Last night I went with my lovely friend Martin to see he Athelas New Music Festival at Teater Republique, in Østerbro. The program was broadcast live on Danish radio station DR P2, and it was an absolutely fantastic way to spend "lille fredag" (also known as...Thursday, or "little Friday").
First up: New York classical music group Bang on a Can All Stars. They were amazing, both to watch and to listen to. Ashley Bathgate played cello; Robert Black was on bass; Vicky Chow, piano/keyboards; Ian Ding rocked the percussion; Mark Stewart (with a long gray ponytail and a flower power outfit) played electric guitar; and Evan Ziporyn was the clarinetist and 'designated speaker' of the group. They played five pieces, and rocked so much they gave an encore. The first was a piece just for Mr. Stewart, the hippie/guitarist. He began the evening with Steve Reich's "Electric Counterpoint." The rest of the 'All Stars' joined him onstage after that, and proceeded to perform some very, very cool classical music. David Lang's "Sunray," Michael Gordon's "For Madeline," Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's world premiere of "Convex-Concave-Concord," and Julia Wolfe's "Believing" made up the awesome program. My personal favorite was the world premiere of Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's, but seriously: The entire hour (save for some beer-toting lads behind us who apparently thought Bang on a Can was something a little more plugged-in) was pure entertainment, and I loved it.
Bang on a Can rockin' out. I don't get to see musicians play very often, since they're usually in the orchestra pit and I'm onstage dancing to their music, but when I do, I always find myself fascinated by watching their hands. It's choreography of its own, in a way.
The New York group (represent!) taking a bow before their surprise encore.
After the performance, Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen was interviewed on DR P2 about the world premiere of his wonderful, surprising piece "Convex-Concave-Concord."
Before the next hour, we spent time chatting with Martin's friends in the lobby of the theatre. I noticed the Danish design light fixtures everywhere, and snapped a "Hipstamatic" print. (I love my iPhone, in case you couldn't tell. It's going to be a problem, socially.)
After a 30-minute break, we went back inside for something completely different. Danish composer (and one of Martin's professors at the music conservatory!) Hans Abrahamsen's "Schnee" is made up of ten canons composed for nine instruments. (Martin, a composer at the conservatory, explained the construction of the piece in greater detail to me, but I won't duplicate that here because I'll surely mess it up.) The title is German for snow, and in the program (translated from Danish), Abrahamsen said: "The snow is silence, it transforms the landscape and creates a unique atmosphere. 'Schnee' is a series of meditations on various aspects of snow." The piece is long--about an hour--but...wow. It begins very, very quietly (much of it is); you could have heard a pin drop in the audience. I could feel the people around me sort of leaning in to check if they were hearing notes coming from the instruments. It is difficult to describe, as a piece of music; it definitely has to be listened to from start to finish, but basically: The piece is winter personified, through music. It's methodical, and clean, and sometimes Tim Burton-creepy, and very "Danish" in a way; it sounds like everything you associate with snow, from a blizzard to icicles to flurries. Abrahamsen uses the instruments in genius ways...like the percussionist rubbing paper against a table to perfectly imitate the sound of someone walking in freshly fallen snow. It was one of the coolest things I have seen and heard in a long time, and I was so very glad Martin had invited me to come along with him. The composer was there to see his work performed, and the audience went absolutely nuts when it was finished and he joined the musicians onstage to bow.
The musicians, conductor, and composer taking well-deserved bows after "Schnee."
We all went out for a beer after the piece was finished--Martin, me, and some of Martin's friends from the conservatory. We found a wonderful little bar called Pixie, enjoyed a couple of beers from the excellent menu, and ended the evening with fun conversation in a very "hygge" cafe. All in all, a great "lille fredag," made all the better since I rode home on my newly-fixed bicycle, Detective Lenny Briscoe.
A bit dark, but on the wall outside Pixie, someone had spray-painted a mural of a Pacman game...but adorkably renamed it 'Pixieman.'
Along with food and beverages, Pixie also serves up "Kærlighed & Hygge," or "Love & Coziness." They also have a map of the world taped to the ceiling inside. Our group concluded that this was for unfortunate patrons who maybe have too much to drink and then pass out on the floor; when they wake up and think, "Where am I?" they can simply look above their heads and use the map to locate themselves.