
New set, new composer: Akiko Ushijima. Ushijima’s piece Distorting melody was receiving its US premiere and was performed by the BOAC All-Stars. Witty, colorful, brief–I’d love to hear more of her music…
The next piece on the program was sunray by David Lang, written as a birthday present for his father–present in the room tonight. Lang’s intro to the piece was a lesson in creativity: confronted with the approaching deadline, Lang decided to write what was in front of him: Sun Dry Cleaners, the dry cleaning place across the street from his composing desk in Massachusetts (this was during the BOAC Summer Festival). The piece was to be about a sunray made physical.
Kris Davis Massive Thread is now performing Massive Thread for six pianos. Although two might have been enough so far…
Kris Davis' Massive Thread
The initial chaos led to an almost Debussy-esque motif that grew as it got repeated by the 6 pianos in unison. The granitic structure collapsed and was replaced by shimmering licks. OK.
Maya Beiser is now about to perform Just Ancient Loops by Michael Harrison with film by Bill Morrison. An iPad on a tripod was just brought on stage and is now sitting in front of the empty stool. No paper for her tonight.
Brief introduction by Harrison and Morrison and a tambura (shruti box) is heard in the PA. Beiser walks in and start playing (she is actually recording) a line in pizzicatto. As soon as she is done, she picks her bow and starts playing a very modal and lyrical line on top of the pizz line… Harrison said that the total of cello lines throughout the piece will amount to 20. The first movement of this 25min piece is very lively and melodic so far. The movie projected behind Beiser is a collection of beautiful black and white shots of the moon.
Maya Beiser, movie by Bill Morrison
The second, slower movement was a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Beiser’s gorgeous tone and lyricism. The third movement recalls the initial material and its raag quality.
I had heard of Kaki King a lot from a good friend of mine and I’m glad that I got to see her play tonight! King came on stage with just two guitars (a 6 and a small 12-string) and performed four great pieces in her own personal fingerpicking idiom using weird tunings (open D minor) and great manicured nails! The third piece she performed has some elements of Irish jigs but also of Salentina Pizzica: incredibly fast, rhythmic and melodic. No wonder why Bang on a Can wanted to feature her…
The Bang on a Can All-Stars is back to perform some great pieces by David Longstreth (The Dirty Projectors): Instructional Video, Breakfast at J&M, and Matt Damon. There are among my favorite pieces on the double CD that Bang on a Can All-Stars released earlier this year…
Bang on a Can All Stars performing David Longstreth's music
The BOAC All-Stars is now performing Evan Ziporyn‘s wonderful arrangements of Conlon Nancarrow‘s Piano Studies 2a, 3c, 4a, 11, still available on the same record. All these pieces are steeped in jazz, blues, rock and feature some really advanced rhythms (one of the reasons why Nancarrow ended up using player pianos.) The BOAC All-Stars are just nailing these like Weezer covers. Wow… This being said, the balance (the sound engineer’s balance, not the arrangement) is not always optimal and Bathgate’s cello lines or Mark Stewart’s guitar riffs are sometimes completely covered by Ziporyn’s clarinet or Cossin’s drums. Well, the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden is not Carnegie Hall and I’m sure that the sound engineers are doing their best…
The fourth set closed with a performance of I am sitting in a room narrated by Alvin Lucier with digital delay by James Fei. Lucier said something like:
I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.
His narration was then recorded and played right after as it was recorded again and played right after etc. After his initial narration, Lucier remained perfectly still as his process was unfolding. The look on people’s faces, who entered the room 15 min within the piece was quote precious…
Alvin Lucier performing "I am sitting in a room"
Two Sense (Lisa Moore and Ashley Bathgate) opens this third set with a beautiful composition by Martin Bresnick: Prayers remain forever. Meditative, driven, percussive, Bresnick (who taught the three founders of BOAC) offers a strong, Messiaen-ic introspection.
Next is (a fuller lineup of ) Newspeak performs Oscar Bettison‘s B & E (with aggravated assault): rough, grotesquely violent at times, and thoroughly enjoyable in a headbanging way. Seeing David T. Little playing double kick drum will remain, for me, one of the highlights of this year’s Marathon!
Next is the Michael Gordon Band performing Thou Shalt/Thou Shalt Not …
Michael Gordon Band
Jonas Braasch changed the mood radically by performing his composition Quasi Infinity on soprano saxophone. From what I’ve understood (correct me if I’m wrong, please) the sound was processed through a system that was emulating a a long reverberation of 45 seconds such as the one that was found in the unused cistern in the Pacific Northwest that was used in the “Deep Listening” recording of 1989 (New Albion). The piece literally filled the room and almost seemed to get rid of all the (musical) tensions that had been accumulated so far (ie. Bettison’s and Gordon’s pieces).
The third set closed with two fascinating pieces by Brian Perti (Land of Snows) and Pauline Oliveros (From Now On). The first one relied heavily on didgeridoos, Dung Chen (Tibetan Horn) and conches while the second was purely vocal. The blend of overtone singing, circular breathing and drones sounded incredible in this space (that is less flattering for other pieces/kinds of music–more on that later).
Deep Listening Bang
The Guidonian Hand just opened the second set with a beautiful piece by Eve Beglarian: In and Out of the Game.
Grand Band just started performing Julia Wolfe’s my lips from speaking, for 6 pianos based on a piano lick extracted from Aretha Franklin’s Think! I can’t believe how many incredible pianist are in Grand Band: Vicky Chow, Lisa Moore, Izzy O’Connell, etc. At this point, the lick is barely recognizable but it slowly emerges from the texture…
Such a rare treat to hear a work for 6 pianos! Grand Band will be back at 6pm for Steve Reich‘s Six Pianos.
Newspeak (or rather a subset of Newspeak) just performed Ruby Fulton‘s homage to the Beatles’ The End for ukulele, spoons and soprano. A pretty awesome post-minimalist cover.
After seeing most of its members in different ensembles/projects, the first appearance of the Ban on a Can All-Stars finally happens! They are performing the esoteric Nibiru by Martin Stanczyk…
Bang on a Can All-Stars
On to a commissioned piece: Stroking Piece #1 by Thurston Moore. Pounding, strumming, stroking, crescendo-ing on two chords… until the drums kicks in! Hell yeah… After a well deserved apex, the piece slowly disintegrates into bass clarinets screeching noises and sustained electric guitar feedback before the unassuming final piano chord. Great piece that delivers.
Heavy Hands‘ tribute to Cuban music–A Humble Tribute to Guaguanco by Gregg August–is just starting: double basses are plucked, bowed, or used as a percussion to emulate the rhythms of Cuban rumba.
Dither is now performing Go Guitars by Lois V Vierk: dissonant tuning, bottlenecks, and motoric rage…
Next is Ashley Bathgate performing Saint Arc by Daniel Wohl. After a brief introduction by Daniel Wohl himself making his debut at the BOAC Marathon) Bathgate delivers electronically processed, haunting harmonics on the cello…
Ashley Bathgate performing Daniel Wohl's Saint Arc
Jeremy Howard Beck‘s Awakening performed by The Guidonian Hand. A stark, foggy, wake-up call. Such a perfect piece in this space…
Jeremy Howard Beck's "Awakening" performed by The Guidionian Hand
Evan Ziporyn‘s In Bounds now performed by Vicky Chow. I just love the asymmetric groove, the gentle harmonic progression, and Chow’s crisp details. Awesome piece!
Vicky Chow performing Evan Ziporyn's "In Bounds"
Michael Gordon introducing the NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble with Jonathan Haas about to perform Bash by Ruben Naeff (from W4 New Music). Hey! Florent Ghys is on stage with them! Conflict can be really fun and Naeff just put that in music.
NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble cond. Jonathan Haas
1:29pm David Lang killing some time and giving twitter instructions. Hilarious…
As much as I love Crossroads from Todd Reynolds’ album Outerborough, the addition of a live drummer on Michel Lowenstern’s Boot was a pretty good idea! They are now playing Footprints to kill some more time.
Todd Reynolds, Michael Lowenstern and David Cossin.
Thomas Deneuville, the founder and editor of I Care if You Listen, is a French-born composer living in NY. Find him on Twitter: @tonalfreak
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