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News - 30 Years of Friendship and Collaboration: Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, and David Lang

Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, David Lang
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
…the composers at the heart of the New York-based Bang on a Can Collective — Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, and David Lang — have sustained what may be the most convivial vanguard in modern musical history. 

Alex Ross, The New Yorker
This spring, Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe celebrate three decades of friendship, community building, and musical innovation with two major concerts in New York City:

April 19 at Carnegie Hall
part of 'Three Generations' curated by Steve Reich.

May 6 at the Brooklyn Museum
Bang on a Can Marathon's 30th-anniversary celebration

After moving to New York City in the mid-1980s Gordon, Lang, and Wolfe saw both the polarized music world of New York (the so-called "Uptown" and "Downtown" scenes) and the lack of options for young composers to present their works in existing venues as a significant challenge to solve.

In order to create a space for composers to experiment without being judged or forced to align with any certain group, Gordon, Lang, and Wolfe organized the first Bang on a Can Marathon in May 1987. From that first marathon their collaboration has grown to include a non-profit organization (Bang on a Can), a touring ensemble (the Bang on a Can All-Stars), a record label (Cantaloupe Music), a publishing company (Red Poppy Music), a summer music institute at Mass MoCA, and so many other smaller projects and collaborative efforts — including several works they have written together: The Carbon Copy Building, lost objects, Shelter, Water, singing in the dead of night, and their upcoming project for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Roadtrip.

Over the decades, Gordon, Lang, and Wolfe have had a tangible affect on a diverse group of artists all over the world, both as teachers and by the example of their revolutionary approach to artistic compatriotism. Through their growing web of students, followers, and fans, there are few parts of the contemporary classical music scene that are untouched by their influence.

Michael Gordon
Recently, Michael Gordon has delved further into his idiomatic and hypnotic writing for single-instrument ensembles with Amplified for four electric guitars, which premiered in Dublin last spring and in New York at BAM last fall. Last summer, Gordon also had several important premieres on the west coast, including The Unchanging Sea for the Seattle Symphony and Natural History for the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, performed on the rim of Crater Lake in Oregon. This spring the Rotterdam Philharmonic gives the Dutch premiere of The Unchanging Sea, Ballett Zürich premieres a new arrangement for period orchestra of several Gordon-works for orchestra interspersed with Vivaldi, and The Crossing premieres a new evening-length work in June called The Anonymous Man.

David Lang
David Lang has recently premiered two operas, anatomy theater and the loser, the latter of which he also directed. He continues to be a much sought-after collaborator in film, theater, and dance. simple song #3, from the score which he wrote for Paolo Sorrentino's film Youth, was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy award, while the New York City Ballet recently premiered his work shade with choreography by Pontus Lidberg. Next year will also see the premiere of his symphony without a hero in Seattle, while his Pulitzer Prize-winning the little match girl passion continues to be performed all over the world.

Julia Wolfe
Julia Wolfe won a MacArthur Fellowship last fall, in addition to a Pulitzer Prize the previous spring for Anthracite Fields, a haunting art-piece about the coal-mining industry. The work is currently on tour from coast to coast. Wolfe will continue to explore American labor history with her 2018 commission from the New York Philharmonic for a choral and orchestral piece about the women who worked in the garment industry. She will also lead workshops at the Philharmonic's three commissioning partners: Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley; the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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