Composer Marathon

The Bang on a Can marathon has a real festival approach to music, presenting jazz, traditional and modern performing traditions, and also composers. There’s as much variety among these names: Fitkin, Perich, Xenakis and Ziporyn.

The terrific student Face The Music group played Fitkin’s “Mesh,” an enjoyable piece of post-Minimalist instrumental pop; it smoothest off the rough edges from Michael Gordon’s “Yo Shakespeare.”. Very attractive ensemble sound. The following set began with a piece by Tristan Perich for tubular bells and bright, pulsing low-bit sound, an interesting soundscape of shimmering metal and rhythmic patterns moving in and out of phase, a bit of Reich here, of Stravinsky there.

It’s great to have the excellent JACK Quartet here, even better that they brought on of their specialties, Xenakis’ “Tetras.” This is the month for Xenakis in public in NYC, and while I never would have thought of him as a public composer, it sounds natural, expressive and intuitive in public/outdoor spaces.

The piece doesn’t fill up this large space with the intensity it would in a chamber setting, but it works by sounding more eerie, more threatening, more like a physical phenomenon than a piece of concert music.

Evan Ziporyn made “Tire Fire” and also leads his Gamelan Galak Tikal (and sometimes plays a bit of clarinet). His piece is a fascinating combination of traditional, even opposing, gamelan styles and contemporary Western music, even a rock riff reminiscent of Howard Shore’s powerful them from the movie of “Crash.” The gamelan and guitars struggle for dominance, then come together in a mysterious, sensuous dance. Involving and effective, a highlight of the composers contribution.