Ashley Bathgate

When a Critic Hosts the Premiere
[link to article]

Zachary Woolfe
February 14, 2020

“Please silence your cellphones.”

There are few phrases I hear more often in my life as a music critic. But it was strange — like a child playing dress-up — to speak the sentence myself, and in the incongruous setting of my own living room on a rainy evening earlier this week.

A few months ago, I got an email from the publicist for Michael Gordon, one of the Bang on a Can trio of composers who, since the 1980s, have infused into classical styles a wry and rebellious rock sensibility.


The Crossing choir (Donald Nally, conductor) premieres a beautifully filmed video (by Four/Ten Media) of "To The West", one movement from Michael Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison's upcoming work Montaña — a project unfolding over the course of four years.


listen to the broadcast:

BBC Radio 3 The New Music Show's Kate Molleson introduces the world premiere performance by Paul Hillier and the Theatre of Voices at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany of A Western Michael Gordon's latest choral work, a nod to American cowboy movies where the town marshal meets the bad guys.

<!-- VIDEO FILTER - INVALID CODEC IN: [VIDEO] --> Gordon's City Symphonies

On May 26, Spoleto Festival USA presented three powerful City Symphonies by Michael Gordon and filmmaker Bill Morrison, performed for the first time as a trilogy by the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra. 


The PBS documentary "Symphony for Nature" is broadcast nationwide tells the story of the premiere of Michael Gordon's inspirational work Natural History for orchestra, chorus, and Native American drummers. 

The full recording of Natural History has been released on Cantaloupe Music in conjunction with the broadcast of the documentary. Click here to stream the full recording.


NYT Review: A B-Movie Starlet Becomes an Opera Diva in ‘Acquanetta’

By Seth Colter Walls
January 10, 2018

A large screen looms over the stage. Projected onto it is a black-and-white close-up on an eyeball, fluttering in a state of nervous distress.

An overture, powered by distorted electric guitar and staccato strings, accompanies this sooty B-movie-style image. A choir grasps toward high-pitched wails. Everything blares.


From January 9 - 14, the Prototype Festival presents a new, commissioned, chamber version of Michael Gordon's opera Acquanetta at the Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Based on a 1940's B-movie horror flick called Captive Wild Woman, starring an enigmatic actress and former cheesecake model named Acquanetta, the opera's libretto is written by Deborah Artman.


On Saturday July 1 The Crossing Choir premieres Michael Gordon's concert-length work, Anonymous Man. The text is drawn from Gordon's experiences living in a changing neighborhood on a street called Desbrosses in Lower Manhattan, meeting Julia Wolfe (to whom he is married), raising a family, and especially encounters with two homeless men who lived across the street.


In May, Michael Gordon receives orchestral premieres: The Unchanging Sea (Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra) and CORPUS (Ballett Zürich)

On May 19, the Rotterdam Philharmonic with pianist Tomoko Mukaiyama and conductor Bas Wiegers gives the Dutch premiere of Gordon's The Unchanging Sea, with a new film by Bill Morrison.


Timber Remixed
with Mantra Percussion

now available on Cantaloupe Music

featuring remixes by Squarepusher, Oneohtrix Point Never, Tim Hecker, Fennesz, Hauschka, Greg Saunier & more...

2-disc set includes Mantra Percussion's live recording of Timber from the 2014 Bang on a Can Marathon

Also available on limited edition 180g vinyl with six remixes + download card


Michael Gordon at Crater Lake

July 29-30, the Britt Music & Arts Festival, presents the world premiere of Michael Gordon's newest work for orchestra, Natural History, inspired by Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and commissioned by the Britt Orchestra as part of the 100th anniversary of America’s National Park Service.

Natural History will premiere the morning of July 29, 2016, on the rim of the lake at a location that Gordon scouted, with musicians spatially situated around the site. The work will be performed twice more on July 29 and three times on July 30 in a different location in Crater Lake National Park.


world premiere
May 11-12
Miller Theatre

A new concert-length work for 2 pianists and 2 percussionists; an immersive environment for a uniquely intimate, multisensory series of four portrait concerts over two nights at Columbia University's legendary new-music mecca!


Michael Gordon's mesmerizing concert-length work, Rushes for 7 bassoons, receives its New York City premiere on October 23 at the Park Avenue Armory performed by The Rushes Ensemble.


Michael Gordon's sextet for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Gene Takes a Drink, is featured in one of the latest batches of "Shot on iPhone" commercials.

Purchase track from iTunes here.

Rent the performance materials here.

Michael Gordon's Dystopia

WQXR/Q2's Album of the Week
click here to stream the album and read their review

Michael Gordon's newest album, Dystopia, which includes Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony (plus an iTunes exclusive, Gotham), includes some of his most ambitious orchestral projects to date. These works are monumental statements of Gordon’s passion for pushing the modern symphony to its extremes. 


On January 30, 2015, Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony premiere the third installment in Gordon's "city symphonies" for Miami, Florida, after Gotham (New York City) and Dystopia (Los Angeles).

Working in collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison, Gordon creates music with his own reflections for each city. Miami is special for Gordon -- it is his hometown.


Listen to Gordon discuss the work

On June 3, John Kennedy and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra present the US Premiere of Michael Gordon's monumental Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.

Commissioned by the Beethoven-Bonn Festival and premiered by the Bamberger Symphoniker in 2006, Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony filters one of the classics of the symphonic repertoire through the lens of the 21st-century. Not looking to improve on the work's timeless quality, Gordon imagined "what if someone unknowingly used this material in the course of writing his or her new work?"

Gordon writes:


Michael Gordon's Rushes

On March 25, Cantaloupe Music releases Michael Gordon's latest CD, Rushes. From March 26 - 29, Michael Gordon's Rushes, for 7 bassoons, goes on tour in the Northeast culminating in a much-anticipated performance at Peak Performances at Montclair State University. 


On November 14 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the percussionists of the San Francisco Contemporary Players perform Michael Gordon's acclaimed, hypnotic, epic concert-length work Timber for 6 percussionists.

Scored for six graduated, amplified, wooden simantras (2x4s) the work brings the physicality, endurance and technique of percussion performance to a new level. In this work, Gordon shapes the music in both polyrhythmic and dynamic waves of textures — often each players' hands are in separate rhythmic 'worlds', each traversing a different dynamic contour from loud to soft to loud, similar in some respects to his solo for percussion, XY.


Crash Ensemble

The fortieth annual Kilkenny Festival in Ireland presents the newest work by Michael Gordon, called Dry, written for and premiered by the Crash Ensemble.

Over the last 16 years, Crash Ensemble has established itself as a “a powerhouse of new music” (The Irish Times) renowned for commissioning, producing and performing the most adventurous and exciting works both from established international composers like Steve Reich and Kevin Volans and up-and-coming fresh talent. That tradition continues in this mouthwatering concert that showcases the work of some of the best contemporary Irish and American composers.

From May 11-19, Long Beach Opera stages Michael Gordon's opera Van Gogh

Based on Vincent Van Gogh's letters to his beloved younger brother Tlusteheo, an art dealer and often Vincent's sole means of personal and financial support, Gordon's powerful opera has been praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as "puls[ing] with a distinctive brand of emotional energy that is hard to resist."

Gordon writes:


It's been a long time coming, but Shelter is finally here! 

The latest collaborative work by Michael GordonDavid Lang, and Julia Wolfe is a modern oratorio that reunites the Bang on a Can founders with Deborah Artman (author of the libretto for 2001's Lost Objects). Produced by Michael Riesman, this premiere recording was performed by Ensemble Signal under the baton of conductor Brad Lubman, and features solo voices Martha CluverMellissa Hughes and Caroline Shaw.


On Sunday March 17, Michael Gordon's newest work for orchestra, Beijing Harmony, is premiered by Kristjan Jarvi and the Beijing National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra.

Gordon writes about the new work: 


Michael Gordon's percussion sextet Timber, "six players, six two-by-fours, one hour of aural hypnosis" (TimeOut NY) is toured from Canada to Ireland to Germany and beyond by co-commissioners Slagwerk Den Haag and Mantra Percussion.


Mantra Percussion's New York premiere of Timber at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, December 13-15, has been listed as one of the top ten performances for 2012 by Alex Ross (The New Yorker) and Steve Smith (TimeOut New York).


Ian Douglas for The New York Times

Mantra Percussion's New York premiere of Timber at the Brooklyn Academy of Music received a great review from Steve Smith and great reactions from the three nights of audiences and BAM staff: "Michael Gordon’s Timber is its own religious experience, and the members of Mantra are the rhythmic monks who make it so." -- Sarah Garvey, Brooklyn Academy of Music

Click here to read Steve Smith's review.

On Thursday, November 8, Michael Gordon's newest work, Rushes  for 7 bassoons, is given its European premiere by the Rushes Ensemble at the November Music Festival in Den Boasch  followed by a tour in The Netherlands and Belgium:

November 10 - GLOW Festival in Eindoven
November 11 - Rushes and Timber at the SURROUND Festival in Brugge
November 15 - Ostadetheater in Amsterdam
November 16 - Korzo Theater in Den Haag    



Michael Gordon's remarkable and critically acclaimed work for orchestra, Decasia, receives its United Kingdom premiere on October 14 during the Southbank Centre's Ether Festival.

In Decasia, Gordon transforms the sound of the orchestra into a hazy and blurred sonic experience, as if it were "covered in cobwebs, with instruments that had been sitting for a hundred years, creaky and warped and deteriorated, and the musicians happen to come by, pick them up and play."

Inspired by images from decaying archival film uncovered by filmmaker Bill Morrison, Gordon's Decasia is an orchestral masterwork for the 21st century.

Gordon describes the music:


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