Three young composers, just out of music school and trying to make it in New York during the mid-'80s, took to meeting over breakfast every morning to discuss artistic life and, perhaps most of all, to complain. There was plenty for Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe and David Lang to complain about.
"At the time, the New York music world was very polarized," Lang says. "If you liked academic music, you went to hear a concert of one very good piece by Elliott Carter and five bad pieces by people who wished they were Elliott Carter." It was the same in other camps, with little crossover. "We thought that was not a fair way to look at music," he continues.
Bang on a Can was conceived during those get-togethers, and the trailblazing musical aggregate/festival debuted in 1987 as a one-day performance marathon in a Soho gallery space. With an immediate hit on their hands, the founding trio decided after a few years that they should no longer confine Bang on a Can to a single event.
"There were these great musicians who seemed to come every year to participate," Lang says. "We thought maybe we could take six musicians who are just as loony about music as we are and put them together in an ensemble." The Bang on a Can All-Stars -- a brilliant, non-traditional band of soloists on horns, electric guitar, cello, bass and percussion -- followed. "The temperament of soloists is different from that of an ensemble player," he notes. "They're fiery; they each want to do it all themselves. We also chose that particular lineup specifically because they had to be flexible and be able to do classical, jazz and rock."
Regardless of what style of music comes to the stage, audiences can always count on such an ensemble to put a fresh take on everything it does. When the Bang on a Can All-Stars perform tonight as part of CU-Boulder's Artist Series, contemporary-music giant Philip Glass will be on stage with them as they reprise some of Glass's earliest minimalist works. "We thought about doing pieces that changed our minds about how music works," Lang explains, and Glass was an immediate choice. "These pieces are so pared down that they're just as potent now as they were then."
She Will Survive
Diana Ross croons on
There is 8-mm footage floating around my family of me as a seven-year-old singing "Stop in the Name of Love" into a hairbrush. I'm not proud of this, but it's true. The thing is, I don't think I'm unusual. Kids have sung, danced and skated their way through decades of Diana Ross's music. After all, Ross has released almost a hundred albums, made three movies and worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. She has also won a Golden Globe, has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, and was inducted, along with her backups, the Supremes, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And why not? Billboard magazine named the Supremes the third most popular act of the '60s, right behind Elvis and the Beatles.
On the flip side, Diana Ross has endured a bitter divorce, a slew of bad press involving a recent DUI , a stint in rehab and a tour that tanked because it was billed as the Supremes without any of the original Supremes. But where did our love go? Nowhere. Ross is back. The diva will take the stage tonight at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $49 to $129 and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 303-830-8497. -- Jerri Theil
We Be Jammin'
If improv jazz is like trying to get from point A to point B without a map, then the Cuong Vu Trio has the best sense of direction around. The group's performance tonight in the Recital Hall of the Kenneth King Center, 855 Lawrence Way on the Auraria campus, will give audiences a chance to take in one of the most distinctive styles to come from the New York music scene.
"This is a great opportunity for those interested in jazz to get a better appreciation of jazz," says Thomas Sheridan, an event spokesman. "This music is avant-garde with all the classical jazz elements thrown in."
The trio consists of Cuong Vu on keyboards, accompanied by a trumpet and drums. The players' finesse has earned them the opportunity to play with David Bowie and Pat Metheny. "Their ability to be improv-oriented without losing a sense of emotion sets them apart from other jazz trios," says Sheridan.
Doors open at 7 p.m. for the jam. For tickets -- $10 for general admission, $5 for students; University of Colorado at Denver students get in free -- call 303-556-2296. For information, visit www.cudenver.edu/ cam/events. -- Richard Kellerhals
I'll see you on the dark side of AustraliaSUN 11/14
In my college, a few overzealous tech-nerds decided to screen The Wizard of Oz paired with a broadcast of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon to highlight the eerie syncopation between the two. They put fliers around the entire campus, and nearly 200 people turned up. For about ten minutes, two of the clueless promoters argued whether it was after the MGM lion roared the first or the second time that you started the album, and the inebriated audience grew increasingly frustrated. Then a third techie emerged from the booth to announce that the sound system was broken and asked if anyone could run home and grab a stereo. The audience quickly dissipated. This was not how you listened to Pink Floyd.