Reverberations at the Barbican

Billed as a weekend-long festival celebrating ‘the influence of Steve Reich’, this six-concert extravaganza looks to be a comprehensive overview of the contemporary, post-minimalist, pop-friendly New York music scene, with performances from ensembles such as Bang on a Can All-Stars, eighth blackbird and So Percussion, music by David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon and Missy Mazzoli, and input from flexible pop people including Owen Pallett, Bryce Dessner, Dan Deacon and Tyondai Braxton. On top of that, there’s a healthy bit of Adès, Andriessen and Steve Martland thrown in, a load of Reich (naturally), and even performances by Hauschka and Johann Johannsson. All in all, if this blog were transmogrified into a two-day festival, this would be it.

The microsite can be found HERE

While it is likely to pull good audiences on the back of the broad appeal of Reich’s music as a touchstone, I do wonder if this is the very best way to publicise a series of concerts which, I believe, should have quite unprecedented potential in depicting an accessible, exciting and relevant musical zeitgeist. By keeping the festival within the wider publicity context of the Barbican’s day-to-day programme – and the Barbican’s programme is so utterly diverse that it can be hard for individual events, with particular appeal to certain groups, to be picked out by these groups – the institution may be missing a key opportunity to expand beyond its regular, eclecticist clientele. In particular, fans of Final Fantasy, Battles, Dan Deacon and the National, who may not know of these artists’ intergenre collaborative work, would have a clear impetus here for attending a contemporary classical concert. As it is, the retrospective, teleological bent of the ‘influence of Steve Reich’ angle could definitely be seen to undersell what should be an overview of a deeply contemporary scene – as it was represented when many of these same artists appeared as part of New York’s Ecstatic Music Festival over the last few months. However, it is perhaps just a clear sign of how completely unknown all this post-minimalist/’totalist’/’post-classical’ stuff is to Brits, that Reich still needs to be invoked as a frame of reference, and maybe this festival will begin to redress the situation.

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