2007 Bang on a Can Marathon
June 3, 2007 3:49 AM   Subscribe

The Bang on a Can Marathon is currently in progress at the World Financial Center in Manhattan. This annual Marathon has taken various forms over the years, with a range of lengths, locations and admission prices; this year's features 26 straight hours of music from around the world, with free admission. Bang on a Can is the 20-year-old new music presenting, producing and recording group co-founded by composers Julia Wolfe, David Lang and Michael Gordon.
posted by allterrainbrain (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not familiar with Wolfe, but Lang and Gordon are both terrific composers.

If you're associated with a school on the list, you can listen to whole albums of music by both of them on NYU's DRAM site (I'm not so I can't speak to the sound quality):

Lang's Are You Experienced?

Gordon's Big Noise From Nicaragua
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:29 AM on June 3, 2007

Free Wolfe listening (on first Googling; more is out there):


The String Quartets
posted by allterrainbrain at 4:50 AM on June 3, 2007

I worked at the WFC for about 2.5 years. These sorts of marathons and festivals were everything that made working in the city cool.
posted by thanotopsis at 6:16 AM on June 3, 2007

Man am I now jealous. That's 4,156 miles from here.
posted by handee at 7:45 AM on June 3, 2007

Yeah some good friends of mine are on the schedule, but I'm stuck at home with a deadline looming so I think I'm going to miss it, which is a shame as the line-up is diverse and really pretty cool.
posted by ob at 8:54 AM on June 3, 2007

I used to go to it in the early days but I haven't been very often recently. I went last year and there wasn't much there that got my ears tingling -- there was a little but not worth staying for so long.

I'm really not a fan of Michael Gordon's work -- I haven't heard anything in at least five years but everything I remember hearing was the same, a group of musicians playing in identical, staccato rhythms without harmony or counterpoint or timbral variations that I could detect.

That said, I saw some great stuff in the early years, my only performances of Stimmung, of Four Organs, of Five Stone Wind (truly the most boring piece I ever heard -- which made it pretty interesting! :-D) and other pieces I only ever heard once.

(And I've been around the "new music" world for a long time. If you haven't done this, you certainly should. There's a lot of amazing techniques and ideas in the field, the fact that it's a little dry right now doesn't mean you won't see some amazing stuff!)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:04 AM on June 3, 2007

lupus: you should check out Michael Gordon's piece 'Decasia'. I think it's really fantastic and an interesting development on his earlier music.
posted by ob at 11:35 AM on June 3, 2007

Thanks, ob, will do! I'm always very very hungry for new music.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2007

I love, love, love their recording of Riley's In C.
posted by the_bone at 7:28 PM on June 3, 2007

Man, there was a bunch of stuff on the schedule that I wanted to check out - Clogs, Vijay Iyer, Yo La Tengo with an expanded lineup. Had too much work to catch it all, though, so I had to settle for the period from Brian Eno's "Music for Airports" to Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians." Figured I was least likely to catch those again anytime soon.

Bang on a Can All-Stars did a really fantastic job with "Music for Airports" - I had no idea what to expect, really, since the original is so synth heavy, with engineering and textures that really couldn't be reproduced live. Nonetheless, the All-Stars' transcription of the piece was really beautiful, and I think really captured the spirit of the piece. In fact, I was actually kind of disappointed that they used pre-recorded voices for the choral parts on 1-2 and 2-1. I think those might have gelled better if they had actually gotten some vocalists to accompany them. But 1-1 and 2-2 were utterly fantastic.

"Music for 18 Musicians" was my first time seeing ANY Reich live - and it's pretty amazing how much gets lost in the recording. So much of the sonic intricacies of Reich's phase effects, as instruments pulse in and out of the foreground of the whole wall of sound, gets reduced to a sort of drone on CD. My only complaint is that, since they didn't start playing until 5 AM, I didn't really have the mental capacity left to focus as much as I would have wanted. But I'm still really glad I caught it.

The surprise of the evening for me, was Juana Molina. I'd never heard of her before she took the stage, but she's an Argentine singer/songwriter/producer. She does the "one-man band" thing, using live looping to build a fuller sound - but while so many other musicians reduce that to a sort of parlor trick, she took it someplace I'd never heard before. Often she'd set one of the loops layers to be slightly off tempo, so it would phase in and out of sync with the main rhythm (it's no wonder she came on so soon before "Music for 18 Musicians"). The overall effect was this pulsing, hypnotic wave of sound, on top of which she'd sing in beautiful spanish. There are some samples of her work on her website.

Incredible evening. Definitely worth the complete and utter lack of sleep.
posted by TheRoach at 9:44 PM on June 3, 2007

The Roach - that was the section I really wanted to see. Now I really am jealous. I caught Juana Molina here in the UK a few months back and was totally blown away.
posted by handee at 3:43 AM on June 4, 2007

There's lotsa photos from this year's Bang On a Can here at Downtown Music Gallery's photo site.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:07 PM on June 6, 2007

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