The Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) is now halfway through its edgy contemporary music series. The residency concludes with the six-hour Marathon Concert featuring performances by the student/faculty ensembles on Saturday, July 30. Meanwhile, there are daily performances in the museum galleries, free with museum admission. See BMInt’s “Upcoming Events” for details.
The twelve-hour Marathon Concert is the culmination of Bang on a Can. Vanity Fair described it thus: “Imagine Lollapalooza advised by the ghost of John Cage. There are other places to hear new contemporary music, but it is seldom offered with such a potent blend of intensity, authority, and abandon.”
This season the Marathon at Mass MoCA is presenting “a supermix of ear-expanding music from the edge,” by Conlon Nancarrow, Julia Wolfe, Christine Southworth, Luciano Berio, Dan Becker, Evan Ziporyn, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Edgard Varese, Osvaldo Golijov.”
Composers Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julie Wolfe created the first Bang on a Can marathon concert in 1987 in order to break down the barriers that separate musical communities. Instead of sorting music by style or genre or venue, they select by innovation— finding the rebels and restless creators not content to leave conventions unchallenged. Putting all these fresh voices next to each other on one gargantuan concert gives audiences the excitement of innovation itself. Its first marathon featured appearances by such leading lights as Steve Reich, John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, and Milton Babbitt, but most of the music was by the young and unknown. It is a formula that Bang on a Can follows to this day.
According to Adam Baratz’s BMInt’s review from last year, “Whether it came out of youthful rebellion, an attempt to cultivate a party atmosphere, or as a mirror of the pace of music after minimalism, Bang on a Can has long since passed from musical insurrection to institution.”