Jazz music, news and views

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bang on a Can: A Ballad For Many


Darcy James Argue posted about this a while ago, but I let it slip by me and was recently reminded: the composers collective Bang on a Can has released a new album, A Ballad For Many, (on Cantaloupe Music) showcasing the music of clarinetist and composer Don Byron. Byron himself is featured on the album (a rare occurrence), and the pieces are tributes to figures like comic/satirist Ernie Kovacs, painter Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Tuskegee Airmen.

I remember first hearing Bang on a Can in a music theory class -- David Lang's title composition from Cheating, Lying, Stealing. While minimalistic pieces are built on certain processes, this piece seemed to transcend rules and rigid concepts. The composition itself was certainly contemporary classical (for bass clarinet, cello, piano and percussion), but the asymmetrical melody itself that bookended the piece was like a jazz "head," and it had the queasy, industrial, percussive quality of Nine Inch Nails. The off-kilter experimental aura of the performance was hypnotic.

You'll find the same allure in Bang on a Can's newest project. Check out the second movement of "Eugene," a piece written for a 1960 TV episode with the aforementioned Kovacs.

Buy A Ballad for Many.

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