Friday, June 22, 2012

New York Made Music at Make Music New York

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM

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Yesterday, over 1,000 concerts in hundreds of public spaces in all five boroughs were held as part of the sixth annual Make Music New York, which happens every year on the first day of summer. I checked out a handful, including Erik Satie on Wall Street and Philip Glass in Times Square.

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Mass Appeal Mass
What organizers called The World Premiere of Philip Glass's "The New Rule" began around 6:30 p.m. A short vocal work, it was extracted from an opera and adapted for chorus—a chorus dubbed the Times Square Chorale, comprised of sight-reading volunteer singers, amateur and professional, who mostly created a backdrop of chords to support soloist Rachel Rosales. (You know in Philip Glass music when an instrument plays eighth notes, like "deet deet deet deet deet deet deet deet"? That was done by people.) They sang in the plaza at the foot of the TKTS booth staircase, gathered in a large circle, grouped by range. After the Glass, they ran through some of the choral repertoire—Mozart, Handel, Bruckner, Bach—before going over the Glass one more time. It was the best of the few events I saw: it involved New Yorkers making music together, being participants rather than consumers—it was active, not passive. (For the people who participated anyway, but one could enjoy the pleasure of participation vicariously.)

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Maritime Rites
Members of the West Point Band and Montclair State University Symphonic Band played Alvin Curran's Maritime Rites while sitting in rowboats in the Central Park Lake, clustered by section (flutes with flutes, etc.) Crowds listened from the shore at Bethesda Fountain and its surrounding grassy patches. The boats drifted, creating a very un-concert hall aural geography as peculiar as the piece itself, which alternated between stretches of arhythmic, atonal screeching, long shared-chords, and short rhythmic phrases. (Is the piece really so dissonant? Or were the bands slightly out of tune? Is it silly we have to ask?) It concluded Copland-esquely, with a consonant orchestration of the hymn "Shall We Gather at the River." When it was over, the musicians rowed away, saxophonists in separate crafts riffing on some classic soul, including "Stand By Me" and "Can't Help Myself."

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Vexations
Erik Satie's 1893 work for vibraphone is 18 hours long, and was performed by "tag-team vibraphonists" yesterday from 6 a.m. to midnight across from the NY Stock Exchange, at Wall Street and Bond. When I showed up around 4:30 p.m., a woman was playing soft, eerie chords as a man next to her periodically moved polished stones from one cylindrical plastic container to another. Uh, ok! The piece was simultaneously performed in 12 other cities, from Australia to the Middle East, and live-streamed on-line. That may have been the best way to experience it: downtown, the music couldn't compete with Wall Street's urban cacophony, from construction noise to a general buzz. It sounds like you're boarding an airplane down there.

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