A score for a Robert Moran pieceSo what is this new music thing? Well, it's one of those naming questions. Since the first half of the 20th century, a number of composer have moved away from the patters and practices of what we know as classical music and meandered into new directions. They are still classical in the sense that their music is written and scored first by the composer and then performed, often by someone other than the composer. But they also explore sound in radically different ways. There is the minimalism of Steve Reich or Phillip Glass, the a-rhythmic music of Conlon Nancarro, the haunting vocal music of David Lang, the list is very long. New music has also spawned a whole new set of performers. The Kronos Quartet is probably the most famous, but there's an amazing number of performers in all configurations. And not all scores look like the usual sheet music. The picture above left is a percussion score by composer Robert Moran.

Michael Niemann stumbled onto new music by pure accident about a decade ago. Living in Connecticut then, he and his wife went to attend a concert, the "Bang on a Can Marathon." He knew of Bang on a Can because he gotten a CD of their live performance of Brian Eno's "Music for Airports." The starting time of 2 pm seemed odd, but they drove to Brooklyn expecting a afternoon concert of ambient music. Imagine the surprise when he found out that the concert was eight hours long and featured more than twenty of the most amazing performers. He's been hooked ever since.

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