Header Ads

Breaking News

The Bang on a Can Marathon, Still Lovably Scruffy Online

With the performing arts landscape ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, a new online ecosystem has risen — temporarily, we hope — in its place.

But the long, live spectacles — like the Bang on a Can Marathon, streamed over six hours on Sunday — are what’s gotten us through.

Me, at least. “Event TV” in an on-demand age, these musical epics, like Rosie O’Donnell’s special edition of her old variety show, the Metropolitan Opera’s At-Home Gala and the Sondheim at 90 tribute, have brought me laughs, tears and hundreds of gleeful texts with friends and colleagues as we’ve watched, alone together. The beauty and commitment of the performances, however homespun and technically limited, and the joyous intensity of the kibitzing — the palpable collective energy of it all — have approximated what I love about going to the opera or theater.

The Met online could hardly be more different than the Met at Lincoln Center. But the lovably scruffy Bang on a Can stream on Sunday was pretty much akin to any of the lovably scruffy annual marathons put on by this new-music collective since the late 1980s. Hosted, as always, by Bang on a Can’s founding trio — the composers David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe — the performance had some Zoom-muting snafus in place of the old microphone ones, but the genial vibe and leisurely pace were the same as ever. The main difference between this and previous years? On Sunday, the program ended, gasp, early.

The final performance, the pianist Vicky Chow’s unhurried rendition of John Adams’s “China Gates,” was a kind of bookend benediction to the start of the marathon, when Meredith Monk sang her aching “Gotham Lullaby” as a kind of prayer for a wounded city.

In between, as ever with Bang on a Can, were a couple of dozen performances, a range of styles and generations. Young artists like Adam Cuthbért, who gave his own woozy piece for trumpet and electronics, and the vocalist-flutist Nathalie Joachim shared the digital space with veterans like George Lewis, who played trombone in flickering, cacophonous duet with a computer-controlled acoustic piano.

These were all solo performances, but electronic looping turned some of them into de facto ensembles, as when the cellist Ashley Bathgate, playing Robert Honstein’s “Orison” in her purple-tinged childhood bedroom in upstate New York, built a series of long notes into hovering, luminous chords; Meara O’Reilly recorded a lively duet with herself.

Cassie Wieland’s “Heart” for hammered dulcimer, played by Adam Holmes, sweetly shimmered. The clarinetist Eileen Mack built, alongside electronic evocations of wind and rain, to a slow, dirty dance in Anna Clyne’s “Rapture.” In the middle of Shelley Washington’s sinuously grooving “Black Mary” for baritone saxophone were charming little staccato folk-ish passages.

The percussionist Steven Schick, playing ferociously in his garage in San Diego while narrating part of Brecht’s “Life of Galileo” — the requirements of Vinko Globokar’s “Toucher” — was perhaps the most virtuosic. But I also enjoyed Miya Masaoka’s echoey twang on the ichi-ten-kin, a one-string koto; Dai Wei’s “Songs for Shades of Crimson,” an impassioned aria played by the violinist Todd Reynolds; and Mark Stewart’s gently glistening guitar playing. Another guitarist, Mary Halvorson, managed to sound smiling and sober at once, with melodies of glittering sensitivity that fragmented into kaleidoscopic phrases.

Canonical Minimalism, out of which Bang on a Can emerged with its own rock-inflected sensibility, was there in Mr. Adams’s “China Gates,” Steve Reich’s burbling “Vermont Counterpoint” and a bit of Philip Glass’s “Einstein on the Beach.” But far more present was the collective’s progeny: the milky repetitive vibraphone of Molly Joyce’s “Purity” and Ian Chang’s raucous electronic nocturne, streamed — with strobes flashing — from a darkened room, like a Brooklyn loft party.

It wouldn’t be a Bang on a Can Marathon if there weren’t a couple of ponderous performances, or meandering ones that were ideal soundtracks for bathroom breaks. But that’s all part of the fun, and I’ll be there — texting thumbs ready — for the next one, streaming June 14.

Source link

No comments