A Weekend of Bang-Related Music ~ Double Review

This photo is from another performance by Bang On a Can All-Starsbangonacan5a

Bang On a Can All-Stars
performs Field Recordings
Regina A. Quick Center for The Arts at Fairfield University
Fairfield, CT
Saturday, January 26th, 2013

I was very happy that the Bang On a Can All-Stars came to Connecticut to perform the multimedia project Field Recordings–Honestly, I was quite happy they came here to play, period! It’s my first experience seeing them outside of the more-familiar stomping ground, the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center, and to see them on a stage with projection and playing an uninterrupted set of music was the way to really experience them. But, I was sad that the turnout wasn’t better. It makes me feel that portions of the country are not ready for this kind of music, and that’s a shame. They have no idea what they’re missing.

The cycle Field Recordings (all with the running theme of found sounds) is actually made up of nine separate pieces by nine different composers, and the opening piece “Reeling” by Julia Wolfe is a very uplifting and lively reel that is written on the vocals of a French-Canadian singer named Benoit Benoit–A rather fluid-but-crisp vocalist whose clip Julia based the piece around, and his voice here assumes the role of a folk banjo or fiddle. The active snapping the band does along with the wild but linear dialogue of the instruments are very exciting and help to make the piece set such a wonderful tone for the rest of the program.

Some more favorite moments of mine: Florent Ghys’ “An Open Cage” is written around actual recorded dialogue by composer John Cage from his Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse). One of Florent’s biggest strengths is his ability to make speaking a musical voice, and here it is done by having the band play phrases in the rhythm of the speech, seamlessly trading parts with a vocalization by the band towards the end.

When I heard Todd Reynolds’ “Seven Sundays”, I knew it was his. Its blues-based melody and fiddle-line for the cello automatically identified him for me. Based on gospel music, particularly recordings from the 30s through the 50s, “Seven Sundays” is a wonderful expression of grand appreciation of music that Todd has, and he retold it brilliantly through his world.

David Lang’s “Unused Swan”–Full disclosure here, I knew after about a minute or so that Lang was quoting the final scene from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, except he basically slowed it down and made it a dirge with chain sound effects provided by drummer-percussionist David Cossin.

Nick Zammuto’s “Real Beauty Turns” was very special for its projected clips of cosmetics and haircare commercials/infomercials of the 80s that Nick collected from thrift shops. The cheesy radio-like vocalization of the title phrase by the band adds such a bright touch.

After this cycle was finished, the group returned to the stage to perform an encore–“Closing” from the Philip Glass chamber work Glassworks. I did see them play this with the composer at the marathon 2 years ago, but it was still gorgeous in their hands alone.

I definitely would say that this is a group that helps smooth the lines between great players and players that put the music first, and even though it is easy to be distracted by the ever-so-radiant and inspiring cellist Ashley Bathgate (who, by the way, was so good that I completely forgot she was recovering from an injury to her hand), the group works every corner of their space thoroughly and everyone is on equal footing.

Ken Thompson, who was this night’s replacement for the recently departed Evan Ziporyn (In DC, the night before it had been Carol McGonnell) was practically perfect playing Ziporyn’s parts.

The projections/films were at times right in line with the music (particularly when it’s any Bill Morrison piece written for a musical piece like the Michael Gordon work “gene takes a drink”), but I have to admit that the projection elements are not always my thing and I tend to forget them after the concert, so, it didn’t play as heavily for me as the group intended.

I still really enjoyed seeing this work as it is really good as a complete thought rather than broken up stand-alones. I hope that there is an album of this to look forward to. Did I mention I’m so happy to have the All-Stars in Connecticut?


Lisa Moore, piano
The Church of The Transfigured Souls (Little Church Around The Corner)
New York, NY
Sunday, January 27th, 2013

lisamoore2In what was originally planned as a TwoSense show, this concert had Lisa Moore giving us a diverse solo piano recital that covered very different ends of composers–Haydn and Schumann all the way to Martin Bresnick and Jerome Kitzke, and it felt like a good companion show to the previous night’s BOAC concert in CT, because I think Lisa managed to give us a brilliantly played program that brought things full circle with her former group Bang On a Can All-Stars.

Starting off with a seemingly traditional choice, Haydn’s Sonata in E flat, things progressed a bit more with Excerpts from Schumann’s Waldscenen (I can tell Lisa is a Schumann fan; He continued to sound young in this program, too), and then a much richer dip into musical progression with six of Alexander Scriabin’s Preludes, a series of pieces that itself seems to cover different eras of musical language.

After a break, Moore proceeded with Leos Janacek’s In The Mist, a rather dark but beautiful suite that had me almost daydreaming. From this, going to Jerome Kitzke’s “Bringing Roses With Her Words” was quite a leap in artistic styles. I had known about Lisa Moore performing pieces with vocalizing, singing, speaking and moving around, but this was the first time I had seen it in person. Having commissioned this piece in 2009, Lisa had truly immersed herself in “Bringing Roses With Her Words”, rendering her in such a trance-like place for this performance.

“Ishi’s Song” by Martin Bresnick was what I really anticipated as Martin and I discussed it on here previously. The piece starts with Lisa singing the song of Ishi and then it lets the piano take over from there. It resulted in something that was like a restless farewell from Ishi and also from the concert.

Lisa’s concert was another great example of a performance that gives you such extreme distances in music composition and expression, and it really was a nice opportunity to see her as her own entity in concert.


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