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Bang on a Can People's Commissioning Fund Concert to Launch 30 Years Celebration

On Monday, January 9, 2017 at 7:30pm, Bang on a Can will present the 2017 Bang on a Can People's Commissioning Fund concert, one of the most anticipated and reliable launching pads for composers in New York and beyond, as part of Kaufman Music Center's Ecstatic Music Festival at Merkin Concert Hall (Kaufman Music Center, 129 W. 67th St.).

This year the Bang on a Can All-Stars will give U.S. premieres of works by three PCF-commissioned composers: Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Fields, Felipe Waller's Hybrid Ambiguities, and Nico Muhly's Comfortable Cruising Altitude. The All-Stars will also perform "St. Remy," an excerpt from Michael Gordon's chamber opera Van Gogh; plus Philip Glass' Closing and "Bed," an excerpt from his opera Einstein on the Beach; David Lang's sunray; and Julia Wolfe's Believing. John Schaefer of WNYC-FM will host the evening for future radio broadcasts on his program, "New Sounds Live;" the concert will be webcast live on Q2 Music and will be available for on-demand listening at This concert marks the kick-off for Bang on a Can's 30 Years celebration, and will be followed by a party for the artists and all audience members in the Merkin Concert Hall lobby!

These newly commissioned PCF works will be included in Field Recordings, Bang on a Can's growing multimedia project. Field Recordings asks composers to go into the field of recorded sound itself - to find something old or record something new - and to respond with their own music, in dialogue with what they found. With Field Recordings, one hundred years of sound and imagery unfold to reveal a contemporary collective consciousness channeled through the Bang on a Can All-Stars. The project so far includes an astonishing 27 commissioned works by Tyondai Braxton, Mira Calix, Jace Clayton, Anna Clyne, Dan Deacon, Bryce Dessner, Ben Frost, Florent Ghys, Michael Gordon, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Glenn Kotche, David Lang, Alvin Lucier, Christian Marclay, Paula Matthusen, Richard Reed Parry, Steve Reich, Todd Reynolds, Caroline Shaw, Zhang Shouwang, Jaros?aw ?liwi?ski, Gabriella Smith, Daniel Wohl, Krzysztof Wo?ek, Julia Wolfe, Artur Zagajewski, and Nick Zammuto. The All-Stars' recording Field Recordings was released in May 2015 on Cantaloupe Music.

Mexican-Dutch composer Juan Felipe Waller was brought up in Mexico in a blend of cultures from his parents' mixed backgrounds. He first studied music in Mexico City at the Music Study and Investigation Centre (CIEM). From 1994-1999, he studied composition at the Rotterdams Conservatorium with Klaas de Vries and electro-acoustic music with Rene Uylenhoet, followed by a one-year course on electronics and computer-aided composition at IRCAM in Paris. His new PCF-commissioned work, Hybrid Ambiguities, utilizes a field recording of the echoing sounds of a microtonal harp, originally invented by Julian Carrillo in the 1940s. Waller says, "Ambiguity leads to the plausibility of several interpretations. While writing this piece, one question constantly kept arising: Is the use of a field recording establishing a specific context for the music, or is actually the written music creating a new setting to frame the field recording?"

Nico Muhly is an American composer of operas, chamber and symphonic works, and sacred music whose influences range from American minimalism to the Anglican choral tradition. Described by The Guardian as "one of the most celebrated and sought-after classical composers of the last decade," he is the youngest composer ever commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and has received additional commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Library of Congress, and Wigmore Hall, among other institutions. Muhly's Comfortable Cruising Altitude for the Bang on a Can All-Stars uses two pieces of found audio: an overnight transatlantic flight with a relatively calm atmosphere, and then another with the presence of crying babies. The ensemble acts as a sleeping traveler, existing in an ambient space but with the anticipatory shimmers that accompany the miracle of air travel.

Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir frequently works with large sonic structures that reveal the presence of a vast variety of sustained sound materials, reflecting her sense of imaginative listening to landscapes and nature. Her music tends to portray a flowing world of sounds with an enigmatic lyrical atmosphere. Anna's works have been nominated and awarded on many occasions - most notably, she is the recipient of the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize 2012 for her work Dreaming, and current The New York Philharmonic's Kravis Emerging Composer Award winner. In May 2017, Alan Gilbert will lead the New York Philharmonic in Anna's work Aeriality, part of Gilbert's final season as Music Director. Her new work for the All-Stars is called Fields.

Two special highlights of the 2017 Bang on a Can People's Commissioning Fund concert include Philip Glass's "Bed," from Einstein on the Beach and "St. Remy" from Michael Gordon's chamber opera Van Gogh. Rarely, if ever, performed live by musicians other than Glass himself, "Bed" is scored for solo soprano and organ and is one of the most unforgettable scenes from the final act of Einstein on the Beach. At Merkin, guest soprano Eliza Bagg joins Bang on a Can pianist Vicky Chow. Michael Gordon's Van Gogh explores the life and restless soul of Dutch master artist Vincent Van Gogh. The text is drawn entirely from Van Gogh's own words, revealed heartbreakingly in his letters to his brother Theo. This is a brand new orchestration for Bang on a Can All-Stars featuring guest singer-violinists Eliza Bagg and Charles Yang.

About the People's Commissioning Fund (PCF): Created in 1997, PCF is a radical partnership between artists and audiences to commission works from adventurous composers and is one of the first pre-social media, crowd-sourcing art-creating platforms. The fund began when Bang on a Can co-founders Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe recognized a need to go beyond the usual sources of support to create new, groundbreaking music. Each year, Bang on a Can pools together the contributions of hundreds of individuals to fund the commissions. Donations range from $5 to $5,000. To date, over 50 new pieces have been created through PCF, and over $300,000 has been raised. The pieces often become part the Bang on a Can All-Stars' permanent repertoire, and these works go on to make debuts across the U.S. and throughout Europe and Asia.

Past commissions have gone to composers including Nik Bärtsch, Eve Beglarian, Oscar Bettison, Nick Brooke, Jeffrey Brooks, Jace Clayton, Anna Clyne, Dan Deacon, Bryce Dessner, Sussan Deyhim, James Fei, Ben Frost, Yoav Gal, Annie Gosfield, Erdem Helvacioglu, John Hollenbeck, Cynthia Hopkins, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Karsh Kale, Carla Kihlstedt, John King, Glenn Kotche, Lukas Ligeti, Annea Lockwood, David Longstreth, Alvin Lucier, Rene Lussier, Keeril Makan, Ingram Marshall, Miya Masaoka, Paula Matthusen, Marc Mellits, Kate Moore, Thurston Moore, Virgil Moorefield, Richard Reed Parry, Joshua Penman, Tristan Perich, Dan Plonsey, Ed Ruchalski, Caroline Shaw, Matthew Shipp, Gabriella Smith, Christine Southworth, Lok Yin Tang, Jim Thirwell, Ken Thomson, Toby Twining, Stefan Weisman, Daniel Wohl, Zhang Shouwang, and Pamela Z.

About the Bang on a Can All-Stars: The Bang on a Can All-Stars are Ashley Bathgate, cello; Robert Black, bass; Vicky Chow, piano; David Cossin, percussion; Mark Stewart, guitars; and Ken Thomson, clarinets. Formed in 1992, the All-Stars are recognized worldwide for their ultra-dynamic live performances and recordings of today's most innovative music. Freely crossing the boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world and experimental music, this six-member amplified ensemble has consistently forged a distinct category-defying identity, taking music into uncharted territories. Performing each year throughout the U.S. and internationally, the All-Stars have shattered the definition of what concert music is today.

Together, the All-Stars have worked in unprecedented close collaboration with some of the most important and inspiring musicians of our time, including Steve Reich, Ornette Coleman, Burmese circle drum master Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Tan Dun, DJ Spooky, and many more. The group's celebrated projects include their landmark recordings of Brian Eno's ambient classic Music for Airports and Terry Riley's In C, as well as live performances with Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Don Byron, Iva Bittova, Thurston Moore, Owen Pallett and others. The All-Stars were awarded Musical America's Ensemble of the Year in 2005 and have been heralded as "the country's most important vehicle for contemporary music" by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Recent project highlights include the premiere performances and Grammy-nominated recording of Julia Wolfe's Pulitzer Prize winning Anthracite Fields for the All-Stars and guest choir, the record release of Wolfe's acclaimed Steel Hammer, featuring Trio Mediaeval, plus a brand new staged collaboration with SITI Company and director Ann Bogart; Field Recordings, a major on-going multi-media project and CD/DVD now featuring 30 commissioned works by Tyondai Braxton, Mira Calix, Anna Clyne, Bryce Dessner, Florent Ghys, Michael Gordon, Jóhann Jóhannsson, David Lang, Christian Marclay, Steve Reich, Todd Reynolds, Julia Wolfe, and more; the world premiere, performances, and recording of Steve Reich's 2x5 including a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall; the world premiere of The Lord in the Clouds, a new collaboration featuring Chinese superstar singer Gong Linna and the group's multiple visits to China for the Beijing Music Festival and Hong Kong Arts Festival. With a massive repertoire of works written specifically for the group's distinctive instrumentation and style of performance, the All-Stars have become a genre in their own right. The All-Stars record on Cantaloupe Music and have released past recordings on Sony, Universal and Nonesuch.

About Bang on a Can: Bang on a Can is dedicated to making music new. Since its first Marathon concert in 1987, Bang on a Can has been creating an international community dedicated to innovative music, wherever it is found. With adventurous programs, it commissions new composers, performs, presents, and records new work, develops new audiences, and educates the musicians of the future. Bang on a Can is building a world in which powerful new musical ideas flow freely across all genres and borders. Bang on a Can plays "a central role in fostering a new kind of audience that doesn't concern itself with boundaries. If music is made with originality and integrity, these listeners will come" (The New York Times).

Over 30 years, Bang on a Can has grown from a one-day New York-based Marathon concert (on Mother's Day in 1987 in a SoHo art gallery) to a multi-faceted performing arts organization with a broad range of year-round international activities. "When we started Bang on a Can in 1987, in an art gallery in SoHo, we never imagined that our one-day, 12-hour marathon festival of mostly unknown music would morph into a giant international organization dedicated to the support of experimental music, wherever we would find it," write Bang on a Can Co-Founders Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe. "But it has, and we are so gratified to be still hard at work, all these years later. The reason is really clear to us - we started this organization because we believed that making new music is a utopian act-that people needed to hear this music and they needed to hear it presented in the most persuasive way, with the best players, with the best programs, for the best listeners, in the best context. Our commitment to changing the environment for this music has kept us busy and growing for the last 28 years, and we are not done yet."

Current projects include the annual Bang on a Can Marathon; The People's Commissioning Fund, a membership program to commission emerging composers; the Bang on a Can All-Stars, who tour to major festivals and concert venues around the world every year; recording projects; the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival - a professional development program for young composers and performers led by today's pioneers of experimental music; Asphalt Orchestra, Bang on a Can's extreme street band that offers mobile performances re-contextualizing unusual music; Found Sound Nation, a new technology-based musical outreach program now partnering with the State Department of the United States of America to create OneBeat, a revolutionary, post-political residency program that uses music to bridge the gulf between young American musicians and young musicians from developing countries; cross-disciplinary collaborations and projects with DJs, visual artists, choreographers, filmmakers and more. Each new program has evolved to answer specific challenges faced by today's musicians, composers and audiences, in order to make innovative music widely accessible and wildly received. Bang on a Can's inventive and aggressive approach to programming and presentation has created a large and vibrant international audience made up of people of all ages who are rediscovering the value of contemporary music.

About the Ecstatic Music Festival: Hailed as "the alt-classical world's main showcase" (The New York Times) and "a kind of heaven for show-goers in search of the ever-elusive, one-of-a-kind live music experience" (The Village Voice), Kaufman Music Center's Ecstatic Music Festival returns for its seventh year, bringing together composers and performers from different musical genres or scenes for collaborations leading to performances that are adventurous and utterly unique.

About Kaufman Music Center: Kaufman Music Center is New York's go-to place for music education and performance. It's where music lovers, from curious fans to renowned performers, come together to explore their musical passions. Founded in 1952 as a community school for pre-conservatory music training, today's Kaufman Music Center is home to Merkin Concert Hall; Lucy Moses School, New York's largest community arts school; Special Music School, a K-12 public school for musically gifted children; and the acclaimed youth new music ensemble Face the Music.

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