Big, Beautiful, Dark and Scary

Big, Beautiful, Dark and Scary

by Bang On A Can


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This release marks the 25th anniversary of the New York mostly percussion ensemble Bang On A Can (the All-Stars mentioned here include collaborators like clarinetist-composer Evan Ziporyn). The group's lasting popularity and influence are further attested to by the more than 5,000 memories the band received after offering free downloads from the album to anyone who sent them one. This double-album set might serve the curious as an introduction to Bang On A Can, which fearlessly proclaimed the connectedness of musical traditions generally thought to be separate when it came on the scene in the late 1980s. Ziporyn's "Music from Shadow Bang" reflects the composer's study of Indonesian percussion traditions. David Longstreth's cheekily titled "Instructional Video," "Matt Damon," and "Breakfast at J&M" reflect the interface between Bang On A Can and the world of alternative rock, while kinetic pieces by Julia Wolfe, David Lang, and Michael Gordon hark back to the group's "downtown" origins. A piece by Louis Andriessen shows the group's ability to take on a more severe modernist idiom, while Conlon Nancarrow's "Four Player Piano Studies," arranged by Ziporyn, put a new, non-mechanistic spin on those works. All these pieces coexist cheerfully, and the sheer range of the group's expertise and enthusiasms ensures the music is anything but boring. A good place to start with this group, which seems likely to notch a second quarter century of performing and recording.

Product Details

Release Date: 02/28/2012
Label: Cantaloupe
UPC: 0713746307424
catalogNumber: 21074
Rank: 118070

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Bang On A Can   Primary Artist,Ensemble

Technical Credits

Conlon Nancarrow   Composer
Michael Gordon   Composer,Executive Producer
Louis Andriessen   Composer
Evan Ziporyn   Arranger,Composer,Producer
Kenny Savelson   Executive Producer
Damian leGassick   Producer
David Lang   Composer,Executive Producer
Julia Wolfe   Composer,Executive Producer
Paul Geluso   Engineer
Unspecified   Composer
David Corcoran   Assistant Tracking Engineer
Marijke Van Warmerdam   Filmmaker
David Longstreth   Composer
Kate Moore   Composer

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Big, Beautiful, Dark and Scary 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Mike_Maguire More than 1 year ago
The new BOAC CD,’BBDAS’ is a great way to commemorate the 25th anniversary of an amazing music phenomenon, both as a performer collective and a nurturing home for post-minimalist composers. Who knew 25 years ago, that the establishment of BOAC would spawn so much great music, not just from the founders, but their minimalist and post-minimalist American and European parents and now, more recently, their own post-minimalist children. Most importantly, inside this vast network of organizational and promotional aplomb, is cocooned/caressed the 4 most important American composers writing today. Historically, it is difficult to find 4 composers so obsessed with similar compositional preoccupations, living in the same town, managing to get along and yet all have a distinctive voice within their idiom. (Didn’t the Russian 5 and French 6 all eventually shoot each other literally and metaphorically?) The first CD in BBDAS is dedicated to the New York 4 and if I was to be too reductive, this music is all about heavily metered, expanding/contracting passacaglias. This ‘narrow’ process opens itself to some of the freshest, newest, and best orchestration been done by anyone. The other element that makes the music/orchestration so good, is these people have been working with this ensemble for 25 years. One wonders how much more good music would be written if all composers had there own collective or ensemble—or all wrote for standardized ensembles (pre 20th C.) The CD opens with the uber-intense Julia Wolfe title track, ‘Big, beautiful, dark and scary’ which features a very scary, chromatic, metered, upward-progression over an omnipresent pedal. The orchestration is so much choking smoke and claustrophobia incurred by distortion, cymbal tremolos, fuzzy doublings and blurred canons. Each time the progression expands in intensity at the top end, while introducing more more relaxed material at the beginning. A lot of very tasty cross-rhythms start emerging while a torture clarinet countersubject inverts the progression---going the other way like some falling man. This is a great piece and the orchestration ‘s uniqueness comes from Ms. Wolfe’s intimate relation with this group. The Second track is David Lang’s 'Sunray' and just as Wolfe’s track is a blurry rage,this is a transparent and childlike as a music box. It features a really fresh gorgeous progression (very Lang) and pristinely transparent, Renaissance-like orchestration (also another metered passacaglia). Again the passacaglia gradually expands /loops creating longer and longer phraseologies. There is beautiful play between the recorder (?) and clarinet, producing blurring gossamer over-top. The piece eventually evolves into variations, utilizing increasingly violent and soft movements. The final variation features the bass clarinet doubling the electric guitar’s cantus firmus, building to an intensely bizarre bending and skewing of the CF (which Lang always does so convincingly).The 3rd piece is uniquely Michael Gordon in that it further reduces the structural components to what seems like a 2 chord progression. Meanwhile, A gentle gliss languishes menacingly over the progression’s gamelan-like sound world. The clarinet and cello‘s melodic fragments are like squirming amoebas inside a petri dish. All the orchestral blurring through doubling and delay-like canons, give it all an outer worldly, electronic feel. All very child-like and surprisingly angst-less. The 4th track is a 3-mo