I’m writing from North Adams, Massachusetts, USA, where I have almost come to the end of a childlike, challenging and life-changing experience at Bang On A Can Summer Festival. For almost three weeks, I’ve been exploring music, art and life in the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. I have met inspiring, excited instrumentalists and composers from around the world, played drum music from Ghana, tunes from Cuba and paper (in paper costumes designed by Ann Hamilton). I have also performed music by Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe and David Lang (3 wonderful souls who began banging on a can in 1987), Steve Reich, Georg Friedrich Haas, Arnold Dreyblatt, and my new friends Brian Petuch and Paul Kerekes (and more).
At 9pm tomorrow in a gallery at the museum, I will be part of a performance of Georg Friedrich Haas’ String Quartet No. 3 “In iij. Noct”. The piece takes place in complete darkness with a member of the quartet in each corner of the room and the audience in the centre, and it’s a sonic conversation with something for everyone – from lovers of early music to lovers of terror! Following that, we’ll head to the Chalet, a bar within the museum, to perform an excerpt of Michael Gordon’s opera What to Wear, which will involve ducks, roast beef sandwiches, golf, choreography and who knows what else… On top of all this, we will be privileged to have both composers in attendance at these performances; the ongoing conversation between composer and performer being a major theme of the festival.
The Bang On A Can festival environment has been one of immense trust, generosity and love. I think this kind of atmosphere makes it possible for people to dwell in possibility and find their best selves – I am so grateful to have experienced such joyous unleashing of the spirit!
I am also very grateful to the Australia Council for the Arts’ Artstart Grant, which gave me significant assistance in attending the festival.