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6/19/08
Wordless Encounters
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Nico Muhly for Wordless MusicIn music performance today, one of the hottest presenters around is Wordless Music . If you’re a New Yorker, they seem to be suddenly everywhere, and their concerts have been getting raves from critics from The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York magazine, and Gramophone magazine, as well as attracting audiences that represent the demographic holy grail: twenty-something hipsters. Wordless Music’s self-professed goal is “to demonstrate that the various boundaries and genre distinctions segregating music today—popular and classical; uptown and downtown; high art and low—are an artificial construction in need of dismantling.”

At the moment, they’re doing some of their dismantling at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where at 7 pm. on four Fridays in June, you can hang out with the other cool kids from the class at concerts that are free with pay-as-you-please museum admission. Two of these Whitney Live concerts have already happened; the most recent, on June 13, featured the band A Sunny Day in Glasgow with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, playing John Adams’s Shaker Loops and Ingram Marshall’s Entrada. The two remaining ones feature hip-hop producer Scott Herren’s band Prefuse 73 and ACME playing Chen Yi’s Sound of Five for string quintet and Kevin Volans’s She Who Sleeps for solo percussion (June 20) and indie-rock group Times New Viking and ACME performing Jefferson Friedman string quartets (June 27).

Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear for Wordless MusicNow, I’m guessing these concerts have proven popular because I’m not the only one in the world who likes chamber music and classic rock, motets and metal, blues and Baroque music. Like most people, I listen to popular and classical music, but generally not at the same time. So these performances are a pretty intriguing proposition, because they not only of mix different music genres but also audiences who like a variety of music but can’t normally hear it in one concert setting and normally are forced to choose.

The Wordless Music concert I’m most looking forward to doesn’t happen until August 15, co-presented by Lincoln Center Out of Doors at an event called “800 Years of Minimalism: The Spiritual Transcendent.” At Damrosch Park, the early-music group Beata Viscera sings works of 13th-century composer Pérotin, followed by Rhys Chatham’s A Crimson Grail, for 200 Electric Guitars (the guitarists are all auditioned volunteers). The final work on the program is guitarist/composer Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4, with visual effects by the Joshua Light Show.

Lovers of offbeat opera presentations will be happy to know that on August 14, the night before the Wordless Music concert, the East Village Opera Company will also be performing a concert at Damrosch Park. If you missed them in earlier New York visits at Joe’s Pub, here’s your chance (free!) to hear this rock-opera group live.

Photos: (top) Nico Muhly and (bottom) Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear for the Wordless Music series. Photos by Christopher Owyoung/One Louder Photo.

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SundayArts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank and by the Rubin Museum of Art. Funding for SundayArts is also made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, The Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation, The Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lemberg Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding provided by members of THIRTEEN.