"Without new music, there is no music."
That simple maxim is the unofficial motto of the Accidental Music Festival, and it's a viewpoint that enlivens a new generation of classical fans. The idea of the classical music listener-as-grayhair is an outdated one; festivals around the country like Big Ears, Ecstatic Music and Bang on a Can draw crowds of mostly young fans and showcase the work of mostly young musicians, usually playing compositions by living composers, often in venues more used to hosting rock bands rather than concert halls.
Locally, the greening of the classical audience is gaining ground. The Orlando Philharmonic's new (33-year-old) music director debuted last week, and his first official concert included a piece by young composer Gabe Kahane. The OPO's 2013 purchase of the Plaza, in recent years a bastion of rock shows, was another inspired move into new territory. In 2012, the Bach Festival Society, best known for performing sacred choral music, presented "Modern Masterworks," a concert featuring six living composers; in a promo video, BFS director Dr. John Sinclair admitted that the program was daring for a group that "specializes in dead Western European men." And in 2011, the Accidental Music Festival itself was born. That first year included a lot of improvised music, but also performances of works by Juan Trigos, John Alvarez and Orlando's Keith Lay.
Accidental Music Festival has grown and evolved since its inception; now entering its fifth season, the fest has remained committed to presenting the new-new. The first show of the 2015-2016 season features Yarn/Wire, a quartet of two percussionists and two pianists that has gained rapturous praise from the New York Times, the Guardian, the Wire and National Public Radio. A TimeOut New York review characterized the quartet as "spare, strange, and very, very new." Which, of course, puts them right in AMF's wheelhouse.
"We've wanted to bring Yarn/Wire down for a while," says Chris Belt, AMF program director. "We're excited to introduce them to Central Florida."
The quartet – percussionists Ian Antonio and Russell Greenberg, and pianists Laura Barger and Ning Yu – plans a daring program of new works, none written before 2010: David Bird's Mediums (2015), Joseph DiPonio's Chora (2010), Sam Pluta's Seven (2015) and Steve Reich's Quartet (2013). The Reich piece received its world premiere in 2014 in London; Accidental Music Festival presents its Southeastern U.S. premiere.
Reich, of course, is known for (among other things) creating intricate melody with percussion, so his works are well-suited to Yarn/Wire's strengths.
"People often write for the piano as though it is a percussion instrument, using scrapes, harmonics, playing inside the instrument, because of the possibilities afforded by pioneers like John Cage, but also because such sounds don't carry as much historical weight as harmonies, for instance," Greenberg says. "Some of the most interesting pieces have been by people who tackle all the inherent challenges of the group."
Reich has said of his Quartet that "it calls for a high level of ensemble virtuosity" – a requirement that seems tailor-made for Yarn/Wire.