Bullard Goes To Bat For Classical Banjo

By Madison Warren

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Album cover designed by Travis Ladue with photo by Michael Wilson

With its roots in folk, bluegrass, and early African-American music, the banjo may not appear to have a place in the classical world. But John Bullard’s collaboration with other musicians on his recording Classical Banjo: The Perfect Southern Art reveals the bright, sweet-sounding instrument’s ability to fit snugly into the music of Marcello, Handel, Bach, Telemann, and Grieg. The album also reveals the perils of arranging for such a distinct sound, most notably in Bullard’s attempt to reinvent Schumann’s Three Romances for the banjo. Though not effective all the way through, the disc has enough charm and deeply expressive moments to make a convincing case for the instrument’s versatility. Continue reading “Bullard Goes To Bat For Classical Banjo”

Popular Programming Preventing Progress

By Madison Warren

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The Immortalized Gaze of Beethoven; Photo by Hugo Hagen

Every year, orchestras around the world announce the programs of their upcoming seasons as though it’s an exciting surprise. Don’t get me wrong — the works of Romantic and Classical era composers will never cease to hold a soft spot in my heart. But by adhering to programs full of Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Copland, and Mahler, we’re presenting classical music by composers who are white, male, and dead. Continue reading “Popular Programming Preventing Progress”

CME Bangs on a Can

By Madison Warren

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Thirty years ago we started dreaming of the world we wanted to live in. It would be a kind of utopia for music: all the boundaries between composers would come down, all the boundaries between genres would come down, all the boundaries between musicians and audience would come down. Then we started trying to build it. Building a utopia is a political act — it pushes people to change. It is also an act of resistance to the things that keep us apart.  — Gordon/Lang/Wolfe

Thirty years ago on Mother’s Day in a SoHo art gallery, a one-day marathon concert spurred the development of a performing arts organization that now hosts a variety of year-round international activities. Bang on a Can, co-founded by minimalist composers David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe (above, photo by Peter Serling), has been dedicated to cultivating innovative music regardless of its origin. Continue reading “CME Bangs on a Can”

CME Welcomes Audiences with Accessible Performance

By Madison Warren

 

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It’s no April fools’ joke — anyone really can come to love contemporary music! On Saturday evening, April 1, Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble made their debut at a new, laid-back venue, the Birenbaum. CME invited every audience member to open their minds and ears to what many consider the least accessible of all classical music periods, with a program consisting of pieces written by composers who are still alive. And as CME trombonist Alex Melzer so aptly stated, the musicians really “played the heck out of it.” Continue reading “CME Welcomes Audiences with Accessible Performance”