Top Five New Music Events for a New Year

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This may be the year of the rabbit, but it also seems to be a great year for contemporary music. Looking at the next few months, New York is aflame with new festivals, series and ensembles championing contemporary composers world premiers, honoring their beloved modern classics, and uncovering lesser known works from abroad. Here are the top five new music events coming up this winter:

1. No stranger to ambitious projects, the ensemble eighth blackbird has programmed and will perform at the inaugural Tune-in Festival at the Park Avenue Armory from February 16-20. Their program will include the New York – and indoor – premiere of John Luther Adams' Inuksuit, a work first performed outdoors at the Banff Centre in the Canadian Rockies. Joining the Grammy-winning sextet are several contemporary groups performing the music of Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen, John Cage and others.

2. The ambiguously titled Ecstatic Music Festival kicks off on Jan. 17 with a seven-hour marathon of new music (“Yes, we stole the idea from Bang on a Can,” admits festival organizer and contributing composer, Judd Greenstein on his blog). The rundown of performances, all at Merkin Hall, does seem to be a who’s who of the current music scene, with names like Nico Mulhy, Gabriel Kahane, So Percussion, Missy Mazzoli and Jefferson Friedman crowding the schedule. (Note: Q2 will be webcasting portions of the festival.)

3. The annual FOCUS Festival is an institution, but each year the festival reinvents itself with a look at an under-examined era of musical composition. This year: Polish Modern: New Directions in Polish Music Since 1945. Joel Sachs, as usual, leads a talented cohort of young musicians through a host of Western Hemisphere premieres of Polish music spanning seven decades.

4. Detour, a composer collective started by Angélica Negrón, Brian Mark and Alex Temple in 2009, was named such when the group realized it scheduled its first concert the day of the Bang on a Can marathon. The group continues to follow in the BoaC footsteps, introducing its new music ensemble at the Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo on Jan. 21 with works by Mark and a number of other mostly New York-based composers.

5. Though it spans several centuries of music making, the first Tully Scope Festival held at Lincoln Center’s refurbished Alice Tully Hall, gives contemporary sounds a large mouthpiece. Both International Contemporary Ensemble and Brooklyn Rider present world premieres (Nathan Davis’ Bells and Philip Glass’ Suite for String Quartet from Bent) into their concerts. New music advocates from Juilliard’s Axiom, to Les Percussions de Strasbourg, to Tyondai Braxton and the Wordless Music Ensemble make up about half of the festival offerings.

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