New book chronicles Bang on a Can and the evolving new-music scene

Posted on: February 23, 2021

“Since its inception in 1987, the influential New York new-music behemoth Bang on a Can and its founding artistic directors—composers Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon and David Lang—have been hammering away at many of the artistic, economic and social structures underlying the world of contemporary classical music,” writes Joshua Kosman in Saturday’s (1/20) San Francisco Chronicle. “These days, Bang is a sprawling artistic conglomerate, with a dedicated record label, a virtuoso chamber ensemble the Bang on a Can All-Stars … an active commissioning program, a summer residency and a distinctive performance format … In ‘Industry,’ a sleek new scholarly history released this month by Oxford University Press … the musicologist and critic William Robin … explores the festival’s evolution from both artistic and economic perspectives. Artistically speaking, the world of contemporary music in which the Bang composers came up was fairly bifurcated. On one side were the academic composers…. On the other were the experimentalists…. Notably missing … was music that could combine the structural clarity of the one, the accessibility of the other, and the rhythmic urgency of rock music…. Robin explains in precise but readable detail how the Bang composers helped change the funding landscape for new music.”