Maya Beiser’s Elsewhere at BAM (A Review)

Maya Beiser and Helga Davis performing in Elsewhere at BAM (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Greenfield)

Beth Morrison Projects
A Cello Opera conceived by Maya Beiser and Robert Woodruff
Maya Beiser, cello
Helga Davis, vocals
Music by Missy Mazzoli, Eve Beglarian, and Michael Gordon
Words by Henri Michaux and Erin Cressida Wilson
Choreography by Brook Notary
Film by Peter Nigrini
Brooklyn Academy of Music, NYC

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Written by Jeremy Shatan

The “story” of Lot’s wife – no more than a sentence in Genesis – is like a tea bag. Add the boiling water of imagination and emotion and it can expand into a fascinating and complex brew. This is precisely what Maya Beiser and her collaborators have done in “Salt”, the stunning third section of her “CelloOpera,” Elsewhere, which finished its four-night run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last Saturday. With music by Missy Mazzoli and words by Erin Cressida Wilson, the unnamed wife of Lot, who was turned into a pillar of salt in punishment for looking back on Sodom, becomes a stand-in for the suffering of women across centuries and cultures – painful torments that often seem to take place “elsewhere.”

Wilson’s lyrics turn Lot’s wife into a three-dimensional character, a woman locked in a brutal marriage (and by the end of the piece, in jail) who is forced to give up her home and looks back, not in anger or curiosity, but because she recalled “The first painting our girl ever drew – forgotten and still-taped above the kitchen sink.” In performance, Lot’s wife is embodied by the astonishing Helga Davis, a pure theater artist with a gorgeous voice and true commitment to her craft. Using precise movements and a diverse array of voices, Davis is riveting. At one point the lights behind the stage went to full brightness and I took a quick look around the nearly sold-out theater. Not one person was anything but rapt and completely focused on the performance. Continue reading

The Box Is Empty Comes Up Full

The Box Is Empty
The Century Ballroom
Seattle, WA
Friday, June 29th, 2012

Written by Heather Bentley

Last Friday, the 29th of June, I had the pleasure of attending The Box is Empty at Seattle’s Century Ballroom. The Box is Empty is not only the name of the musical ensemble but also a philosophical concept.

From their website: Our name is based on a simple concept. Start with a project (i.e. a box), fill it with all of your spirit, energy, and creativity until the project comes to fruition. Then empty the box and start again. The Box Is Empty is a view of the process. All possibilities are open, creativity is unending. Surprise the box’s recipient with the gift of new experience. The Box Is Empty.

It’s clear from the spirited performances given that the organizers and performers are enjoying filling their empty box and sharing its contents. Consistent with current efforts to update the classical music experience, the event had the vibe of a happening, and indeed, swankiness was on display and liquor flowed, if not freely, at least within reach. Continue reading

Bang On a Can 2012 Preview ~ Marathon Schedule Announced

Here is the complete schedule of the 2012 Bang On a Can Marathon at the World Financial Center in NY on Sunday, June 17th!
This promises to be an incredible day of music, so please come out and see this marvelous marathon of edginess at the gorgeous atrium at the WFC.
By the way, did I happen to mention that it’s free?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Times are approximate due to performances.


12 noon

Go Guitars by Lois V Vierk
performed by Dither

Saint Arc by Daniel Wohl
performed by Ashley Bathgate

Awakening by Jeremy Howard Beck
performed by The Guidonian Hand

In Bounds by Evan Ziporyn
performed by Vicky Chow

Bash by Ruben Naeff
performed by NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble with Jonathan Haas

a) Crossroads
b) Boot by Michael Lowenstern
performed by Todd Reynolds and Michael Lowenstern


2 PM

In and Out of the Game by Eve Beglarian
performed by The Guidonian Hand

my lips from speaking by Julia Wolfe
performed by Grand Band

The End by Ruby Fulton
performed by Newspeak

a) Nibiru by Marcin Stanczyk
b) Stroking Piece #1 by Thurston Moore
performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars

A Humble Tribute to Guaguanco by Gregg August
performed by Heavy Hands


4 PM

Prayers Remain Forever by Martin Bresnick
performed by TwoSense

a) B & E (with Aggravated Assault) by Oscar Bettison
b) Sweet Light Crude by David T. Little
performed by Newspeak

Thou Shalt/Thou Shalt Not by Michael Gordon
performed by the Michael Gordon Band

Quasi Infinity, written and performed by soprano saxophonist Jonas Braasch

a) Land of Sorrows by Brian Pertl
b) From Now On by Pauline Oliveros
performed by Deep Listening Band


6 PM

Kaki King (Note: Selections to be announced from the stage)

a) Instructional Video,  b) Breakfast at J&M,  c) Matt Damon by David Longstreth
d) Piano Studies 2a, 3c, 4a, 11 by Conlon Nancarrow (arr. Evan Ziporyn)
performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars

Alvin Luciernarrating his own I am sitting in a room with James Fei, digital delay system


8 PM

a) Distorting Melody** by Akiko Ushijima
b) sunray by David Lang
performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars

Kris Davis‘ Massive Thread performing Massive Thread by Davis

Just Ancient Loops* by Michael Harrison with film by Bill Morrison
performed by Maya Beiser


10 PM

Six Pianos by Steve Reich
performed by Grand Band

DJ Envee‘s Bang on a Can Remix

le Noir de l’Etoile by Gérard Grisey
performed by Talujon

* World Premiere
** US Premiere

Bang On a Can 2012 Marathon
Sunday, June 17th 12 PM-12 AM
Three World Financial Center
200 Vesey Street, 11th Floor
New York, New York 10281
Tel: 212.417.7000
Fax: 212.417.7214

World Financial

Bang on a

Cellophilia: W4’s All-Cello Event (A Preview)

New York-based new music collective West 4th (aka W4) are garnering a wonderful reputation in being very active and decisively creative in concepts for their concert series. This coming June 8th, they will put on an all-cello program titled “Cellophilia” where they will feature music not just for solo cello, but for multiple cellos of 2-8 at a time. There are eight cellists scheduled to appear, among them are Mariel Roberts, who is also a co-producer of the concert, and Bang On a Can All-Stars’ Ashley Bathgate.

The concert is being funded via Kickstarter. Please click here or on the link at the bottom to donate. Continue reading

Vicky Chow

Vicky Chow, a pianist who is well known as a member of the Bang On a Can All-Stars, is another great example of the hard-working, highly active new music community laden with creative artists and composers. Along with the All-Stars, Vicky has also been performing solo concerts regularly featuring the works of various modern and living composers, is one of the founding members of a Bang On a Can offshoot–the trio Typical Music, and is also the curator of a series of new music concerts held at the Gershwin Hotel called Contagious Sounds (which, by the way, she also participates in). In the coming year, Vicky will be releasing 2 new CDs: the new Bang On a Can All-Stars double CD to be released in February, and her second solo CD. She had a small break in her activities to chat with me about her work and her career. Continue reading

Bang On A Can All Day

Jessica Schmitz (left, playing piccolo) and The Asphalt Orchestra performing outside the World Financial Center at the start of the Bang On a Can Marathon in NY, June 19, 2011 (Photo courtesy of Phoebe Zhang/Epoch Times)

‘Are you experienced?’~David Lang

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bang On a Can Marathon (And any of the other events given by BOAC’s many artists like “Banglewood” and the various stand-alone concerts) is like a compositional music Woodstock for the mind (You can even quote me on that). Having volunteered for merchandise sales duties for the marathon 2 years in a row now, just within slightly distracted ear-shot I have heard a huge cross-section of the different ideas the new music makers have presented. There’s music that outright spooks you, forces you to think about why it’s spooking you, delights you, makes you happy, makes you dance, makes you sad, makes you despise it, bores you, and sometimes pieces that even all of the above applies to, depending on what you go for. Even though the music and the composers’ styles are all quite different (Composers that range from BOAC founders David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon, to Evan Ziporyn, Todd Reynolds, Toby Twining, Yoko Ono, Bjork, Frank Zappa and Philip Glass just to name a giant handful), the common denominator is that they are all composers of contemporary music. So if you expect to hear Mozart or Mendelssohn at this show, this might not be your cup of tea.

Philip Glass: Closing (Philip Glass, piano, and the Bang On a Can All-Stars, World Financial Center, NY 6/19/11)

There were a few people that felt strongly enough to complain to us, the people seated at the merch table, as if we could possibly adjust the music somehow to their liking. One guy was trying his best to explain to me completely on his own volition why he thinks Philip Glass’s compositions don’t work as we were being shushed by audience members standing nearby that did get Philip’s music.
“The audience tends to enjoy the concert overall, but much of the music is very polarizing.” explains BOAC’s store manager and bookkeeper Brian Petuch. “When you perform Iannis Xenakis and Philip Glass on the same bill that is probably inevitable. Overall though I would say most people enjoy the diversity in the programming and we have many diehard fans. One of my favorite things to witness are the tourists and regular mall shoppers that stumble upon this massive event where strange sounds are being blasted throughout the mall. They all have looks on there faces as if they stepped into an episode of the Twilight Zone.”

David Lang: Sunray (Bang On a Can All-Stars; filmed at MIT circa Apr. 2011)

Another great thing to admire about this day-long show is the musicians. The Asphalt Orchestra, an eclectic marching band (Very similar in nature to Chicago’s Mucca Pazza), played outside and walking into the center at the beginning of the marathon and again in the middle of the center by the flat stairway (That was a treat! I know my friend Scott Parker, who’s a Zappa authority, would have loved their take on ‘Zomby Woof’). Cellist Ashley Bathgate, whose dad started talking to me about her when he saw my BOAC T-shirt while standing in line at the nearby Starbucks, sounded gorgeous among the BOAC All-Stars during their collaborative set with Philip Glass. Even though I missed his set at the marathon (Reason being that I was downsized to 2/3 shift when they cut the merch table to one this year), electric violinist/composer Todd Reynolds is always a pleasure to hear. And it really was an incredible experience to see The Sun Ra Arkestra for the first time ever; Even though Sun Ra himself died in 1993, his group carries on their traditional blend of free-jazz and big-band with electronic noise thrown in.

Sun Ra Arkestra (Photo courtesy of Tim N.)

Then there was Glenn Branca. I admire him immensely as a musician, an artist and as an historian for punk rock, but his “Ascension II: The Sequel” (Said sequel to his 1981 album) sounded like a repetitive punk jam. Philip Glass makes beauty from repetition as he did with his opening piece “Music In Similar Motion”, but Branca’s 6-piece group felt to me like some dudes wanted to rock out in the key of E all night long. My apologies to Branca enthusiasts. I hope I can make my way back to his music the same way I did for Schoenberg.

I have to say there’s many reasons to come to the marathon; It’s free, it’s a great place to see, hear and even meet various composers, artists and musicians. And those palm trees are so nice in what kind of looks like a giant sanitarium!

Zappa: Zomby Woof (Asphalt Orchestra; This version is from Le Poisson Rouge Jan 2011; They performed this in the middle of the hall at the marathon)

Bang On a