Marathon Notes ... private pleasures

This set of music is the highlight for me, especially since I can’t stay all night: performances of beautiful, abstract music from Pauline Oliveros and Stuart Dempster, with their Deep Listening Band, and Alvin Lucier performing/explaining I Am Sitting in a Room, one of the profound masterpieces of music, with assistance from James Fei, who I used to enjoy so much when he was on WKCR.

There are other good, interesting pieces from Jonas Braasch playing the soprano sax, Kaki King on guitar, some stuff from David Longstretch and Evan Ziporyn arrangements of Conlon Nancarrow “Piano Studies” for the All-Stars, but it is the in-ward looking philosophies and outward searching sonics that are going to fill this enormous space and touch everyone. Two very special events.

Marathon Notes ... 4:00pm - 5:30pm

Their pushing the schedule up a little, now it’s:

  • Bresnick’s Prayers Remain Forever, cello-piano duo. Effective combination of minor-key lyricism and dissonance. Amplification on the piano is odd, it sounds like those hybrid electric grand piano. Challenging cello part, Ashley Bathgate is handling it with confidence. Nice, grand shape to it, rises to an intense resolution.
  • Newspeak up next, with two cuts from their CD, “B&E (with Aggravated Assaut)” by Oscar Bettison and David T. Little’s “Sweet Light Crude.” This is the kind of stuff the Bang on a Can marathon is all about, music composed, literally written out in the abstract, using structural aesthetics from classical music, but with the sonic quality and emotional expression of rock music.I realize I’ve seen this group play a lot now, they’re like my new music Stravinsky. The conception of a deadly serious power ballad dedicated to oil is enduringly brilliant.
  • New piece from Michael Gordon, Thou Shalt/Thou Shalt Not. Gordon is hit or miss for me, I much prefer his pieces that grind out sound, like “Industry,” than the ones that use repetition as they tend to take a long time spinning their wheels on the road to nowhere. This piece has a lot of that latter style.
Marathon Notes ... 2:30 - 4:00pm

Here at the Bang on a Can Marathon, 2012, reflections on the flowing stream of music:

  • The All-Stars are playing Nibiru from young Polish composer Marcin Stancyk (it’s his first trip to New York City — what a thrill!), a colorful piece. Post-rock contemporary classical music has split along two paths, one American and the other European, this is definitely the European strain — the minimalism comes out of CAN rather than Reich, and there’s a harmonic and structural iconoclasm that I often, personally, prefer. It’s really a chamber piece, and would be more intense in a smaller setting.
  • Thurston Moore’s Stroking Piece #1 is a tribute to the Fluxus movement: rhythm guitar and downbeat on the drums, and cello strokes, keening bass clarinet, sounds like a Sonic Youth tune. A good one. Don’t often feel the thud of a drum in my sternum since I stopped going to the Roxie. Good music to pound to. A little disappointing that Mark Stewart isn’t setting fire to his guitar.
  • Gregg August’s A Humble Tribute to Guaguancó is four bass quartet (hello to my friend Jacque Harper!). Here played by Heavy Hands — good name for an all-bass ensemble. August is in the group, and was also one of the most impressive parts of the closing concert of the Brooklyn Philharmonic — 1st chair in Beethoven, holding down the bottom end on acoustic and electric for Leslie Uggams and Yasiin Bey — a real musician’s musician, so really nice to see him here, in a tribute to Cuban music, all on bass. Simple, strong, loping groove, sensuous feel. Idiomatic, and impressively orchestrated, this guying is fast becoming one of my favorite musicians.