While reading composer Martin Bresnick’s long-but-fascinating personal essay last week, I came across the name of an artist whom I’d never heard of previously. Looking up that obscure name (Eric Stokes) on Amazon and ArchivMusic yielded a couple of stray entries—a short piece for saxophone, say, on an album full of different composers’ works for saxophone—and just a single disc devoted to Stokes’ own compositions. It came as no surprise to find that this lonely CD was issued by New World Records.
Founded in 1975 as a non-profit, New World is the label that, more than perhaps any other entity, has stood between all of America’s non-famous composers (i.e., those not named Reich, Glass or Adams) and their absolute, tragic, unjust anonymity at the hands of, well you know… the whole “it takes money to make money” capitalist-acquisitive culture industry deal we have going. This is the label that will keep a CD called Lesbian American Composers in print long after its original label has left this world; they’ll bring you news of some real shit from pockets of American culture you didn’t even know existed.
Starting tonight and for the next two weeks, New World is taking over programming reins at The Stone, John Zorn’s artist-curated space over in Alphabet City. With $10 sets at 8 and 10 each night, it’s hard to go very wrong by just blindly stabbing your finger at a date on The Stone’s calendar and attending something.
Still, there are some can’t-miss highlights—including this Saturday, when Christian Wolff, the last surviving member of John Cage’s “New York School,” joins composer/guitarist Larry Polansky for two sets. (The early session sees them playing Polansky works; the second gets into Wolff’s writing.)
I wrote about the just-barely controlled anarchy of Polansky’s piece, “Ensembles of Note,” for The Awl earlier this year. (You can stream the New World recording of that piece there; that version was played by the ZWERM guitar ensemble, which will play The Stone, separately, on Sunday.)
Also, here is Polansky playing Wolff’s “Another Possibility for Guitar” at Dartmouth (where Polansky teaches) last fall. So good:
Were Prince to swing through town in order to play as half of a jazz-fusion duo with Merzbow behind the drum kit, you still couldn’t tear me away from The Stone this weekend.
To be completely honest with you, many of the artists are unfamiliar to me. So I’m planning to go and learn up myself. But here are some highlights I feel solid about recommending, even if you’ve never heard modern classical, “downtown music,” or the like.
Wednesday, June 1 (tonight!); 8 p.m.
Eve Beglarian: Songs from A Book of Days
For over a decade, Beglarian has been working on this song cycle, which she describes “‘mulling over’ pieces, made in the spirit of commonplace books, collections of found thought that please me, and of medieval books of days.”
Whether she’s pivoting off Plato to create some early electro-percussive damage (circa 1985) that could’ve schooled Reznor, or turning Whitman’s “We Two” into a lovely duo for herself and Corey Dargel, she’s as intellectually erudite as she is deeply intuitive.
(Where else to hear Beglarian: On the New World-issued Tell the Birds CD, as well as the compilation Lesbian American Composers.)
Saturday, June 4; 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Larry Polansky & Christian Wolff
As noted above.
Sunday, June 5; 8 p.m.
ZWERM electric guitar quartet
The quartet will play music by Larry Polansky from The World’s Longest Melody”—my ninth-favorite album of 2010, according to Pazz + Jop.
Tuesday, June 7; 8 p.m.
Tristan Perich’s Nonpermanent has its world premiere at this show; his pieces for 1-bit electronics are steadily becoming less gimmicky and more inspired. Nathan Davis will perform chimes on that piece, and the night will include a performance of his Simple Songs Of Birth And Return.
Friday, June 10; 8 p.m.
The pianist plays the music of David Mahler and Donald Ashwander.
Sunday, June 12; 8 p.m.
Mary Jane Leach
Mary Jane Leach has written a clutch of excellent pieces that incorporate traditional classical instruments, though she sent an email noting that for this concert, she’d be performing “more of my drone-y, sound phenomena type pieces.” She’ll be accompanied by Dave Seidel on electronics; he performs similar pieces. Also: It’s both of their birthdays!