By Bang On A Can
What would a collaboration between an avant-garde compositional collective, a purist Baroque chamber ensemble, and one the world’s most famous DJs sound like? It sounds awesome to me. I’m speaking now of Bang on Can’s Lost Objects. Bang on a Can are a collective of composer-performers conceived by Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe and David Lang. Bang on a Can & friends have reinterpreted much of the forward thinking classical and popular canon, on record or on stage during their eponymous Bang on a Can festival. For Lost Objects they recruited Deborah Artman to write a libretto concerning all things lost. Each section features a different lost item: lost socks, lost species, lost modes of communication (e.g., extinct languages, passenger pigeons and Morse code), lost children, and the loss of animal sacrifice in religious rituals. Vocal duties are performed by the RIAS Chamber Choir, one Berlin’s most highly regarded troupes. Bang on a Can enlisted Baroque ensemble Concerto Koln to provide instrumentation. Concerto Koln only use period specific instruments with are tuned to a lower pitch but provide a wider array of timbres. Rounding out this motley crue are the members of Bang on a Can & friends who play the accoutrements of popular music: drums, electric guitars, and keyboards. Between thematic sections DJ Spooky provides remixes of the tracks you’ve just heard. The results are minimalist, but not academic. Big clear melodies soar, and simple militaristic percussion drives it all home. What really makes Lost Objects are the rock touches: the staccato guitar and the short length of pieces. The brevity of the entire composition saves it from the doldrums where most oratorios go to die, and short length of individual sections suits Bang on Can’s minimalist approach. The melodic statements do not lose their energy or crumble under the emotional weight of libretto. Lost Objects is a rare example of postmodern art music which is listenable and emotionally engaging without pandering to folkisms.