Oberlin Ensemble to Perform in New York’s Bang on a Can Marathon May 6

May 1, 2017

Erich Burnett

Bang on a Can (logo with colorful circles)

Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble will perform works by Louis Andriessen and Michael Gordon at the 2017 Bang on a Can Marathon on Saturday, May 6, at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

The 30th annual marathon, presented by the performing arts collective Bang on a Can, features eight hours of innovative, rarely performed music beginning at 2 p.m.

CME will take the stage at 6 p.m. for a performance of Andriessen’s De Staat (“The Republic”), which serves as a commentary on the debate about the relationship between music and politics. Written between 1972 and 1976, the piece includes text by Plato from his dialogue that bears the same name. Andriessen is a longtime collaborator with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the performance ensemble that grew out of Bang on a Can.

At 7 p.m. CME will perform the New York premiere of No Anthem, composed in 2015 by Michael Gordon, a founding member and co-artistic director of Bang on a Can.

Both pieces can be streamed live here.

“It is my sense that Andriessen has always been anti-establishment in a certain way," says CME conductor Timothy Weiss, who discussed the concert in an interview with the WOBC radio program Making CONnections. "He wanted to write music that would not be done in traditional concert halls. He was a little bit of a maverick, and he wanted to write music for the people that was in some ways revolutionary.”

De Staat is an exploration in industrial minimalism. “It’s unabashedly repetitive, and it’s a little bit garish” Weiss says. “But it’s actually magnificent. The sound world is unlike anything else.”

Weiss calls Gordon’s No Anthem a minimalist study in texture, constructed around series of massive swells that build from pianissimo to fortissimo.

“If you really listen and close your eyes, you can get a little seasick—in a good way, in a mesmerizing way,” he says. “But it’s not climax-driven music in the way that a lot of old music is. It doesn’t function on harmonic tension and release. It doesn’t function on climactic arrival points. It’s just a beautiful place to be.”

The concert will include faculty performers Roy Poper (trumpet), Lee Allen (trombone), and Stephen Aron (guitar).

The same ensemble—under the name Oberlin Sinfonietta—will preview the pieces in Oberlin at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 4, in Warner Concert Hall. The performance, which will begin with the Gordon piece, can be streamed live at oberlin.edu.

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