Ah, Bang on a Can All Stars. Like the Gorillaz, only for contemporary classical music. Apparently over in NYC, they do marathon music sessions that last for twelve hours. They have a special fund whereby the public can support new compositions, and Thurston out of Sonic Youth had a chance to rock out the clarinet. Every player - but most especially main man Evan "Mr Clarinet" Ziporyn and Mark Stewart on guitar - have distinctive personalities that infuse the (allegedly) staid world of classical with a rock'n'roll individualism.
Thanks to Sven Brown's long relationship with BOAC, which goes back to his time up in Perth, Glasgow gets some bi-annual Banging. They turn up at the start of Minimal Extreme, head into battle with the London Sinfonietta over Andriessen's Hoketus. Then they do an early slot on Saturday to showcase their repertoire: no Thurston this time but a funky spot of Reich's Electric Counterpoint. They might not quite be as spectacular as Rammstein, but they seem to be determined to prove that attitude isn't the sole preserve of the street tough rocker.
It could just be that I am clinging onto a desperate sliver of youth as I lose my hair and swap hip-hop for baroque, but I feel that BOAC have a strong connection to the sort of music I used to love as a kid. Hoketus - and the companion piece on Friday, Workers Union, had the same brutal, truncated attack I dug in SWANS. When bass man Robert Black lays down the groove on Reich's 2x5, I hear the relentless drive of Big Black. Sometimes they even look like a rock band: 2x5 has the classic line-up of 2 guitars, a bass, drums and keyboard. And there is the inevitable fun of watching Ziporyn simultaneously conduct and hoot on the clarinet.
When Reich talks about works like 2x5, he is adamant that it is "clearly not rock and roll", adding suspiciously that "it's completely notated while rock is not." He then admits that the lines are pretty vague these days and anyway, his appropriation of rock gestures is in the same tradition as Haydn robbing folk melodies. Being a determined post-modernist, I supposed to be above simple categorisation: being a critic, I can't wait to shove stuff into a box so my eager readers know where it is coming from.
But BOAC do mess up the categories. Some day, I hope to see them booked by Cry Parrot - or feature a work by someone out of Uncle John and Whitelock.