William RobinOct 29, 2021
Bang on a Can and New Music in the Marketplace
Oxford University Press 2021
Presenting eclectic, irreverent marathons of experimental music in crumbling venues on the Lower East Side, Bang on a Can sold out concerts for a genre that had been long considered box office poison. Founded in 1987 by three composers who met while students at Yale--David Lang, Michael Gordon, and Julia Wolfe--Bang on a Can has become a multifaceted organization with a major record deal and a virtuosic in-house ensemble that changed the landscape of avant-garde music in the United States. Will Robin's book, Industry: Bang on a Can and New Music in the Marketplace (Oxford University Press, 2021), tells the story of Bang on a Can's first fifteen years. He contextualizes Ban on a Can's development in a time when traditional funding sources for classical music were disappearing and major institutions were often unwilling to take a chance on contemporary music. In the wake of the unexpected popularity of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, classical presenters looked to contemporary music for relevance and record labels scrambled to reap its potential profits, all while government funding was imperiled by the evangelical right. As the title indicates, at heart, Industry is about the classical music industry at a time when it faced enormous challenges and how Bang on a Can maneuvered through this minefield.
Kristen M. Turner is a lecturer in the music and honors departments at North Carolina State University. Her research centers on race and class in American popular entertainment at the turn of the twentieth century.