I must confess that I dismissed the Bang on a Can Marathon listing when I first perused the fall line-up at the University of Illinois’ Krannert Center. I instinctively associated the name Bang on a Can with the theatrical percussive hokeyness of Stomp or Blue Man Group. A little closer look into the Bang on a Can Marathon proved how wrong my assumptions were. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Bang on a Can Marathon performance this Saturday at Krannert’s Colwell Playhouse consists of a full 12 hours of modern composition, plus the Bang on a Can players will be joined by special guests Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth and Glenn Kotche of Wilco.
Bang on a Can is this Saturday, September 27 at the Krannert Center. The performance starts at noon and tickets are $16 for U of I students and $30 for the public.
Bang on a Can consists of six core members who, according to their mission statement, strive “to expose exciting and innovative music as broadly and accessibly as possible”. Over the past 21 years, Bang on a Can has performed the works of 20th-century avant garde and experimental modern, classical composers, art-rockers, and non-western musicians. The group attempts to replace the conventional stuffiness attached with the allegedly higher-brow forms of music.
This Saturday’s Bang on a Can Marathon performance begins at noon and ends at midnight with the works of Brian Eno, Steve Reich, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, Louis Andriessen, Evan Ziporyn and Annie Gosfield performed in between. Also performed will be Terry Riley’s masterful composition In C. Written in 1964, In C is a piece performed all in the key of C. It is one of the great bliss-out pieces ever composed.
The guest musicians, Lee Ranaldo (guitarist of Sonic Youth) and Glenn Kotche (Wilco’s drummer), are bound to enhance the experience. Ranaldo has worked on the outer edges of music for many years collaborating with William Hooker, Loren Mazzacane Connors and Glenn Branca, to name a few. He is also no stranger to modern composition. Check out Sonic Youth’s Goodbye 20th Century – their homage to the last century’s great composers. Outside of Wilco’s fairly straightforward alt-country-pop leanings, Glenn Kotche is quite the versatile percussionist who incorporates many of the great drum styles and techniques of the world into his solo work. His album Mobile captures his abilities very well.
This Saturday’s event is a great opportunity to listen to some of the more exciting sounds in music. It’s a large investment of time, although, as John Cage said in so many words – the more time spent with music, the more you get from it.