In these completely surreal and horrific times, I count myself among the lucky who have not lost any family, friends or colleagues in the horrible tragedies that occurred at New York City’s World Trade Center, at the Pentagon in Washington DC, and 80 miles outside Pittsburgh. Thankfully, the same is true for all of us here at the American Music Center. Although the AMC is less than three miles away from this still unbelievable nightmare in lower Manhattan, on some levels, it seems much further away. An important component to overcoming this sadness and regaining our strength is to reflect on what this loss represents for all of us who care about new music.
I’ve lived in New York City my entire life and remember the World Trade Center being built when I was a child. And throughout my life, I have walked there and back. But, the things I will remember most about the Twin Towers are the many remarkable concerts that I attended there.
Attending the world premiere of Wendy Mae Chambers’ One World Percussion, an hour-long tour-de-force for 50 percussionists performing on 500 instruments in between the Towers and reverberating well beyond them is an experience that made me forever an apostle of new music. I will never forget John Schaeffer’s wonderful series of New Sounds concerts in the Winter Garden atrium of the World Financial Center, whose personal recent highlights included the Hildergurls, Robert Fripp’s solo soundscapes and Stephen Scott’s Bowed Piano Ensemble. I remember being mesmerized by the Philip Glass Ensemble, staring up at the seemingly infinite floors of the Towers and finding slight variations in visual patterns as I heard their analogous variations in the gradually shifting melodic cells of Glass’s music.
Most recently, I remember braving the rain for the X-ecutioners, a group of experimental turntable artists, and the majesty of the world premiere of Glenn Branca’s new Symphony #11, Hallucination City, reportedly for 100 electric guitars and described better than I ever could in a column Greg Sandow contributed to NewMusicBox. What strange and awful new meanings are conjured up by the name of the group of DJs and the title of Branca’s new symphony, both of which brought such vibrant life to the Plaza of the World Trade Center!
It is the “bringing to life” that new music represents that should comfort us and move us beyond these tragic events. New music is a beacon for our hopes and our future.
Frank J. Oteri