The Bang on a Can All-Stars delivered an electrifying and enchanting experience for the USC community in the last performance of this season's Southern Exposure series on March 24.
The Bang on a Can All-Stars, founded in 1992, is composed of musicians that cover a variety of genres and instruments. The group is made up of sound engineer Andrew Cotton and six musicians, consisting of bassist Robert Black, clarinetist Ken Thomson, percussionist David Cossin, pianist Vicky Chow, cellist Arlen Hlusko and guitarist Mark Stewart.
Thomson said the band’s performance was a "mixed bag" because it includes works by three former members turned creative directors Julia Wolfe, David Lang and Michael Gordon.
The group performed five songs and aimed to “take the audience on a ride a little bit,” Thomson said. The group performed a collection of compositions that featured soft instrumentals that were juxtaposed by songs that contained more aggressive, energetic pops after a brief introduction by Michael Harley, the creative director of the Southern Exposure series.
The band's program included a variety of delicate songs such as "Spaceship" by Meredith Monk, which was performed with a lighter and more whimsical tune. Songs like this were included with hard-hitting songs such as "Fainting is Down, Whooshing is Up" by Nick Dunston that included the hard rampant strumming from bassist Robert Black.
Several audience members said the experience was a deeply passionate and energizing performance by the musicians.
"It just blew me away," Victoria Donaldson, an attendee and student at USC, said.
A fourth-year bassoon performance student, Donaldson said how excited she was for the band's inclusion. She said the band's performance provided an energy she strives to achieve later in her music career and said the band serves as an inspiration for young musicians like herself.
Audience members said they exited the hall with an appreciation for the group's emotion-filled performances as well as an appreciation for a variety of music the exposure has included this season.
Bang on a Can All-Stars' performance concluded with a piece by now deceased Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, titled “Workers Union.” The song, written in 1975, serves as a commentary on socialism and how no instrument is greater or lesser when played to the same score of music.
Andriessen served as both a mentor and inspiration for the group and it continues to honor his creations by performing his compositions.
Thomson also said that for a band to become famous, "you can't be a band and just stay in your town all the time."
This belief led Bang on a Can All-Stars to perform in places such as New York, China, Berlin and brought the group to Columbia as part of USC's Southern Exposure series.
Harley, a longtime fan of Bang on a Can All-Stars, said he looked up to the group as he began his music career and said it was only a matter of time before the series brought the band to USC.
"This has been an ensemble that I've had on my radar ever since coming to the University of South Carolina," Harley said. He also emphasized how he wanted a powerful end to the season and felt this was the perfect time.