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New York's Bang on a Can collective anchors this year's Toronto New Music Marathon festivities

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New York’s Bang on a Can collective celebrated 25 years last April with a best-of concert at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center (Stephanie Berger photo).

North America’s most dynamic new music collective, Bang on a Can,  opens its new season in Toronto on Labour Day weekend, adding some star lustre to what has become this city’s most concentrated showcase of experimental fun, Saturday’s New Music Marathon in Yonge-Dundas Square.

Contact Contemporary Music, organizer of the annual New Music Marathon, is taking advantage of the New Yorkers’ visit by programming a companion concert on Sunday night at the Music Gallery.

Adventure is the operative word for everything to do with the weekend’s programming. The participants, which include a cross-section of all experimental forms of musicmaking in this city, are all artists who have chosen not to be bound by the traditional rules of music — the how, why and where, especially.

This is music and sound that is not supposed to know the meaning of genre, that needs to be accepted for what it is: expeditions that push the norms of pitch and rhythm impelled by camaraderie and shared purpose.

Sometimes it’s difficult to immediately understand what each individual piece of music is about, be it a composition or improvisation, but listening to something completely unfamiliar can sometimes be a provocative way in which to better understand that which is familiar and comfortable.

Ironically, though, because this sort of experimental musicmaking has been around for several decades, much of what is on offer this coming weekend amounts to the new music fan’s equivalent of familiar and comfortable.

Terry Riley

John Cage, one of the most famous of the American avant-gardistes, was born 100 years ago. Brian Eno, an inspiration to both Contact Contemporary Music founder Jerry Pergolesi and the Bang on a Can gang, officially becomes a senior citizen next spring. Minimalist master Terry Riley is now 78 and looks like the proverbial guru waiting to dispense sage advice on a mountaintop.

Bang on a Can, which has grown into an impressive organization that fosters a wide range of musical projects, turned 25 last spring.

Yonge-Dundas Square is hardly conducive to focus of any sort, much less an attempt to follow the progress of pattern or ambient music, but Pergolesi & Co have assembled enough potential for stage charisma during the Marathon to make up for all the potential distractions. The organized noise starts at 2 p.m. and is scheduled to run until 10 p.m. It’s free, of course.

Sunday night’s concert at the Music Gallery, dedicated to the music of Brian Eno, should be a much more focused affair. Tickets are a modest $20-$25.

For details on all the performers and the music they will offer, click here.

On Sunday’s programme is Eno’s Music for Airports — now 35 years old. Here are members of Bang on a Can performing it last year:

John Terauds

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