At least, that's the plan. Keep checking back for updates.
SATURDAY, JUNE 2
8:20 PM - The hit opened with Julia Wolfe's Lad, dedicated to the late violist John Lad, who played on the very first BAOC marathon 20 years ago. It's for 9 bagpipes, who began droning in low clusters at the very back of the Winter Garden before converging on the stairs. The music took full advantage of the Winter Garden's cavernous acoustics -- the sound was otherwordly. Both sonically and in its construction, it reminded me of some of the ambient electronic pieces I heard at last week's Wordless Music hit, especially once the 4-on-the floor bass drum finally came in.
8:45 PM - Evan Ziporyn w/Tactus wind ens, a concerto for Evan on b.cl. Man, do I love Evan's effortless authority. Jazzy and pentatonic-based, with lots of momentum, it reminded me of some of the fun pieces from Zappa's Yellow Shark disc. Evan did a great job of teaching the kids to reproduce his very personal inflections. And Tactus (based in the Manhattan School of Music) always gets to do the coolest gigs.
9:03 PM - Christopher Adler's Signal Intelligence, performed by red fish blue fish. Chris was on hand, and introduced the piece by talking about how mathematically complex it was going to be, which set me up to expect one of those unlistenably wanky pieces based on chaos theory or whatever, but as it turned out it wasn't that at all. It was a churning, grid-groove postminmalist piece for a mix of pitched, semi-pitched, and unpitched percussion. I thought some of the transitions could maybe have been finessed a little more elegantly, but the energy was appealing.
9:25 PM - Ethel absolutely tore it up with a couple of movements from Marcelo Zarvos's string quartet, Nepomuk's Dances. Brazil-born Zarvos is mostly known as a film composer these days. Both movements were folksy, stomping, crowd-pleasing romps. It was a bit too boxed-in for my tastes, and occasionally fell into the wrong side of the charming/corny divide, but when you're writing for players like Ethel, why not pull out all the stops? It's clearly a fun piece to play, and Ethel's enthusiastic virtuosity is always infectious.
9:48 PM - Poor Lois V Vierk. Her piece began unannounced, and since the members of Tactus were positioned off in the wings, pretty much everyone thought her brass-heavy and extremely heavily amplified piece Jagged Mesa was canned intermission music, at first. I'm afraid I missed a massive chunk of it -- sorry Lois.
10:35 PM - The first appearance by the titular BOAC All-Stars, in a set with Burmese "magic drum" master Kyaw Kyaw Naing, the results of which is best described as "Burmese prog rock," especially when Mark Stewart turned on the crunch and David Cossin lit into some fierce hihat grooves behind twisting full-group unison lines. Naing's drums all have a definite pitch to them (the actual pitch is controlled by "feeding" them a layer of rice paste, and the resulting sound is like some kind of crazy marimba-conga hybrid.
Next up is The Books, which is what all the kids have come to hear.
11:52 PM - Bum rush the show! A few minutes into The Books' set, scores of the aforementioned adolescent fans quietly slipped under the security barriers and took over the previously open area just in front of the stage, sitting themselves on the floor and listening with rapt attention. It was the most polite and subtle act of audience defiance I've ever seen, but these are Books fans we're talking about. Violinist Todd Reynolds (who had guested with the BOAC All-Stars earlier) joined everyone's favorite meditative electrofolk duo on a couple of tunes. My marathon companion here, Jen Stock is a huge fan as well, and the person who introduced me to The Books in the first place. But she's somewhat skeptical of their video presentation, which involves mostly collages of clips from VHS tapes acquired from Salvation Armies visited on tour. I thought the most effective of these was the last one, "8 Frame," where 8 frames of video is linked to each sixteenth note.
They were followed up by Eighth Blackbird, playing the by far the most quiet and abstract piece so far, Franco Donatoni's Arpege, of which more later. Michael Gordon is up now.
SUNDAY, JUNE 3
12:34 AM - So yeah, Arpege made for a nice break from the constant forward motion of everything presented so far. It was intimate, chromatic, and capital-M Modernist, but appealingly so. It was lightly scored, too, with lots of mini-solos for the Eighth Blackbirdians. It could easily have sounded very stark and impersonal, but 8BB played with such tremendous conviction that it never felt cold. It made for a sharp left turn from The Books, but most of the floor-kids stayed. They're mostly still there -- having claimed some primo real estate, they will not give it up easily.
Michael Gordon's Gotham (already the third performance by Tactus) made for another sharp contrast. The music begins dirge-like and gradually becomes apocalyptic, almost unbearably intense and super-saturated. In combination with Bill Morrison's film, which is mostly constructed from decaying, vintage newsreel footage of New York, with an emphasis on clouds of smoke, tall buildings, and people in high places -- window washers, high-rise construction workers, spotlight operators -- it's about as subtle as a sledgehammer. But sometimes a sledgehammer is just the tool you're looking for. Big ups to Kiku Enomoto for her expressive and subtle playing on the opening violin solo.
The trad Uzbek band Mashriq just finished, and David Lang's Anvil's Chorus is just beginning.
3:21 AM - No, no, I've haven't wussed out already. I'm still here, I just needed to recharge the laptop and go on a quick coffee and sandwich run. (I managed to score the last panini at the 24-hour deli around the corner.)
So The Anvil Chorus was followed up by the Bang on a Can version of Brian Eno's ambient classic Music for Airports. Watch me blow what little rock cred and new music cred I've accrued simultaneously: I've never heard the original or the BAOC version. The music is static, pretty, meditative, and hypnotic, in exactly the way that airports aren't. I'm guessing that's the point. Although the musical materials are very limited and simple, it's actually incredibly difficult to coordinate (even with the click track in the headphones). Part of the pleasure of seeing it live was watching these incredible musicians sweat music that sounds like it ought to be effortlessly simple. Each "movement" was arranged by a different BOAC composer -- my favorite was the final one (arr. Evan Ziporyn), where the atmosphere was enlivened by some very judicious clarinet and guitar improv, plus the barest hint of an actual harmonic progression.
Next up were eight basses, one piano, and a dude with a wooden box and two mallets in Galina Ustvolskaya's Composition #2, which was constructed almost entirely of dark clusters and significant silences, making it simultaneously very stark and extremely melodramatic. The piece is absolutely single-minded until the very brief, bur pretty, final chorale.
More later... after a horrorshow of technical difficulties, Juana Molina is on now.
4:14 AM - Holy shit. That was... something else. In a 26-hour concert jammed full of such a ridiculous diversity of performers, it's inevitable there will be the occasional tech glitch, but this was a full-on meltdown of Tap-ian proportions. Juana Molina is an Argentinean singer-songwriter armed with not just the customary guitar but two keyboard synths, an effects rack, and an arsenal of pedals and stomp boxes. To pull this off, naturally she needs an in-ear monitor so she can hear herself sing over all of the looped layers she lays down. When she first took the stage and (literally) stepped into the spotlight, none of it was working. After a long, extremely awkward, and technically unproductive preamble, and a tense moment where it looked like she would be pulling the plug on her set before she even started, Juana decided to give it a shot despite the fact that things were evidently not even remotely unfucked. Things went rapidly downhill from there. Juana is tiny, waiflike and incredibly vulnerable-looking, and when she started to ad lib lyrics about how much she wanted to cry, how could your heart not to go out to her?
The technical problems never got fully sorted out, but eventually, things improved enough for Juana to play her set, and it was killing. There are a lot of people doing the whole "sample your live playing and loop it, rinse and repeat" thing these days, but even with her hands effectively tied, Juana pulled it off with remarkable fluidity and groove -- and of course, she had the crowd in the palm of her hand just for sticking it out. (Fiona Apple should take "hanging in there" lessons from Molina.) I can only imagine how sweet her live show must be when things are actually working correctly.
6:09 AM - One violin. One cello. Two clarinets (both doubling bass clarinet). Four singers. Four pianists. Six percussionists. (Give or take some role-trading.) No conductor.
The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble just wrapped up a transfixing performance of Reich's Music For 18 Musicians, one of my all-time favorite works but one I've never heard performed live. There's a subtle theatricality to the piece that you don't get from listening to recordings -- it was fascinating to watch one percussionist trade off the maraca pulses to another, the bass clarinets incline towards the mics and back again, or even just all the nods and head cues. And the sublime transitions between sections (all heralded by a vibraphone "fanfare") all seemed imbued with a greater emotional weight. [N.B. Though I think we were all feeling it, credit is due to Steve Smith, who is also in this for the long haul, for being the first one to articulate it. If he happens to mention this in his Times review, he most assuredly did not get it from me.]
If there were occasional minor scuffles or disagreements about time, phrasing, or placement, the players quickly worked them out amongst themselves. And the experience of hearing Reich's masterpiece unfold before me live, as the rising sun slowly began to flood the Winter Garden with light, is not one I'll soon forget.
7:44 AM - Coffee emergency! No, not "the all-night deli has run out of coffee and the World Financial Center Starbucks isn't open yet." But early into Michael Harrison's Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation, someone accidentally knocked over a cup off coffee and it spilled all over my gear bag. Luckily, my laptop was in my lap at the time (I was still finishing off the previous update), and some quick thinking from my neighbors helped save the rest of my stuff from being soaked through. So while I was a wee bit distracted during the opening, there was plenty of detuned piano music left -- Revelation runs for over an hour, with the composer himself at the keyboard.
Harrison has fearsome chops and formidable endurance, and the intonations used were very cool, once your ear had time to acclimatize itself to them, but I have to say I found both his playing and his music enormously difficult to warm up to. Which is curious, because they certainly don't lack for rhythmic propulsion. But if these pieces were supposed to have some kind of directionality or emotional arc to them, it was lost on me. Of course, everyone has their own personal dividing line between "mesmerizing" and "tedious," but I think a big part of why Harrison's music falls on the wrong side of mine has to do with the foursquare phrasing and predictable rate of change. Obviously, there's been lots of music based on repetition so far, but too often Harrison's stuff goes like this: "Did you like those last two bars? Well, here they are again. Now here's an obvious 2-bar variation or response. Now here it is again." A little asymmetry would have gone a long way, at least for my tastes. On the other hand, it's very possible I was distracted by lingering concern for the state of my coffee-stained gear. (Everything seems okay so far -- famous last words, I know.)
The Winter Garden has basically emptied out. Only a handful of hardcore listeners remain. Now playing is Milind Raikar's trio, performing a pair of morning ragas for us. This kind of genuinely meditative aural palette-cleanser is just what I need right now. Well, that and more coffee, which Jen has just very kindly brought me.
8:53 AM - Damn, those guys were unbelievably killing. Milind Raikar's hookup with his tabla player, Nitin Mitta, was unreal. They sound like they've been playing together for years -- they probably have. Great, great playing.
9:51 AM - Mike Svoboda is pouring water into a conch shell and gargling.
9:55 AM - Someone is taking the "Winter Garden" concept a bit too literally. It's frickin' freezing in here.
9:59 AM - Before Mike Svoboda, Ethel played another extremely entertaining set. First up was a quietly effective, mostly pizz.-driven piece by Mary Ellen Childs, called (appropriately) Strum. Next was John King's searing Lightning Slide, which as you may have guessed, has a lot of slashing, bluesy glisses in it. They closed with Lois V. Vierk's River Beneath The River, which is even heavier on the glisses, but these ones were tightly defined and controlled. I really like the way this piece patiently assembled itself into a pretty intense groove thing, and I'm glad Lois got some on-stage representation this time.
BTW, if you're wondering why the (occasionally very big) discrepancy between the indicated time and the time the updates actually appear, the WiFi here is kind of spotty. It keeps going in and out on me.
10:07 AM - John Fitz Rogers's Once Removed, for two marimbas, just wrapped up. It's this insane hyper-hocket piece, where the players never have simultaneous attacks, so the notes keep ricocheting back and forth. The championship ping-pong speed of the exchanges is obtained via the use of slightly displaced in-ear click tracks.
10:14 AM - I've actually managed to catch just about everything so far, but I haven't managed to post about the red fish blue fish version of Varèse's Ionization or John Luther Adams's Wail. I'll try to get to them soon, but the NOW Ensemble is just starting up.
10:26 AM - Hanging There is the first piece Mark Dancigers wrote for the NOW Ensemble (which he also plays in), and it's an attractively skittish, almost funky little bit of postminimalism, with lots of playful back-and-forth (human scale, this time) going on between the members of the quintet.
Okay, back to the Varèse -- Ionization was originally written for 13 percussionists. red fish blue fish (led by Steven Schick) decided to do it with 6. While theatrically impressive (it required one player to play gong with a suspended mallet while simultaneously covering the piano part), it also felt tense. It's always a kick to hear this piece, but I'm more partial to the version I heard at the Varèse portrait at Miller back in January.
Schick also performed John Luther Adams's Wail, for what looked like some kind of hacked crank siren. JLA and Schick apparently bonded over their shared enthusiasm for single malt scotch, National League pitching, and noise. I don't know squat about baseball, but I'm not known for turning down an Islay and I guess I'm reasonably pro-noise. I liked the piece.
10:54 AM -- Jen has (temporarily, I hope) abandoned ship -- she has to go tutor the impressionable youth -- but Joe Phillips is now here to help keep me
Odd Appetite, a cello-percussion duo with Ha-Yang Kim and Nathan Davis, just wrapped up Oon, one of Kim's tunes. Kim runs her cello through some pedal effects, including wah, but she is incredibly subtle with them. The music had a satisfying moody - thunderous - moody arc to it.
Iva Bittová has just begun. She is walking in front of me right now.
11:18 AM - Okay, maybe I'm getting a bit punchy, but I don't know remotely how to describe what I just heard. Iva Bittová sings. She also plays the violin. Sometimes she does both at the same time. She's from the Czech Republic. If I knew the first thing about Czech folk music, I might be able to tell you what resemblance exists between that and what Iva just did, but I don't so I can't. All I know is she did that thing that she does, and it was awesome.
11:43 AM - NOW was back with Missy Mazzoli's Magic with Everyday Objects, a very appealing bit of post-Radiohead post-Romanticism (complete with bursts of guitar fuzz and feedback), spiked judiciously with some seriously ballsy "wrong" notes. It was beautiful. I wish I'd written it.
Currently playing -- guitar monster Domenic Frasca. He's bursting with chops.
12:31 PM - OMG -- the Clogs are teh awesome!! A moody instrumental rock band whose lineup consists of electric guitar, drums/mallet perc., bassoon (yeah, bassoon, bitches) and a frontman who doubles on violin, mandolin, melodica and piano. Attention internets -- you are supposed to tell me about this stuff.
Coming real soon -- the World Saxophone Quartet. Booyah.
1:27 PM - Dude, I think Hamiet Bluiett almost broke the sound system with his first note. He's obviously capable of incredible subtlety and control, but man, when he brings it, he fuckin' brings it. The whole WSQ set was a trip -- for those of you who have lost track, the current lineup is Bluiett, Lake (natch), Bruce Williams (soprano and alto), and Don Braden (tenor). Highlights included: a hysterically funny version of "Giant Steps" -- totally deadpan head, followed by instantaneous 4-way madness for several minutes, then deadpan head out. A heartrending version of "Come Sunday" featuring Braden. Oliver Lake's thoroughly insane solo opening to a soulful and hip version of "Little Wing." And Hamiet's look-ma-no-hands extreme altissimo showboating. None of these cats are shy about hamming it up when the situation calls for it, but they also have a tremendous ensemble cohesion and a selfless commitment to the demands of the music that a certain other, younger saxophone player who I will not mention here because I am
already in enough trouble after that D:O thread a gentleman would do well to emulate.
Now playing: BOAC All-Stars again, on Jeff Brooks's Skeleton Crew. They are really cranking the sound now. I'm not complaining -- sound waves are the only thing keeping me awake right now.
2:04 PM - Thurston Moore's Stroking Piece #1 (written for the All-Stars) just wrapped. Heh. He said "stroking." Heh.
Man, that David Cossin can sure play some caveman drums when he wants to.
3:32 PM - Okay, really starting to feel it now. How many hours left? Oy. I'm starting to shiver. Why's it still so damn cold?
Phil Kline subbed out the previously scheduled Over and Out for his piece in memoriam Hunter S. Thompson, The Last Buffalo, brought to us this afternoon by Real Quiet, a very happening piano (Andrew Russo) - cello (Felix Fan) - percussion (Caveman Cossin). The piece didn't seem like so much a portrait of Thompson as it was a reflection of what he meant to Kline. The first two movements contained both genuine menace and genuine groove, a difficult combo to land. The last movement was unabashedly elegiac. This is probably my favorite thing I've heard of Phil's.
Music for Plumbers was effectively Mark Stewart's Playhouse, with Matt Pass as his Sideshow
Bob Mel. (Sideshow Mel didn't turn out to be evil too, did he?) The kids -- by which I mean actual little kids this time -- absolutely ate it up. If you haven't seen Mark's PVC pipe instruments, my meager words will do you no good. Wait till I get a chance to upload the pictures.
JG Thirwell is new to me. His background is apparently in electronic music, but he joined a string-augmented Real Quiet for some acoustic renditions of his stuff. The individual building blocks used in his music are all extremely compelling -- he has a serious gift for melody, harmony, color, texture, and mood. What was missing, at least from my perspective, was the ability to connect the dots in a compelling way. And I know I always harp on this, but... the transitions, Dmitri, the transitions.
That said, Dälek are on now and they are insufferable. And also deafening. They occupy the same general aesthetic ballpark as Limp Bizkit circa 1999, but are, like, a million times more pretentious. That's probably totally, totally, totally unfair and I will almost certainly regret that ill-informed snap judgement, but what do you want from me? I've been here for over 18 hours. Being charitable to rap-metal-noise bands, however artsy, is way beyond my abilities at this point.
5:17 PM - Odd Appetite were back with Matt Tierney's Cant. I missed the beginning (needed to get some air after Dälek) and unfortunately what I did hear kind of slipped past me. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid.
The Uzbeks (Mashriq) were back too. I'm at a loss here. What the hell do I know from Uzbek music? Uh... the hammered dulcimer is cool? The singers get a wild and wonderful sound when they start singing those microtonal (by Western standards) melodies together? Cut me some slack here.
James Tenney's arch-form Having Never Written A Note For Percussion has just faded away. This was another red fish blue fish performance. It started really, really soft, then it got really, really loud, and then it went all the way back to really, really soft again. There were tam-tams and a bass drum and a crank siren and other stuff I couldn't see because some of the instruments were off in the wings.
I bought another travel-mug's worth of coffee but I'm almost afraid to drink any more at this point. It's still incredibly cold in here. I tried to warm up by running the bathroom hand driers several times in a row. Vijay Iyer's band is about to play.
6:07 PM - Vijay was rockin' the white-jacket-white-slacks-white-shirt-white-shoes look (photo evidence may appear here eventually), and his band was rockin' the math-jazz-with-a-human-feel thing they do so well. The time signature changes may be tricksy, but they never sound glib or superfluous, and the rhythm section (Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums) was unstoppable, especially on the final tune. Altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa has that bracing Jackie McClean attitude in effect, even though his notes are nothing like Jackie's. And Vijay's fluidity and quick thinking are always a marvel to hear. (They were especially in a stunning solo piano transition between tunes.) Great set.
Now playing: NOW, playing Judd Greenstein's crunchy Rock Me Samuels. To follow: Don Byron.
I drank some of that latest coffee. How many refills does that make now? There's no way to know.
6:39 PM - Leave it to Don Byron to write a piece "inspired" by an online compendium of racial slurs. Leave it to him to call it Beautiful Insults in Random Order. And leave it to him to make each of the four movements an irresistibly tuneful miniature. Robert Black (who is white) was Don's duo partner here -- in addition to his duties on bass, one movement ("NAGA") required him to put on his best gorilla face and grunt, which he did gamely.
Joe has abandoned me -- he left shortly before Vijay's set. Jen has yet to return. I am all alone, and my teeth are chattering. Please, I'm begging you, someone turn on the heat -- or at least turn off the air conditioning.
7:10 PM - A twist in the tale -- the Young People's Chorus of NYC was inserted earlier than planned because it's a school night and apparently some people are allowed to go home before the final note is sounded. They performed excerpts from Meredith Monk's utterly charming "Three Heavens and Hells," based on a short poem by Tennessee Reed (daughter of Ishmael Reed), written when the poet was all of eleven years old. It's the rare Meredith Monk piece with actual words set to music (in fact, I believe this was her first time doing so) -- but don't worry, it still contains the full compliment of non-verbal phonemes and inhuman sounds. The kids of the YPCoNYC appeared to get a huge kick out of it. So did I.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming: ICE Ensemble in Galina Ustvolskaya's Symphony #5.
8:22 PM - Man, Galina sure loves her some big wooden box struck by mallets. But someone needs to alert Vijay that the narrator from ICE is stealing his white-on-white look.
Timbila was a timbila ensemble. A timbila is a kind of xylophone native to Mozambique. The tuning is funky. It's a good sound. The set was short but fun.
In case you were wondering, there's not actually a massively embarrassing misprint in the program. Or at least, not the one you thought. Derek Bermel really does have a piece called Coming Together, which has absolutely nothing to do with Frederic Rzewski's Coming Together, which Eighth Blackbird has previously recorded. In other words, yes, 8BB does have two completely different pieces called Coming Together in their rep, and they elected to perform the one that they haven't recorded.
Derek's Coming Together is a duet (or, in the 8BB staging, more of a duel) for clarinet and cello. Cellist Nicholas Photinos described it as a conversation between two Peanuts adults (you know, "waaah waaah waah" etc). Guess how many glisses this baby featured. The staging was actually pretty cool, too, with clarinetist Michael Maccaferri making his entrance by riding the down escalator, and circling around the stage before finally confronting Photinos face-to-face. SPOILER ALERT: Photinos wins the confrontation and chases the interloper from the stage.
Their second piece of this set, David M. Gordon's Friction Systems (otherwise known as "the one where they get to wave those plastic tubes around in the air") was spiky and chugging. There's a really powerful bit near the end with a big fat bass line played by the bass clarinet, cello, and piano. Apparently this piece was David's Masters thesis. Nice work.
We are now officially into the home stretch, with just five pieces remaining, and we are only an hour and twenty minutes behind schedule. This doesn't seem possible.
The WiFi is flaking out on me again.
8:50 PM - Julia Wolfe is right -- Dark Full Ride is a great name for a piece, especially a piece for four drum kits. I'm normally skeptical of pieces for multiple drum kits and nothing else -- a notable exception was the David Cossin-Glenn Kotche collaboration last year. And I would actually put the first few minutes of Dark Full Ride in the "notable exception" category as well -- I thought it was pretty cool how the hihat ideas were being passed around, and the opening was almost nothing but hihat ideas. But then they launched into more of what you would expect from a 4-kit piece -- i.e., big heavy beats -- and while there were definitely some interesting rhythmic constructions being worked out, there's only so much thunder I can take before I need some flashes of lightning to go with it, you know?
At the moment, we are listening to the world premiere of Alvin Lucier's Canon, which is a very quiet and virtually motionless piece about difference tones. The effects he is getting are very subtle but kind of transfixing if you sit and listen for a spell. This piece definitely out-ambients everything else on the program, including the Brian Eno.
9:16 PM - Scandal in the Garden! The much-anticipated performance (by me at least) of Louis Andriessen's Workers Union has been cut! Because of "time constraints!" The audience is open revolt!
Actually, the audience is generally amenable to the idea because that means they get to hear Yo La Tengo now instead of later. But those of us who care about the integrity of the program as it was originally envisioned will never, ever forgive them for this. Even if does mean there's some chance the marathon will not actually extend into the wee hours of Monday morning after all. I've been at this for 25 hours and 20 minutes. You think I'm tired? You think I'm ready to go home? Ha! I spit in the face of exhaustion! I will outlast you all!
I'm still fucking freezing, though. Dammit to hell.
10:05 PM -- Well. That was disappointing. Yo La Tengo and guests (Britt Walford, drums; Elson Nascimento, percussion; Matt Heyner, bass; PG Six, harp) -- spent the opening portion of their set apparently trying to out-ambient Lucier (can't be done, guys). When some keyboard pulses started to emerge from the suspended textures, I was intrigued to see where it was headed. Unfortunately, where it was headed was an ersatz swing groove where Matt Heyner spent what must have been at least ten minutes but felt like much longer completely turned around. I have absolutely no idea why he thought the cross stick beat was on one and three, but that's what happened. Perhaps he's been up as long as I have. Anyway, only at the very end of the section did he finally correct himself. It was infuriating, to say the least. I really, really, really could have done without the "guests" and just had Ira, Georgia and James play. Their hookup is something really, really special, and the "guests" -- especially but not limited to Heyner -- only got in the way. I love love love YLT and had been looking forward to their set since we kicked off yesterday, but this was just sad. Sigh.
By the way, does anyone know what happened to Georgia's leg? Poor girl was on crutches.
Up next is the FINAL PIECE -- David Lang's men, performed by the ICE ensemble. Make it count, boys.
11:12 PM - men was very manly.
End of marathon, end of liveblog. Pictures to be uploaded whenever I decide to get up.
MONDAY, JUNE 4
3:52 PM - Can't... stop... blogging...
But I feel should say a little more about the final piece on the program, and perhaps add some concluding thoughts. At 11:52 PM last night, after 27 hours and 12 mintues of music, there was no way in hell I was going to sit there alone in the Winter Garden typing while everyone around me is packing up and going home. (At some point, security would have dragged me out into the rain anyway.) But now that I've had some sleep, let's come back for one last kick at the can (terrible, terrible pun absolutely not intended -- really, how could you even think such a thing?)
The title of David Lang's men started as a joke about male privilege, and ended up as a lament of the bitter legacy of thousands of years of patriarchy. He didn't -- and likely wouldn't -- use those words to describe it, but that's what it seems to boil down to. A work in progress that had initially been intended as something that would be billed, tongue-in-cheek, as "music that could only be played by men and listened to by men," turned inexorably darker in the immediate wake of 9/11. The languid and foreboding music is accompanied by a film by Matt Mullican, which is assembled from vintage (circa 1935) footage documenting everyday life in New York. This is probably sounding conceptually very similar to Michael Gordon's Gotham (played almost 20 hours earlier), but the actual experience of listening to the two works couldn't be more different.
men is very long and very, very static. It's actually not all that unlike Lucier's Canon, (premiered just an hour before) in its single-minded focus on a small number of simple gestures, and also in the way both composers treat new pitches when they are (rarely) introduced. But men floats along using more conventional harmonies, mostly triads and suspensions, punctuated by a single bass drum hit (always colored by a short bowed bass note) at regular-seeming intervals -- too far apart to feel like a pulse, but too closely spaced to feel like interruptions. There's some quiet surface activity from rapidly repeated piano notes and a percussionist dragging a metal rod around an instrument that looks something like a metal slide carousel. But the meat of what you hear are the sustained dark sonorities that might ebb and flow a little, but only within some very narrow constraints, with a clarion solo trombone up there floating along with the tides.
It's a strange way to end a 27-hour gig, especially one that had already been saturated with subtle trancelike music. My attention span had already been stretched, snapped, stitched together, and re-stretched so many times over the course of the marathon that by the end, the usual distinctions between feeling captivated, meditative, bored, overwhelmed, or exhausted had completely evaporated. Listening had become a hallucinatory thing -- was that really a major triad creeping in there, after soaking in minor sonorities for so long? Or is that the product of my feverish imagination? When the end finally came I felt drained to the marrow, as if my ability to listen had been completely sucked out of me.
It was awesome. Can't wait for next year.
FINAL UPDATE, I PROMISE: See also Steve Smith, who was also in force for the entire 27 hours, then went home to write his NYT review overnight, and then apparently turned up this morning for a full day's work at Time Out.
I LIED: Also, here's Pitchfork with a predictably unrepresentative set of photos -- kind of missing the whole point of this thing there, guys. Jason Bergman did get some nice shots, though, so go check it out. My own, much crappier but more inclusive set of photos is coming soon, never you worry.