Banglewood Magic

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).

Photo by Kait Moreno
Photo by Kait Moreno

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.

Photo by Kait Moreno
Photo by Kait Moreno

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.

Photo by Kait Moreno
Photo by Kait Moreno
The precise counterpart
of a cacophony of bird calls
lifting the sun almighty
into his sphere: wood-winds
clarinet and violins
sound a prolonged A!
Now is the time       .
in spite of the “wrong note”
I love you.  My heart is
And this is the first
(and last) day of the world
The birds twitter now anew
but a design
surmounts their twittering.
It is a design of a man
that makes them twitter.
It is a design.                

The Orchestra
(from The Desert Music and Other Poems)

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