Notes from the 30-something-by-the-time-it-was-all-over-hour 2006 Bang on a Can Marathon. I attended the whole thing. Having failed to sell a review of the event, I decided to keep experiential notes.
Sat 7 pm
This is my third weekend away from home. Two weeks ago I went to Quebec. Last weekend to DC. Today I traveled the length of Manhattan to spend 26, 27 really, hours in the World Financial Center Winter Garden for the Bang on a Can Marathon. By volume, I'm carrying as much today as I took to DC. Much of that, however, is a double wide comforter and a pillow. But being as it seems a remote part of the city to spend the weeked, I've also brought nourishment:
3 liters of water
a container of hummus
a bag of pita bread
a box of raisins
a can of mixed nuts
a box of granola bars
2 cans of taurine drinks
Probably more than I'll need. Definitely. But it will be good to have stuff to share, or trade, on this new music urban camping trip. I also brought some Stri-dex pads. Excellent camping tip.
The bagpipes are warming up.
It took me forever to get here. Going to DC, including the cab ride to the airport, was probably quicker. The A train was out of service - had to take a shuttle bus 30 blocks south. And then was compelled - with provisions in tow - to go to Academy Records where I'd seen a John Lee Hooker record I never knew existed. I don't have a player with me (hardly seemed necessary on the way to a solid day of concert) so I won't be able to hear it until tomorrow night.
There's a woman holding her ears to block out the bagpipes. Why do I think she won't last through tomorrow?
I'm obsessed with trying to plan when to sleep. I know I won't be awake the whole time. I did manage to sleep until 10 am today, but that would still be a good 40 hours awake, which I know I can't do sitting in one place most of the time. I am looking forward to being bleary and exhausted tomorrow, tho. I do think BOAC's record of Eno's Music for Airports is pretty beautiful, and it might be a nice thing to sleep through as well. It's a different level of music appreciation. That's from 1-2, and could lead me in to a nice snooze until the Steve Reich piece at 4:30. The most important thing is Iva Bittova at 10 am, when I'll certainly be awake, whatever has happened in the ensuing hours. I'm going to go see if I can find out about restaurant hours. Despite a wealth of healthful snacks, I might want a meal at some point.
Bagpipes are a brilliant way to start the marathon. They're set up in the back of the room. My neck would be sore if I had to turn my head backwards on this metal sofa until this time tomorrow.
There are a couple of givens to BOAC for me. First, it's pretty much all going to be of pretty high standard. Second, it will for the most part all be composed, which means it won't be my favorite music. So i've committed to 26 hours of stuff I'll appreciate more than love. Which is OK. But Chris Adler's "Signal Intelligence" is fantastic, making me realize that my favorite composed music is often for percussion. I just bought a CD of traditional Chinese percussion compositions - I'll have to go home and listen to that - after the John Lee Hooker CD and the Iva BIttova DVD I bought, that is.
There's a huge line outside Starbucks. They close in 10 minutes. I get 16 oz of espresso. A guy in line takes a photo of the shop. A manager comes out and tells him he's not allowed to take photos of Starbucks. I ask him why and he says "It's against the rules, inside or outside the store. It's just one of their rules, like you're not allowed to take a dog in the store." As he might be the only purveyor of caffeine for me tomorrow, I decide not to press the issue.
The Lois V. Vierck piece was also performed off the main stage. My friend Bruce and I didn't even realize there was a performance going on and talked through it. I felt bad.
The Books turn out to be a happy surprise. 2 young guys from Massachusetts, guitar and cello with Todd Reynolds sitting in on violin. Songs, video, light, entertaining. They get the most applause so far tonight when they're introduced. They drew a crowd. I'd never heard of them. Do young people make more enjoyable art? Not better, not more refined, but maybe they're still feeling the freshness of their own ideas. Maybe by virtue of youth they're able to be lighter, more carefree, of wilder eyes. They were something like Byrne / Eno, something like something else, but I forget already. And not much like B/E either, really, except for the found vocal thing. A bit like the Knee Plays, though.
12:40I love being at a concert where people are walking around with pillows and blankets under their arms. My right arm is hurting a bit. It's the left arm that's the heart attack one, right?
1:00Music for Airports is the second big applause getter beforehand, so far, at least beforehand. Michael Gordon's piece "Gotham" was well received, and deservedly so. He makes orchestras rock like nobody. It's been a while since I've listened to Music for Airports, either the Eno or the BOAC version. The last time, I think, was actually in an airport, and it worked quite well, though I can't remember when or where that was. Placing a memory of an airport is kind of like trying to imagine what goldfish think about. But is it possible the ensemble is rushing it? Probably not. I probably just remember it slower than it is. I wonder how they're keeping pulse - seems like the pianist and the percussionist are in charge. Makes sense.
I brought a pack of gum (Dentyne Ice Arctic Chill - the best gum) that only had one piece left in it. I feel as if I should have held out longer before chewing it. A fair number of people are clearing out after the first movement. What did they expect? "Baby's on Fire"? Not that that wouldn't have been cool - and for that matter it'd just be cool to have a roomful of people thinking about "Baby's on Fire." Still it's surprisingly full. My first crowd estimate - oh hell, I don't know. More than 300, I think.
This atrium feels a bit like an airport - the reverberating voices in the back compliment the piece beautifully.
I'm feeling fine after the Music for Airports lie-down, and kidding myself into thinking I'm set for another 20 hours.
Thing's are getting rough. Juara Molinera's [failed to get the right name here] introduction was a bit bedraggled, and then tech problems delayed her start. She has to be on, though. It'd be hard to be a working musician - no being susceptible to jet lag or insomnia, you gotta be pro. There's still a few hundred people here, and we're getting over the "don't talk to strangers" mentality. One fellow had to leave after the Varese to drive to DC and get his wisdom teeth pulled. It wasn't, I'm pretty sure, in reaction to the Varese. A woman I met earlier asked if she could borrow my blanket, but then quickly asked it it was "stinky." I assured her it wasn't, tho it probably has cat hair on it. She told me that in a previous life she'd been married to a Chicago gangster and had died in a car accident. I liked her - whereas on the subway I might have tried to ignore her.
Nothing compares to the feeling of waking up and brushing your teeth to Music for 18 Musicians.
Steve Reich was the mile marker for many people here. The roar of applause woke all the sleepers up and we've suddenly dropped from about 250 people to 50 or so. A long, quiet solo piano piece by Michael Harrison, Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation has begun and I haven't had caffeine for 6 hours. I wonder if I'm up for the day.
There's a little meeting of security guys or something, 3 of them standing in the aisle and talking too loudly, their radios squelching on and off.
It's amazing how much bodies effect room temperature. It's gotten pretty cold in here, but even when it was crowded it seemed like the temperature would go up when people were moving around between pieces. The security guards are now going around and making people sit up.I might have to go get some Claritin.
A tour group walks through, to see real and true bedraggled NY new music afficianados in their natural habitat. I get busted for lying down. My friend Matt B was told by a security guard he couldn't stand to listen. Apparently the only allowable posture is seated.
The players actually never play together at the same time ... "hocketing" ... so fast it's actually physically impossible for them to play it." (playing with separate click tracks) John Fitz Rogers
At this point there only two kinds of music: the kind that sounds like how my head feels and the kind that doesn't. They're equally good.
Meredith Monk's Three Heavens and Hells is far and away that best thing I've heard here. With the best qualities of Gertrude Stein and Lucian Berio, it made me feel wide alert insane. It was just an excerpt, and even if (maybe especially if) the full piece is just more of the same, it will be crazy beauty.
More composed percussion - Julia Wolfe's Dark Full Ride reinforcing my adherence to my recklessly generalized claim about percussion and composition. It reminds me of the dual-drummer Melvins, except without The Melvins in it.
John Fitz Rogers' Once Removed also great percussion composition. Of course Monk's choral piece was very composed and had no percussion. I don't feel like trying to reconcile that, tho.
[later, unstamped]THIS IS SO ASS!