Bang On A Can, the aptly named contemporary music collective, on Friday wrapped up a week-long celebration of Dutch composer Louis Andriessen’s 75th birthday with an Atlas Performing Arts Center concert by their BOAC All-Stars that featured Andriessen’s music and the music of several of his disciples.
It was an evening powered by energy, subtle and not-so-subtle rhythmic mutations, and the kind of intense collaborative ensemble that comes from deeply shared understanding and commitment — no surprise seeing that three of these four disciples were among BOAC’s founders.
What composers David Lang, Michael Gordon, Steve Martland and Julia Wolfe have absorbed most obviously from Andriessen (and from Steve Reich, John Adams and a number of other minimalists) is a foundation of repetitive but evolving rhythmic patterns that enlist not only the
percussion, but also the piano/keyboard, guitars, double bass and, often, the clarinet/sax in the percussive mix, leaving much of the thematic heavy lifting to the cello. At times, the woodwind or the keyboard does take over, but usually in a dialogue with the cello, and cellist Ashley Bathgate managed all this with unflagging vigor and intensity.
Lang’s “Cheating, Lying, Stealing” floated long, plaintive cello lines over sneakily out-of-kilter percussion interaction. In Gordon’s “I Buried Paul,” a fantasy completion of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” it was Ken Thompson’s high clarinet wailing over the rumble of an increasingly frantic ostinato that made fun of the 1960s “Paul is dead” urban legend. Martland’s “Horses of Instruction” juxtaposed moments of angry-sounding thrashing with peaceful interludes, and Wolfe’s busy “Believing” culminated in an orgy of ecstasy.
In this company, the unison rhythms of Andriessen’s “Worker’s Union” were almost jarringly coherent and, in a local premiere, his four-movement “Life,” accompanied by Marijke van Warmerdam’s ruminative film, seemed refreshingly peaceful.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.