Lengthy Play has been round solely since final yr, however it’s already a very powerful classical music competition in New York Metropolis.
And, primarily based on the 15 live shows I attended throughout its second version, which unfolded and overlapped in areas round Brooklyn from Friday by Sunday, this competition by the Bang on a Can collective may even stand to get just a little greater.
Capability crowds amassed at Pioneer Works to listen to Meredith Monk’s ensemble collaborate with the Bang on a Can All-Stars; at Roulette to listen to the Philip Glass Ensemble; on the Mark Morris Dance Heart to listen to a brand new repertory group examine music from the early Nineties by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Henry Threadgill. These in-demand units couldn’t match everybody who wished to listen to them, however with two or three different occasions at all times shut by, no person was really unnoticed within the chilly.
Earlier than Lengthy Play, Bang on a Can had spent three a long time presenting one-day marathon live shows. However the scope of this group’s ambition has reached a brand new stage, and it’s an untrammeled pleasure to expertise.
For instance, on Saturday afternoon at Public Data, the JACK Quartet carried out a model of “Prisma Interius VII” by the younger composer Catherine Lamb. Beforehand conceived for violin and synthesizer alone, the piece was recast right here for the dreamy, collaborative means of the JACK gamers to carry exact microtonal harmonies. Staggered entries of droning pitches steadily created complexly bitter motifs that tended to plunge downward. The place Lamb switches up her patterns with melodic ascents, the gamers savored the chance to make this usually static music sing out.
From there, you possibly can race over to the massive crowd forming at Roulette for Glass’s music, or keep put to get pleasure from Xenakis’s “Tetras” in addition to “rag′sma,” by the JACK violinist Chris Otto. Though I’ve loved these items on recordings, I felt a must verify in on the Glass Ensemble. The composer was current within the viewers however now not performs with this band, so this was a possibility to listen to the group’s veteran music director, Michael Riesman, lead youthful gamers just like the saxophonist Sam Sadigursky.
When deciphering the composer’s landmark “Glassworks” album from 1982, the ensemble introduced a bass-heavy thump that mirrored actual love for the “Walkman” combine — created in its time “in your private cassette participant,” a approach for Glass to place his music in a helpful dialogue with up to date pop types (a lesson that the Bang on a Can crew took to coronary heart in their very own careers).
Subsequent, on the BRIC Home Ballroom, I heard a efficiency by the saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, who is thought for his fusion of avant-garde jazz and London membership music, however right here caught to flutes, as a part of a serene South Asian-influenced quartet led by the vocalist (and someday bassist) Ganavya. Name it one other signal of an aesthetically assured competition: Right here, artists are usually not required to remain in anticipated lanes.
Early Saturday night, Roulette hosted the symphonic, brawling, experimental, tuneful big-band music of David Sanford; barely overlapping, within the BRIC foyer, was the Momenta Quartet’s presentation of Alvin Singleton’s string quartets. Sanford, one in every of my favourite residing composers, performed his personal music, in which you’ll be able to hear his style for artists as wide-ranging as Helmut Lachenmann and Charles Mingus.
I stayed for Sanford’s whole set earlier than watching the Momenta gamers deal with the climactic, interlocking figures from Singleton’s second quartet with an acrobatic ease; after that, they introduced Romantic feeling to the fourth. This assorted sequence of music by two residing Black composers, ecstatic by itself phrases, additionally put the deceive claims that you just’ll typically hear from greater establishments that say they’re retreating from “classical music” in an effort to enchantment to new audiences.
When programmers on the Brooklyn Academy of Music or Lincoln Heart say such issues — fewer string quartets, like Momenta, extra electrical bass, as in Sanford’s band — you may perceive the purpose, and possibly even agree with it in precept. However with the Lengthy Play competition, Bang On a Can replies: “Why not each, and why not again to again?”
Additionally on Saturday night time, I caught a efficiency at Public Data by the trio Thumbscrew, with Mary Halvorson on guitar, Michael Formanek on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums. Along with Thumbscrew’s personal vibrant compositions, the trio additionally let unfastened a wild tackle Mingus’s “Orange Was the Shade of Her Costume, Then Blue Silk.”
This sort of big range was on supply all weekend. The following day, I traveled from a set of digital music by the composer Ash Fure to a quartet efficiency led by the vibraphonist Patricia Brennan.
Although visually arresting, an setting combining artwork set up and avant-house-music gentle present, Fure’s new idea — a sort of thumping membership from hell — appeared starkly restricted as musical matter in contrast with thrilling previous chamber works on the album “One thing to Hunt.” Half an hour later, at BAMcafé, Brennan’s quartet interpreted languid-then-convulsive items like “Area for Hour,” from her latest album “Extra Contact”; her electronically outfitted vibraphone enjoying belongs in a dialog with the Ash Fures of the world.
From there, I loved the primary 75 minutes of a radical but delicate tackle Morton Feldman’s “Triadic Recollections,” with Conrad Tao on piano and Tyshawn Sorey on percussion. That is initially a piano solo, but Sorey’s skittering cymbal work was intently attuned to the rating, his flooring toms tuned to spotlight the densest chordal moments in Tao’s interpretation of the notated materials.
I’d fortunately have stayed for the ultimate minutes however wanted to hurry to listen to a band enjoying the music of Threadgill’s Very Very Circus outfit. The guitarist Brandon Ross, the tuba participant Marcus Rojas and the drummer Gene Lake had been all veterans of that ensemble; right here, they introduced works like “Little Pocket Dimension Demons” to life within the firm of youthful gamers, together with the guitarist Miles Okazaki.
Threadgill isn’t prone to play the Very Very Circus music himself once more, however he was within the viewers on Sunday to understand the beginning of a brand new repertory band in his honor; he soaked up applause from his seat, simply as Glass had.
The weekend was so wealthy, it hardly mattered that Sunday night time’s deliberate closing set, by the Artwork Ensemble of Chicago, needed to progress with out the participation of the group’s sole remaining founder, the saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, who examined constructive for Covid-19 earlier than the gig. Hutchings bravely stepped in on quick discover, and the potent, anchoring work of the percussionist Famoudou Don Moye recalled a few of his first recorded performances with the group, after he joined within the early Nineteen Seventies. Hutchings didn’t attempt to sound like Mitchell, however as a substitute gave listeners a style of the brawny, insistent tenor sax sound that we hadn’t heard the day gone by in his look with Ganavya.
Such is the power of Lengthy Play. When a veteran headliner has to drop out, there’s nonetheless one thing else to savor. And when a veteran like Meredith Monk does hit the stage — as she did for Friday night time’s opening live performance — she is apt to carry a brand new vigor to classic works like her “Tokyo Cha Cha,” which she carried out, full with choreography, for practically 20 grooving, ethereal minutes.
Pray that this competition continues, and that it expands. It ought to turn out to be a vacation spot occasion; and if it does, it’s going to want some greater rooms — or a much bigger schedule — to serve a public that’s already exhibiting that it desires to listen to all of this music.