By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The group has remained remarkably consistent: Amy, Erika, percussionist Dave Johnson, violinist Robin Lorentz, flutist Dorothy Stone, pianist Vicki Ray. Just this month pianist Lorna Eder dropped to part-time to attend cantorial school, and percussionist Art Jarvinen has recently departed to compose full-time. ”He‘s decided he doesn’t like other people‘s music,“ Knoles reports.
What holds the group together? ”Mostly,“ says Knoles, ”we’ve managed to remain each other‘s best friends. When we’re together, rehearsing, it‘s like a party. When we began, ’Lucky‘ [Steven] Mosko was the leader, and he had a way of making us care. We’ve held on to that pretty much, and Lucky does come back fairly often. The other thing that holds us together is the fact that music is changing so fast. We never get onto the treadmill that you get with dead composers. There‘s always something new and interesting. Techniques and circuitry that someone might have used five years ago may be obsolete by now -- unless, of course, the music itself is good. Over the years, we’ve built a kind of repertory; there are works we‘ve played before that we go back to. We’d love to do more revivals. That rain-forest piece, Amazonia, with Rachel Rosenthal -- wasn‘t that a hoot?
“But there’s so much new stuff; a lot of notes to learn for a job that still isn‘t full-time and certainly doesn’t pay full-time. In Frankfurt, Ensemble Modern earns a yearly salary. In New York, Bang on a Can is run by its three composers, but they also have an office staff and a connection to Sony Records. We tried working with a management for a while, but they ran us into the ground and we were never able to explain our repertory to them. Now Dorothy and I pretty much run the group; we handle the bookings, and we produce the ads, the post cards, the faxes. We keep busy, but a lot of our bookings are hectic: not enough long tours, too many one-shot runouts to Kiev, Reykjavik.”
Next season promises more of the same -- the same spirit of exploration, that is, not the same music. Electronic performance artist Paul Dresher comes down for an all-technology bash; live-processing performer Mark Gray will put on the MIDI-gloves; one entire evening will feature an accordionist, lying on the stage, seen in profile -- or so Amy Knoles would have us know.
“Let me tell you one more thing that holds us together,” says Amy. “You know how hard it is for a composer, especially an experimenter, to get performances these days -- even here in Los Angeles, where the Philharmonic‘s service to new music is above average. It may sound corny, but we really, sincerely believe that we are making history with what we play, even the bad stuff. If you want me to define what we do, it’s really very simple: We play music by living composers. The new music that we play isn‘t any one thing; it’s always different, according to who‘s writing it. We’re here to go along with those differences.”