Since its idealistic beginnings in 1987, the Bang on a Can Marathon has attained something of a legendary status among fans and creators of contemporary classical music. With early performances featuring well-loved figures like John Cage, Steve Reich, and Pauline Oliveros alongside music by up-and-coming composers, the yearly marathon has continued to be a welcoming and community-oriented festival that breaks down the barriers between composers, performers, audience, and genre.
Given the circumstances this year, Bang on a Can is livestreaming the yearly marathon this Sunday with over six hours packed with adventurous music of all shapes and sizes. Returning this year is the ever-popular minimalism of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, as well as John Adam’s cinematic China Gates performed by Bang on a Can All-Star pianist Vicky Chow. Also coming your way are performances by genre-defying performers like jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer and flautist, vocalist, and composer Nathalie Joachim, whose recent album Fanm d’Ayiti explores music from the women of Haiti.
It’s hard to sum up just how much innovative music is on offer this Sunday, with musicians from around the world and from a wide variety of musical traditions coming together in one back-to-back celebration of sonic experimentation and community. As it’s always done, the Bang on a Can Marathon continues to show that supporting the artists and audiences of new music is a mission that doesn’t stop at the doors of the concert hall.
You can stream the full marathon right here on Sunday, May 3 from 12-6pm PT, 3-9pm ET.
For more details on the Bang on a Can Marathon, including the full performance lineup, click here.
PLEASE NOTE: Some performances may be cancelled or postponed due to community health concerns relating to COVID-19. Please double-check with the venue or performing organization before you head out to a show.
Second Inversion and the Live Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between!
If you’d like to be included on this list, please submit your event to the Live Music Project at least six weeks prior to the event and tag it with “new music.”
Wayward Music Series Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. Coming up: tape manipulations, turntables, field recordings, and new music for novel instrumentations. Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15
Seattle Opera: Charlie Parker’s Yardbird The life and times of Charlie Parker inspire a dreamlike exploration of the saxophonist’s struggle to write one final masterpiece. Scored for seven voices and small orchestra, this blending of jazz and classical idioms casts Parker as an operatic tenor amidst fluid, bebop-inspired accompaniment. 3/1-3/7, Various times, McCaw Hall | $64-$180
Bill Frisell: Harmony Contemporary jazz guitarist Bill Frisell leads an ensemble of voice, cello, and baritone guitar in a concert that brings together three seemingly disparate American musical traditions: jazz, new music, and the Great American Songbook. Thurs, 3/5, 7:30pm, The Moore Theatre | $32-$52
UW Modern Music Ensemble This concert has been cancelled due to community health concerns. From late 20th century classics like Gérard Grisey’s colorful and explosive Talea to more recent compositions by some of today’s leading composers, the UW Modern Music Ensemble presents a concert of chamber works featuring plenty of new and boundary-bursting sounds. Fri, 3/6, 7:30pm, Meany Hall | $10
Conrad Tao: American Rage Pianist Conrad Tao presents a program of music reflecting on moments of rebellion and political division in recent American history. He performs works by legendary American composers Frederic Rzewski, Julia Wolfe, and Aaron Copland alongside off-the-cuff improvisations for piano and electronics. Fri,3/6, 8pm, Octave 9 | $35
Seattle Pro Musica: Shall Not Be Denied This concert has been postponed due to community health concerns. In honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, Seattle Pro Musica presents a program of choral music by women whose voices have changed American music history—including the iconic vocal innovator Meredith Monk and Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw. Sat, 3/7, 7:30pm, Trinity Lutheran Church | $21-$38 Sun, 3/8, 3pm, Seattle First Baptist Church | $21-$38
Seattle Symphony: Celebrate Asia This year’s annual celebration highlights composer and pianist Conrad Tao, who will perform some of his own compositions as well as Gershwin’s ever-popular Rhapsody in Blue. Pre- and post-concert celebrations in the lobby highlight artistic contributions from a wide variety of Asian communities across Seattle. Sun, 3/8, 4pm, Benaroya Hall | $29-$100
Keyboard Exchange: arx duo and Cristina Valdés This concert has been postponed due to community health concerns. The Seattle-based arx duo and contemporary pianist Cristina Valdés come together for an informal set at the Royal Room featuring innovative chamber works for piano and percussion and a new world premiere by Michael Laurello. Sun, 3/8, 7:30 pm, The Royal Room | $10-$20
UW Guest Artist: Meridian This concert has been cancelled due to community health concerns. Explore acoustic phenomena free from conventions of rhythm or technique at this concert of groundbreaking new works. The ever-curious percussionists of Meridian will perform both improvised and composed music, plus collaborations with members of the UW Percussion Ensemble. Wed, 3/11, 7:30 pm, Meany Studio Theatre | $10-$20
Seattle Improvised Music Festival No scores, no rules: the Seattle Improvised Music Festival is back for another year of concerts featuring freely improvised music with wide-ranging instrumentations. 3/11-3/15, Various times and locations | $5-$20
Pacific Northwest Ballet: One Thousand Pieces This performance has been cancelled due to community health concerns. Sculpture, movement, and music come together in this double bill of contemporary ballet. One Thousand Pieces is a large scale work inspired by the stained glass of Marc Chagall and featuring the music of Philip Glass. It’s paired with a recent collaboration between composer Greg Haines and choreographer David Dawson titled Empire Noir. 3/13-2/20, Various times, McCaw Hall | $30-$190
Onomatopoeia Trio: Ides Away Local faculty at Music Center of the Northwest present new music for saxophone, flute, and French horn, including a premiere of Seattle composer Jessi Harvey’s migration dances and even arrangements of tunes by the Punch Brothers. Sun, 3/15, 2pm, Music Center of the Northwest | $5
Seattle Art Museum: Eurasia Consort This concert has been cancelled due to community health concerns. Western and non-Western instruments come together in this concert featuring world premieres by Alice Shields and former Cornish professor Bun-Ching Lam. Plus: a rare opportunity to hear music from the Tang Dynasty discovered in the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang, China. Sun, 3/22, 2 pm, Asian Art Museum | $10-$25
Emerald City Music: Evolution This concert has been postponed due to community health concerns. The history and versatility of the keyboard is in the spotlight at this concert of works for harpsichord, piano, and synthesizer. An all-star cast of keyboardists ranging from Henry Kramer to Vicky Chow performs music of Philip Glass, John Cage, Frédéric Chopin, and more. Fri, 3/27, 8pm, 415 Westlake | $10-$45
Seattle Modern Orchestra: Celebrating 10 Years of SMO Seattle Modern Orchestra revisits its most memorable performances, including ear-expanding works by John Cage, Kate Soper, Steve Reich, and the world premiere of a work by local composer Huck Hodge for percussion soloist and ensemble. Fri, 3/27, 8pm, Town Hall Seattle | $10-$30
New music is in dialogue with music of the past at a pair of
concerts presented this weekend by Early Music Seattle and Orquesta Northwest.
Written in 1733, Vivaldi’s Motezuma opera offers a fictionalized, Eurocentric account of the Spanish conquest of Mexico; in response, composer Héctor Armienta and poet Raúl Sánchez offer a new telling of the story from the viewpoint of contemporary Mexican-Americans. The Other Conquest is a concert program that challenges the assumptions of colonialism displayed in Vivaldi’s work, inviting listeners to consider other perspectives in the telling of this 500-year-old story.
Armienta and Sánchez’s new work, La Conquista, receives its world premiere this Saturday, Feb. 8 by Orquesta Northwest’s Ballard Civic Orchestra, an ensemble committed to showcasing the work of Latinx artists in the Seattle community. It is paired with selections from Vivaldi’s original opera performed by Ensemble Caprice. Audience members can hear Ensemble Caprice perform a full, semi-staged production of Vivaldi’s Motezuma on Sunday, Feb. 9.
To learn more about both of these concerts and the connections between them, we talked with Orquesta Northwest Music Director Paula Nava Madrigal and poet and librettist Raúl Sánchez.
Orquesta Northwest’s Ballard Civic Orchestra performs The Other Conquest on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7:30pm at Broadway Performance Hall.
Ensemble Caprice performs Vivaldi’s Motezuma on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 2:30pm at Town Hall, presented by Early Music Seattle.
This February Seattle audiences will have more than a few chances to see the genre-bending, virtuosic, and undeniably charismatic brass quartet known as the Westerlies live in concert.
In recent years the members of this Seattle-bred, New York-based ensemble—comprised of Riley Mulherkar and Chloe Rowlands on trumpet and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone—have made a name for themselves across the country performing original compositions and arrangements that blur the lines between chamber music, jazz, folk, and anything in between.
Following the release their new album Wherein Lies the Good, the band is headed to venues across Seattle for what is quickly becoming a tradition in the Seattle music scene: Westerlies Fest. This four-day festival will feature three evenings of performances by the Westerlies in collaboration with poets and musicians from Seattle and around the country.
The weekend culminates in a day-long Westerlies Fest Jamboree which will include listening sessions, open rehearsals, and free workshops for musicians of all skill levels. Finally, the Westerlies will perform a concert of original compositions at the end of the Jamboree, sending off this year’s festival in style.
But for the Westerlies, the festival is about more than just performing: it’s a chance to give back to their community, make an impact in local schools through daytime workshops and residencies, and highlight artists they admire. This spirit of community and collaboration is at the heart of the festival and the many exciting performances happening throughout.
The Westerlies will kick things off with singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Celisse, who has collaborated with the likes of Lizzo and Mariah Carey and performed in settings ranging from Broadway to Carnegie Hall. Having recently contributed horn lines to her upcoming solo album, the Westerlies will perform alongside Celisse in an evening of cutting-edge original music that blends jazz, rock, blues, and more.
On Friday, the Westerlies will be joined by Seattle-based pianist, composer, librettist, and singer-songwriter Robin Holcomb, whose genre-defying body of work includes four albums of songs and instrumental compositions. She has also founded numerous ensembles, performed at the United Nations, and, most recently, contributed the title track “Wherein Lies the Good” to the Westerlies’ new album, which they’ll perform alongside a variety of other wide-ranging music.
The worlds of poetry and music collide in the third evening of Westerlies Fest, which features poetry duo Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, who have toured the world giving workshops and performing their poetry live. This unique performance will include the Westerlies providing musical accompaniment to spoken word performances by these internationally-recognized artists, and will also feature performances by local poet and three-time Seattle Grand Slam Champion Troy Osaki.
The Westerlies will close out the festival with a performance of their own music, including pieces from their new album Wherein Lies The Good and their trademark mix of folk tunes, jazz arrangements, and original compositions. Plus, throughout the day audience members are invited to attend free listening sessions, open rehearsals, and music workshops.
Westerlies Fest is Feb. 6-9 in Seattle. For tickets and more information, please click here.
Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians is not only a classic work of minimalism, but of contemporary music as a whole: its energetic and infectious grooves made it an instant success when it premiered, and it remains a favorite of both audiences and performers.
It’s not often, though, that so many musicians can
find the time and space to put together this roughly hour-long work, which is scored
for an expansive roster including four pianos, four female vocalists, and a
myriad of percussion, strings, and clarinets.
Last year Emerald City Music was able to overcome these logistical hurdles and assemble a dream team of local and visiting artists to perform the piece right here in Seattle. The performance included ambient lighting displays coordinated to the music, and audience members at the two sold-out Seattle shows were free to roam around the space, making for a laid-back and immersive listening experience.
Check out our exclusive video premieres featuring excerpts from the performance in the playlist below.