New Music Festival Celebrates First Decade

A gallery performance from Bang on a Can's 2010 Summer Music Festival (courtesy MASS MoCA)

A gallery performance from Bang on a Can's 2010 Summer Music Festival (courtesy MASS MoCA)

(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – From Wednesday, July 13, through Saturday, July 30, 2011, Bang on a Can and MASS MoCA present the tenth annual Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA. The Festival is dedicated entirely to programming today’s most innovative new music and includes public performances, recitals, and lectures, plus workshops for participants in everything from Balinese music to improvisation, master classes, music business seminars, and more. As PBS’s NewsHour reported, “If Tanglewood – classical music’s far better known summer festival, just 30 miles down the road –  is the bastion of tradition, ‘Banglewood’ – as the folks here like to call this gathering – is home to the experimental, with everything from a contemporary duet to a Balinese monkey chant.”

In addition to daily gallery recitals at 1:30 and 4:30 daily (which are free with museum admission), highlights of this year’s festival include a day devoted to the music of John Adams with a talk, recital and concert (Saturday, July 23), the Composer Premiere concert, featuring music by the composers participating in the Festival (Monday July 25, 4:30), and the display of never-before-seen non-traditional instruments handmade by Bennington College music professor Gunnar Schonbeck in the 1970s and ‘80s.

For the tenth straight year, the Festival will close with the signature Bang on a Can Summer Marathon (July 30, 4-10pm), featuring more than thirty musicians and composers from around the world for six hours of non-stop, boundary- smashing music – a feast of sound including classical, contemporary, minimalism, ambient, jazz, experimental, and more.

This year’s Festival faculty members will be drawn from among the most innovative musicians of our time, including Gregg August (bass), David Cossin (percussion), Michael Gordon (composition), David Lang (composition), Brad Lubman (conducting), Nicholas Photinos (cello), Todd Reynolds (violin), Ken Thomson (saxophone/clarinet), Julia Wolfe (composition), Evan Ziporyn (clarinet and composition), and more special guests to be announced. The Festival will be attended by eight composers and 30 performers traveling to North Adams from across the United States, as well as from other countries.

Celebration of John Adams

Saturday, July 23, will be dedicated to American Minimalist composer John Adams, who won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2003 for his masterpiece On the Transmigration of Souls (2002), a choral piece commemorating the victims of the September 11 attacks. Other well-known works include Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986) and Shaker Loops (1978), a minimalist four-movement work for strings. His well-known operas include Nixon in China (1987), which recounts Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China and was performed to great critical acclaim this spring at the Metropolitan Opera, and Doctor Atomic (2005), which covers Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project, and the building of the first atomic bomb.


Activities on John Adams Day include a talk by Bang on a Can co-founder David Lang about Adams’s mastery at 3, followed at 4:30 by a special gallery recital of Adams’s music (gallery admission required). At 8, Bang on a Can musicians will perform an “all Adams” concert including  Shaker Loops, American Standard, and Gnarly Buttons with Evan Ziporyn on the clarinet, and Scratchband.

Marathon Highlights

A tradition in New York since 1987, Bang on a Can brings its signature Bang on a Can Marathon back to the Berkshires on Saturday, July 30, 4-10pm. More than thirty performers and composers from around the world will team up for a six-hour feast of sound ranging from classical, contemporary, and jazz, to rock and experimental music. The schedule for the day will include performances of Conlon Nancarrow’s Piano Studies arranged for live instruments; Julia Wolfe’s raucous Tell Me Everything; Christine Southworth’s Super Collider for electronic gamelan and string quartet, Luciano Berio’s early masterpiece Circles; San Francisco composer Dan Becker’s Gridlock for large ensemble; Edgar Varese’s Octandre;  and Osvaldo Golijov’s beautiful Tenebrae; plus music by David Lang, Michael Gordon, David Dramm, Peter Adriaansz, Evan Ziporyn and more.


Instruments by Schonbeck

A 1982 People magazine profile of Bennington College professor Gunnar Schonbeck talked about “his nine-foot banjo, drums made from airplane fuel tanks, a xylophone constructed from truck springs and other singular devices for producing music.”  Throughout his career, Schonbeck adapted commonplace objects — flowerpots, sewer pipes and fire extinguishers, to name a few — to make musical instruments. Working in collaboration with Bennington College, MASS MoCA and Bang on a Can have arranged for a selection of Schonbeck’s distinctive instruments will be on display (with some even available for playing!) throughout the festival.


Other events

A new feature of the Festival added last year is the Composer Premiere concert which features new compositions written during the Festival by the composing fellows. This free concert will take place on Monday, July 25,  at 4:30pm in the Hunter Center, replacing the regular gallery recital for that day.


Throughout the Festival, daily 1:30 recitals offer an opportunity for the performance and composition fellows to interact with the artwork in the galleries, often playing new works created especially for the museum. The 4:30 recitals feature performances by the Bang on a Can faculty and Festival ensembles.

The always popular (and nearly always sold out!) Kids Can Too event, a delightful morning of music that teaches kids about a variety of new instruments and sounds, will take place on Saturday, July 16, at 11 am.


New this Year

For the first time, in 2011 MASS MoCA is offering a special Contemporary Music Membership for $50 for individuals specifically interested in the Festival. The membership will include free gallery admission during the Bang on a Can Festival (July 13 – July 30), free admission to either the Tribute to John Adams concert on 7/23 or the Bang on a Can Marathon on 7/30, and free admission to all recitals, talks, and other events. Tickets to the concert that is not part of the membership package can be purchased at a 20% discount.


413.662.2111 or visit for tickets



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.