In the 20th century, music entered a Mannerist period, a peak of sonic complexity and constructivist intricacy. Dissatisfied by this "crazy creepy music," as he described it, Philip Glass pared down to basic elements: single-line melodies or simple triads spun out to majestic length through slow shifts in the micro-level rhythmic patterns over a steady (or relentless, if you prefer) underlying pulse. In so doing he — and other composers drawn to radical simplicity, like Steve Reich and Terry Riley — launched a revolution, challenging the idea that musical "progress" consists only of making each musical work more complicated than the last. The term "minimalism" came into use, by analogy with innovations in visual art like Robert Rauschenberg's white-on-white paintings. Music in Fifths and Two Pages, both from 1969, are among Glass's most hypnotically severe works. Bang on a Can's performances are marvelously committed and focused.
By Justin Davidson on 05.20.14 in Features
The Bang On A Can co-founder talks about his new album, the challenges of his students' generation, and finding new ways of listening.
By John Schaefer on 04.29.14 in Reviews
Julia Wolfe's masterful meditation on the legend of John Henry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2010, and it's not hard to see why. Written for the Bang On A Can All-Stars (Wolfe is a co-founder of Bang On A Can)...
By Jayson Greene on 03.30.14 in Features
The Wilco drummer talks about making the leap to composition.
By Jayson Greene on 04.26.12 in Collections
The inimitable art-music collective Bang On A Can turns 25 this year. The trio of composers — David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe — have been racking up anniversaries lately: their in-house label, Can...