Bang on a Can
Bang on a Can

A new generation of virtuosic and passionate performers was needed to make this music come alive.

At the very beginning of Bang on a Can, founders Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julie Wolfe recognized that their new and open approach to presenting required new and open performers. A new generation of virtuosic and passionate performers was needed to make this music come alive. These new players needed new skills. They had to be able to cross musical boundaries, and be at home with many styles and technologies. And they had to be great.

Michael, David and Julie quickly started assembling a core of such exciting, dedicated and versatile players, and these performers started showing up with regularity from festival to festival. Out of this core, in 1992, they assembled the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

Clarinets, cello, keyboard, electric guitar, bass, and drums – it is part rock band and part amplified chamber group.

The instrumentation itself shows the aesthetic intention for which the All-Stars were designed. Clarinets, cello, keyboard, electric guitar, bass, and drums – it is part rock band and part amplified chamber group. Constructed specifically to blur the lines between classical and pop ensembles, the line-up was chosen to give voice to a huge range of musics and styles, and the players have the musical backgrounds and abilities to match. Each player is completely at home with new music but has lived somewhere else as well - collaborating with Yo-Yo Ma, leading a gamelan, backing Mikhail Baryshnikov, touring with Paul Simon and Bob Dylan. The players bring their otherworldly experiences back to their life with the All-Stars, and their mixing creates an intense, hard-rocking approach to performance that no other group can match. Like the Bang on a Can Festival, the All-Stars have a powerful mission – to give the most persuasive and exciting performances of the most genre-defying music in the world. They go about their mission in a few different ways – by performing and recording definitive versions of the groundbreaking music of our day, by working closely with a diverse assortment of musical masters from our and other cultures, and by commissioning actively new works from both the unknown and the famous, from all walks of musical life.

Together, the All-Stars have worked in unbelievably close collaborations with some of the most important musicians of our time, including Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, Brian Eno, Ornette Coleman, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Don Byron, Burmese circle drum master Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Iva Bittova, Nobukazu Takemura, Terry Riley, Glenn Branca, Cecil Taylor, DJ Spooky, and Louis Andriessen. The All-Stars have formed lasting relationships with many of these musicians, commissioning and performing their works, recording them, and touring them all over the world.

The All-Stars are one of the most active touring contemporary ensembles, on the road for much of the year in such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Venice Biennale, the Holland Festival, The Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Sydney Olympics, UCLA’s Royce Hall, London’s Barbican Center, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, and Paris’s Theatre De La Ville, and appearing as regulars at numerous festivals in Italy, Scandinavia and throughout Eastern Europe. They are also active in the recording studio, with discs on award-winning discs on Cantaloupe and Nonesuch, and a certified hit on Point, their live reconstruction of Brian Eno’s ambient landmark Music For Airports.

The Bang on a Can All-Stars...have become one of the most powerful ambassadors for contemporary music in the world.

The Bang on a Can All-Stars, with their unparalleled musicality, their international touring, award-winning cds and far ranging commissioning programs, have become one of the most powerful ambassadors for contemporary music in the world. For all their efforts, Musical America recognized the All-Stars in 2004 as Ensemble of the Year. "One of the most visceral performing groups around," the London Independent raved.

In the 21st century, the All-Stars continue their ambassadorship, bringing their brand of beauty to concert halls across the world. "We roll into town with a fantastic program of semi-popular music, and people come," explains guitarist Mark Stewart. "They don't know what it is, and they say afterwards, 'What is this? Why don't we hear this more? Who are you? Where did you come from? Is there more music like this?' It's a little bit like the Lone Ranger. 'Who are you masked man?' 'Our work here is done. We must move on.'"