The Bang on a Can All-Stars Record Their First Studio Album

The Bang on a Can All-Stars Record Their First Studio Album

The Bang on a Can All-Stars have recorded their first studio album in five years, for release on Bang on a Can's sister-label Cantaloupe Music in 2012. The album, Big Beautiful Dark and Scary, is also the first to include the All-Stars' current line-up: Ashley Bathgate, cello; Robert Black, bass; Vicky Chow, piano; David Cossin, percussion; Mark Stewart, electric guitar; and Evan Ziporyn, clarinets. In celebration of its 25th birthday, Bang on a Can is giving a very special gift to the public. The complete, double album will be available to download for free during the first 25 days of January (January 1-25) from In exchange, listeners need only share a memory, thought, story, or photo of Bang on a Can from the last 25 years, to be displayed online. The result will be a scrapbook of memories not just from those closest to the organization, but from the many people worldwide that Bang on a Can has touched over the years. And those new to Bang on a Can can still get the free download.

With Big Beautiful Dark and Scary, the Bang on a Can All-Stars show off their blazing speed, polyrhythmic virtuosity and all-world versatility in a return to the core Bang on a Can sound – an uncategorizable supermix of classical and electric instruments that is part classical ensemble, part rock band, and part jazz sextet. The album is the first in a decade that features the All-Stars exclusively, rather than as part of a collaborative project. Each of the pieces on the double-CD calls upon a different kind of virtuosity, demonstrating the range of musical abilities and experiences arguably unique to this ensemble. Recorded in New York City, all of the music on Big Beautiful Dark and Scary (including the arrangements of the works by Conlon Nancarrow) were written for and premiered by the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

The album features Four Player Piano Studies by the legendary recluse Conlon Nancarrow, who lived most of his adult life in Mexico City. To escape the limitations of human performance, Nancarrow wrote much of his music for player piano, resulting in music that is nearly impossible for live performers. For the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the key word here is "nearly." In fact, the Bang on a Can All-Stars have been championing a number of these studies in breathtaking arrangements by Evan Ziporyn that bring out the music's extreme, machine-like, rapid fire rhythmic layering alongside Nancarrow's bluesy, boogie-woogie feel.

Big Beautiful Dark and Scary's title track was written by Julia Wolfe. Wolfe, who lives ten blocks north of where the Twin Towers stood, captures the feverish post-apocalyptic feeling of living in the wake of 9/11 with an ominous sonic wall of sound that has the Bang on a Can All-Stars playing at full throttle. For the premiere in April 2002 Wolfe wrote, "This is how life feels right now."

David Longstreth contributes three new works to this album: Instructional Video, Matt Damon, and Breakfast at J&M. Longstreth, who, like Kate Moore, was a composition fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA, captures the off-beat quirkiness that he has come to be known for as the mastermind of indie sensation Dirty Projectors.

David Lang's sunray weaves interlocking melodies in and out of focus like a slow moving kaleidoscope. While staring at the abandoned SUN dry cleaners in North Adams, MA, Lang remembered a description of the Washington monument as an attempt to transform a shaft of sunlight into a solid object. sunray floats and wafts until, suddenly, it turns the corner, and the music becomes much more solid.

Life according to composer Louis Andriessen, is "a kind of contemporary Pictures at an Exhibition," and is accompanied by four short films by Dutch video artist Marijke van Warmerdam (video included on the physical release). Delicately scored, moody and melodious, Life is a major new piece by this great Dutch composer. These four short works combine the subtle beauty of French harmonies with the pulsating energy of American minimalism.

Michael Gordon's shimmering For Madeline follows the trajectory of a rising and falling melody. Pulsing vibraphone and piano chords glisten in the background as a slithering hypnotic tune spirals forever upwards. Contradictory musical ideas and rhythms are locked together in a way that feels always on the verge of coming completely together and at the same time on The Edge of falling apart. The tension created is both mesmerizing and heartbreaking.

Bang on a Can All-Stars' founding member Evan Ziporyn contributes Music From Shadowbang, three selections from his theater piece Shadowbang, which fuses the All-Stars' 21st century sound and Ziporyn's decades-long love affair with traditional Balinese music and culture. The range of this piece – in orchestration, volume, and pacing – is vast, and it moves seamlessly from the wispy and intimate to the blunt and hard rocking.

Kate Moore's Ridgeway was inspired by the ancient path of the same name that runs through Southern England. For 5000 years this path was a religious and commercial superhighway, running through such sites as Stonehenge and Avebury. Moore's piece adds stuttered, propulsive rhythms on top of each other, creating an almost archeological density of musical layers and activity.

Bang on a Can's 25th year includes performances around the world featuring a broad selection of brand new musical adventures alongside a recommitment to acclaimed projects from past years. The Bang on a Can All-Stars tour to Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Amsterdam, Bordeaux, London, Moscow, Glasgow, and many other places throughout the U.S. and internationally. Projects for 2011-2012 include the All-Stars in a dizzying array of collaborations with friends old and new – joining forces with Norwegian superstars Trio Mediaeval (in Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer); with percussion legend Steven Schick (in an evening of music by Steve Reich in Los Angeles's Disney Hall, featuring 2x5 and Music for 18 Musicians); with an all-new expanded live tour of Brian Eno's ambient classic Music for Airports; and with a host of composers, visual and sound artists (in the premiere at The Barbican in London of a new evening-length touring project, Field Recordings – a collaborative program created from found sounds, images, and voices). The season also includes the premiere of a newly staged show featuring the exceptional marching band Asphalt Orchestra. See concert schedule at the end of this press release.

Since its creation by composers Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe, 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. In addition to its 25th year, Bang on a Can is also celebrating the 20th year of the Bang on a Can All-Stars; the 15th year of its membership-based commissioning arm, the Peoples' Commissioning Fund; and the 10th year of the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA, a professional development program for young composers and performers which connects the pioneers of experimental music to the next generation. Each new program evolved to further expose innovative music as broadly and accessibly as possible to new audiences worldwide.

"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 25 years, and we are not done yet."

Big Beautiful Dark and Scary – Track Listing
Bang on a Can All-Stars; Cantaloupe Music (CA21074)

Disc 1
1. Julia Wolfe: Big Beautiful Dark and Scary (08:59)
2. David Lang: sunray (10:15)
3. Michael Gordon: For Madeline (07:33)<

Evan Ziporyn: Music From Shadowbang
4. Angkat (03:01)
5. Ocean (04:08)
6. Meditasi, Head (06:01)

Disc 2
David Longtreth
1. Instructional Video (01:50)
2. Matt Damon (04:19)
3. Breakfast at J&M (01:54)

Conlon Nancarrow (arr. Evan Ziporyn): Four Player Piano Studies
4. Study 2a (04:00)
5. Study 3a (04:39)
6. Study 3c (03:24)
7. Study 11 (03:29)

Louis Andriessen: Life with films by Marijke van Warmerdam
8. Part I: Wind (05:03)
9. Part II: Couple (04:38)
10. Part III. In the distance (01:30)
11. Part IV. Light (02:15)

12. Kate Moore: Ridgeway (12:55)

About Bang on a Can
Formed in 1987 by composers Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe, Bang on a Can is dedicated to commissioning, performing, creating, presenting and recording contemporary music. With an ear for the new, the unknown and the unconventional, Bang on a Can strives to expose exciting and innovative music as broadly and accessibly as possible to new audiences worldwide. Through its Summer Festival, Bang on a Can hopes to bring this energy and passion for innovation to a younger generation of composers and players.

Projects include festival concerts and 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; Found Sound Nation, a promising new technology-based musical outreach program into NYC schools; cross-disciplinary collaborations and projects with DJs, visual artists, choreographers, filmmakers and more; and Asphalt Orchestra, Bang on a Can's new extreme street band that offers mobile performances recontextualizing unusual music, taking it to neighborhoods across New York City and beyond to the world at large. Bang on a Can's innovative 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 Bang on a Can All-Stars
Formed in 1992 by New York's renowned new-music collective Bang on a Can, the Bang on a Can 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.

Their newest project, Field Recordings, premiering in March-April 2012 is a new evening-length concert including film, found sound and archival audio and video with specially commissioned new music and projections by some of the world's most questioning musical thinkers – from the indie pop world (Tyondai Braxton, Nick Zammuto from The Books), the art world (Christian Marclay), electronica (Mira Calix) and experimental classical (Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Evan Ziporyn). Recent project highlights include the world premiere, performances, and recording of Steve Reich's 2x5 including a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall; the group's multiple visits to China for the Beijing Music Festival and Hong Kong Arts Festival; the US tour and Carnegie Hall performance of Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer, an evening-length staged concert with Trio Mediaeval; the October 2010 BAM Next Wave Festival performances of Evan Ziporyn's A House in Bali, a new dance-opera featuring the All-Stars with Balinese Gamelan; commissioned works by Louis Andriessen, Bill Frisell, Ryuichi Sakamoto and more. 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.

Bang on a Can 25th Anniversary Season Schedule (subject to change, updates at

January 17, 2012 at 8pm
Bang on a Can All-Stars, Steve Reich, Steven Schick, red fish blue fish | Music of Steve Reich
Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella Series | Walt Disney Concert Hall | Los Angeles, CA

January 18, 2012 at 7pm
Bang on a Can All-Stars, Steve Reich, Steven Schick, red fish blue fish | Music of Steve Reich
UCSD | Department of Music's Conrad Prebys Concert Hall | La Jolla, CA

March 10, 2012 at 8pm
Bang on a Can All-Stars | Music of Steve Reich and more
MIT | Kresge Auditorium | Cambridge, MA

March 17, 2012 at 8:15pm
Bang on a Can All-Stars | Music by Brian Eno, Steve Martland, David Longstreth, & Steve Reich
Muziekgebouw | Amsterdam, Netherlands

March 20, 2012 at 7:30pm
Bang on a Can All-Stars | Field Recordings (world premiere)
The Barbican | London, UK

March 23, 2012 at 6pm & 7:30pm
Bang on a Can All-Stars & London Sinfonietta | Music by Louis Andriessen & Steve Reich
Glasgow's Concert Halls, Minimal Extreme Festival | Glasgow Royal Concert Hall | Glasgow, UK

March 24, 2012 at 10:30pm
Bang on a Can All-Stars | Music by Julia Wolfe, Kate Moore, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, & Steve Martland
Glasgow's Concert Halls, Minimal Extreme Festival | Glasgow Royal Concert Hall | Glasgow, UK

April 5, 2012 at 8pm
Asphalt Orchestra | staged indoor show
Connecticut College | Palmer Auditorium | New London, CT

April 12, 2012 at 8pm
Bang on a Can All-Stars | Brian Eno's Music for Airports
North Central College | Wentz Concert Hall | Naperville, IL

April TBA, 2012
Bang on a Can 25th Birthday Concert | New York, NY – Details to be announced.

June TBA, 2012
Bang on a Can Marathon
World Financial Center Winter Garden | New York, NY – Details to be announced.

July 8-29, 2012
Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival
MASS MoCA | North Adams, MA