On Friday 12 July, I embarked on the long flight from Brisbane to New York (via Los Angeles) ahead of my three-week residency as a Bang On A Can Summer Music Festival Fellow at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, MA. I was incredibly excited to have been accepted to the festival - an unparalleled opportunity to learn from the incredible performers and composers on the faculty, meet and collaborate with fellow musicians involved in contemporary art practices from all over the world, and see MASS MoCA's incredible grounds and exhibitions.
In the weeks leading up to the trip, I spent every spare moment I had between work, teaching, rehearsals and gigs preparing for the festival - a mixture of score study, practising parts and listening to reference recordings. I was rostered to perform the following works:
The flight was long but bearable, thanks to Qantas' impeccable service and my good fortune in securing an empty seat next to me on both legs! I was really glad I'd given myself a few days in New York in order to recover from the flight and experience some of the city's iconic cultural offerings. I was super lucky that my visit coincided with violinist Pauline Kim Harris' residency at John Zorn's legendary experimental music venue The Stone. I managed to meet up with a few of the other fellows and catch two of her performances. On the Friday night, Pauline played contemporary works for solo violin inspired by J. S. Bach's Chaconne, including the premiere of her own "A Spiral Is A Line" and Missy Mazzoli's "Dissolve, O My Heart". The Mazzoli was the only work on the program I was familiar with - I'd performed twice this year myself (and included in my audition for the festival!) - and I was transfixed by Pauline's incredibly visceral and gestural interpretation. Saturday night's performance was titled "Drums x Violin x Percussion" and featured duo works for violin and percussion, including three more new works by Pauline that were written during the week of her residency. I loved the variety of percussion featured in this concert (drum kit, gongs, drum machine, double kick bass drum) and the fantastic musical interactions between Pauline and each drummer/percussionist. You can check out Pauline's recent release Heroine here!
While I was in New York, I also explored some of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collections (Art of Native America, Musical Instruments, and Modern and Contemporary Art) and the Guggenheim Museum, where I was particularly moved by the exhibition "Basquiat's Defacement: The Untold Story" and Kandinsky's "Dominant Curve". I also partook of regional delights including a bodega egg and cheese sandwich, a burger and shake from Shake Shack, and a hot-dog-stand knish. I also experienced the July 13 NYC blackout, wandering down into the subway at 57th Street after a leisurely afternoon walk through Central Park to find the lights out and no trains running - on the upside, that gave me the opportunity to hail a NYC cab!
Stay tuned for the next instalment of Flora Bangs On A Can, involving a mad dash through the NYC subway after a missed bus, and the first week of the festival!