BY CONNOR D’NETTO, COMPOSER
Every year, Bang On A Can hosts its Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; collecting together Bang On A Can staples along with 40-or-so young musicians from across the world for three weeks of amazing music.
Located in the small town of North Adams in the picturesque Berkshire Mountains, the museum is one of the largest contemporary art museums in world, housed in what used to be an old complex of factories.
The is the view of it, the town, the surrounding hills, and our home for the month (the Holiday Inn!) from the roof of MASS MoCA.
To get to know one another, a jam session on Terry Reilly’s In C was led by the ever-amazing guitarist of the Bang On A Can All Stars, Mark Stewart (who, if you even blinked, you’d miss the moment when he changed from playing the mouth organ to the sousaphone).
Mark also led us into one of the crazier projects of the festival – a concert featuring the incredible instruments of Gunner Schonbeck, which are currently on display in the museum for the public to play and enjoy.
Even Bang On A Can co-founder Julia Wolfe got in on the action! She was captured here by Susanna Hancock:
In the day-to-day life of the festival were constant concerts – at least two a day, if not more – held throughout the gallery spaces. During the lunch recitals, daily at 1.30pm, we got to take control and perform some of the stuff we’d had up our sleeves.
It was great to have another Aussie at the festival: Sydney flautist Naomi Johnson. I even had the chance to perform with her, doing the electronics for Kaija Saariaho’s Noa Noa.
I had the extreme pleasure to collaborate with a number of the other fellows on performances of some of my works: Shannon Reilly on my solo violin sonata Susurrus…
Ben Baker and Georgia Mills on my cello and piano sonata Traces…
And with Naomi and Josh Wareham on my flute and viola duet Parallel –
(Here’s another snap from Susanna for you) –
On the first weekend, we took a bit of a break from all the music to go on a hike through the Berkshire Mountains, with two of Bang On A Can’s co-founders as our intrepid leaders, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon.
Michael is pictured here playing fetch with his dog, River!
We go to take on a few other fun projects along the way. First up, a Latin music night at the local bar, led by All Star Greg August.
Secondly, African drumming!
One night, we went out into the forest and found this thing made out of giant chimes – it was pretty cool…
This year, the festival had a number of musicians from central Asia performing on traditional instruments.
The nine composers at the festival had some pretty fantastic opportunities, like writing some short piano pieces for the brilliant Vicky Chow…
…learning about (and how to play!) the haegeum.
But, of course, the biggest highlight for us composers was the premiere of the works Bang On A Can commissioned for the festival, included my quasi-concerto for saxophone and orchestra Summer / Summer!
Another highlight was the premiere of David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon’s new work for the Bang On A Can All Stars Road Trip, with stunning visuals by Candy Station.
It wasn’t all work and no play; in fact, it was mostly play, with some great weekend BBQs and fun nights at the local bar and the museum’s beer garden.
All in all, it was three of the best weeks of my life!
I made some beautiful music in beautiful surrounds with some of the best/craziest/most talented people I’ve had the pleasure to meet!
What’s Connor D’Netto up to next?
His Brisbane-based immersive concert series Argo teams up with the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art to present INFINITY.
The concert is set in the gallery’s Watermall, an indoor architectural water feature currently displaying Yayoi Kusuma’s Narcissus Garden 1966/2002. It’ll feature two pianos, one on either end of the Watermall over 20m apart and surrounding the audience in sound, with masterful performances by Brisbane’s virtuosic Viney-Grinberg Piano Duo (Liam Viney and Anna Grinberg).
Keep up to date with Connor’s events on the Argo website!
Images courtesy Connor D’Netto.