Daily Bow: Banging on a Can


Banging on a can… who knew that was classical music?

The Bang on a Can All-Stars certainly think so (not literally… necessarily). Bang on a Can is a performing ensemble that fuses classical music with indie, rock, and electronica.

Not so long ago, there lived a creature called the “classical purist” who believed in segregating classical music from the sullying influences of vernacular and non-Western styles. Students of classical composition were often forbidden from using repetition, and even tonal harmony, by professors who considered these techniques aesthetically regressive.

Though considered by some to have been wiped out by the culture wars of recent decades, vestiges of these species can still be found behind protective glass in conservatories nationwide, much as the endangered condor provides us with a glimpse into the age when dinosaurs ruled the earth…

…(But) It’s increasingly clear that, in the classical world, nothing is forbidden — leading to accusations that, as the new-music scene has lost its boundaries, it has lost its edge. For previous generations, writing in a rock style was an act of rebellion; for Little and his peers, who follow a path blazed by Bang on a Can in the ’80s and ’90s, rock is just another shade available on the aesthetic palette.

Bang on a Can will be featured at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas (which starts tomorrow June 11 and runs through June 25), along with Soldier Songs and Yo-Yo Ma.

Ma’s Silk Road Project is a perfect fit for such a festival:

There’s also a social subtext to the mission of the Silk Road Project, which was conceived by Yo-Yo Ma to foster cross-cultural exchange through music. “In many ways, the arts are a neutral territory that can contribute to a mutual dialogue that is not rhetorical,” says Executive Director Laura Freid.

The Silk Road Ensemble is comprised not of Western performers touring through the music of other cultures, but of experts from diverse musical styles.

Read more about pushing the boundaries of classical music (perhaps by banging on a can)

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