Premature Intensification

The calendar tells me I’m late, but after two weeks of premature August, I think I’m right on time for the regular selective list of things you might want to hear and see in New York City this month. The best thing about June is that it marks the start of actual summer, which means free music all over the boroughs, so, with slight exceptions, here’s stuff you don’t have to pay anything for (or very little):

Two grand and concentrated events are Make Music New York and the Bang On A Can Marathon. Make Music New York marks the solstice with music all day, all around town, all free. The challenge is in deciding what to see and how to coordinate it. Check the schedule and try to forget that choice is the enemy of commitment.

But commit, the opportunities are there; stick to Central Park for Xenakis, an open air peformance of Persephassa with you, the audience, sitting in a boat on the lake, and a puppet production of the composer’s great, intense opera Oresteia. Or follow any (or all) of three Second Line parades in Manhattan, take a free ferry from Battery Park or the Fulton Ferry Landing to Governor’s Island for seven hours of punk rock, or grab your own axe and make tracks with your fellow citizens at a number of open music making events; play In C, the accordion, bagpipes, your laptop, your iPhone, a building, or plain old guitars, cellos and saxes, locations all over Manhattan.

(2009 Bang on a Can Marathon, photo by Stephanie Berger)

The Marathon is in one location, and although no longer twenty-four hours, there’s more free music than most anyone could handle. Starting at noon with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, the day includes jazz, new chamber music, electronics, more Xenakis, Vernon Reid and music from the steppes of Central Asia. And the 27th is a Sunday, so you’ll be rested from the start of summer. It all falls under the umbrella of the annual River to River festival, seemingly endless free events, including music, dance and theater.

For the locals, and I mean my friends and neighbors of Brooklyn who are fortunate enough not to have to go to Manhattan often and don’t miss that island, there’s Celebrate Brooklyn in the Prospect Park bandshell. Outdoors, rain or shine, and except for fundraising events nothing more than a suggested $3 donation – but don’t be a dick and waltz in without dropping some bills in the box, because it helps support everyone’s pleasure. Music goes into August, and my June highlights are Allen Toussaint, Bitches Brew Revisited, the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club and Kid Koala (and in July we get Charlie Chaplin movies with live music and Sonic Youth). On a more modest but enterprising scale is the Red Hook Jazz Festival, happening the next two Sundays.

If you’re in or bound for Manhattan, there is music beyond what I’ve previously mentioned, heard all over. In Central Park, highlights include Baaba Maal, Salif Keita and, if you can break away form the BOAC Marathon, the great Gil Scott-Heron.

If you want to pay a lot of money to hear music, you always can, but if you want to pay a little money and hear and see something that will surprise you, the Darmstadt Institute 2010 series at Issue Project Room is an incredible bargain and value; performances still to come include an exciting, and free, William Basinksi event, music of Luc Ferrari, Anthony Braxton, Kenneth Gaburo and more, for no more than $10. Basinski is free and a way to check out the future home at 100 Livingston. And this Saturday, the Dither Electric Guitar Quartet has a record release event at Invisible Dog, $6, and a line up of wild music by Dither, Kathleen Supové, Nick Didkovsky, Elliot Sharp and Matthew Welch. I believe beer will be poured as well.

And if you’re staying home the whole month but still want to hear something new, Jason Moran has a new release out on the 22nd, eagerly anticipated, and for the sesquicentennial of Mahler’s birth, Deutsche Grammophon has put together a box of his complete works, culled from various recordings in their archives, including Claudio Abbadao’s superlative live Sixth Symphony, Rafael Kubelik’s lyrical First, Carlo Maria Guilini’s intensely musical Das Lied von der Erde, Bernstein’s crushing Fifth with Vienna and von Karajan’s famous live Ninth. It’s really a best-of-the-best set, and a great price for eighteen CDs.


Author: gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.

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