At the Solstice

The heralds of summer are as bright as always, although with the planet’s temperature inexorably rising we may greet them with more ambivalence than one might expect. Baseball marks spring and promises that summer is on its way, but it doesn’t really feel like summer baseball until the endless NHL and NBA seasons finish their championships. But that time has come, despite the ravages of weather. Modern Woodmen Park, Davenport, Iowa, April 20, 2011

The real mark of summer, especially in New York City, is music festivals, especially the al fresco kind. And what a weekend, and following days, the city has in store. The concerts in the parks have started, and although the New York Phil has unfortunately withdrawn from their summer concert series, the enterprising Brooklyn Philharmonic and their new director, Alan Pierson, have offered to fill the gap (they just need a little help, and this seems the perfect use for the buffoonish boosterism of Marty Markowitz). Lincoln Center Out of Doors fills the plaza too, but for concentrated summer rituals, make a choice on Sunday and get out of the house on Tuesday.

Tomorrow, you might have to flip a coin. The annual Bang on a Can Marathon – itself part of the River to River Festival – has the run of the World Financial Center Winter Garden (beautiful, comfortable and resonant inside – the air conditioning was a relief last year as we were already in a run of 90+ degree weather – although it looks like it will be a beautiful day tomorrow) for a scheduled thirteen hours of live music, music of all kinds. It starts at 11:00am with the Asphalt Orchestra, outside, and the amazing Matthew Welch. Inside, the emphasis this years seems to be especially on new music; artists include JACK Quartet, Prism Saxophone Quartet, Todd Reynolds, Sentieri Selvaggi, Maya Beiser, Michael Harrison and Signal. There’s notable pieces fro Michael Gordon, Poul Rouders and Goran Bregovic and the Sun Ra Arkestra. The event is capped by Evan Ziporyn’s gnarly hive and the Glenn Branca Ensemble doing The Ascension: The Sequel, which I suspect is there because it will be the loudest piece (I will be glad to be proven wrong in my anticipation of its quality). I want to mark out for highlight, though, the set that starts at 6:00pm: the feature of it is the Talea Ensemble playing Fausto Romitelli’s Index of Metals, and their playing of Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trip last year is still rattling around in my brain. It’s going to be gripping:

The Talea Ensemble play Professor Bad Trip at BOAC Marathon 2010

Excerpt from Index of Metals

More kewl videos here, full schedule here. It’s a lot of music, and it’s rare soul who will stay for the duration – I will be live-blogging as much, and for as long as I can, at my tumblr site, so check there for what you might be missing.

If you prefer the great out of doors, spending time in boats and extreme, all-day loudness, then high-thee-ho to Governors Island for the opening salvo of Make Music New York’s fifth annual day-long musical solstice celebration, Punk Island (full disclosure, I have been writing and editing the excellent MMNY Blog – check it out! – and the fun, witty twitter feed, since early this year, so no critical evaluation in this paragraph). In terms of quantity and concentration, nothing beats Punk Island, not even the BoaC Marathon, and it’s over by 5:00pm, so catching dinner will be no problem. It looks like the rain will hold off, so bring your sunscreen, wear a hat and stay hydrated. Or not. Have a great time, though, if there was no choices I’d be there with you.

On the 21st, the solstice itself, is the main body of Make Music New York. Sunrise that day is 5:23am, and you can greet it in Central Park while performing and experiencing Yoko Ono’s Secret Piece . There is music to see all day long, everywhere, into the evening, the main event among a group of special events will probably be Inuksuit , John Luther Adams massive percussion piece, played, as intended, out doors, in Morningside Park. The festival is participatory, and it’s still open to anyone performing under certain circumstances; you can play a street piano (they have popped-up as of today), you can sing, you can use your iPhone, but most of all you can have a great time, and celebrate.

All these events are for me, you, all of us citizens, they are all free, made possible by the city, generous businesses, armies of volunteers and the composers and musicians who create for all of us.


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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