10:51 am Jun. 22, 2012
Yesterday's sixth annual "Make Music New York" festival was probably the hottest one so far. Yet even with temperatures topping 90 degrees, the festival seemed to capture many of the people who weren't hiding indoors. Inspired by France's Fête de la Musique—the huge national festival of music—Make Music New York now boasts more than a thousand concerts across the boroughs, including jazz on the High Line, a human tower in Central Park, and countless storefront performances by impromptu bands. (The day also includes a "Punk Island" on Governors Island this Sunday). Below is a sample of the Make Music events that took place yesterday:
Part of the day's charm was in the lack of advertisements at many of its sites, allowing people to stumble onto events. Around noon at Wall and Broad streets, a flock of tourists surrounded Amy Garapic, a percussionist playing the vibraphone. The performance of Erik Satie's 18-hour Vexations (players switched off through the day) started at 6 a.m. and was due to finish at Midnight. "Vexations" is complicated and has several interpretations, including that of playing the repetitions 840 times on a keyboard.
"It's not traditionally done this way," said volunteer Matt Evans, referring to the vibraphone. "But we're all percussionists, so we thought it'd be a good way to spend the day."
(The two jars pictured together held 840 beads, which a volunteer transferred from one jar to the other after each repetition.)
The performance was livestreamed with other Vexations across the globe.
In the early afternoon, people knocked on buildings.
"Alright, our first building is coming up in about a block," said Daniel Goode, an experimental composer leading a group of 18 people along Broome Street in Soho. He was teaching them to play the facades of cast-iron buildings. The best ones had the perfect amount of hollowness and hadn't been repainted recently, so the knocks rang out through the landmarked area.
Goode's "Soho Gamelan Walk," is the 76-year-old's project to show people how music surrounds them in unlikely places. By knocking on different buildings, he proved New York’s facades hide treasures (very literally, as it turned out: one of the people found $17 in rumpled cash stashed behind a column). He said he’d seen David Byrne’s "Playing the Building" show where he played on all of the materials in a building.
“I’m very exclusive,” he said. “I just play the cast-iron facade.”
The group seemed amused by the walk.
“This is it winner of the day,” he said as he noted the address down.
At one venue in the Bronx, things were gearing up for a late night. A group of performers had been scheduled for 1 p.m., but a delay getting microphones and other equipment from Manhattan caused Judith "Sukari" Raphael to hold off on the show until evening. She wasn’t worried, though, as she put chicken kabobs on a grill in front of her apartment on Hunts Point Ave.
She’d done similar events since 2010, but said this location would get more people since previous spots inside city parks were so out-of-the-way. Raphael, who was scheduled to play later as Sukari Music, said people would also hand out surveys on how to better the community.
At the Central Park Lake (the one where you can rent rowboats), a cadre of band members from Montclair State University and West Point played Alvin Curran's Maritime Rites. Appropriately enough, they played while on rowboats for an audience listening on the shore.
Close to its 6 p.m. start-time at the Naumberg Bandshell, the turnout for New York Virtuoso Singers didn't seem too overwhelming.
And Fitz-Greene Halleck got into the festivities.
Further south, the sounds of harmonicas filled a grove near the Dairy as a modestly sized group of people played free harmonicas. Music teacher Jia-Yi He, a "Harmonica virtuoso," went to each group of people and gave pointers on how to read the notes given out for "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "When the Saints Go Marching In." Around 6:30 p.m. Michael Bloomberg walked down the hill on a scheduled stop, and made time to play some harmonica.
He stuck around for 20 minutes taking the lessons, and cameras surrounding him, in stride.
As Bloomberg left with his security detail, two kids, seeing their chance, ran up the hill after him. After a brief moment they ran back down. 10-year-old Lilly walked down the hill with a copy of the score to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" signed by Bloomberg.
A group or 20 or so people remained, including Aaron Friedman, the president of founder of Make Music New York. He said his phone already died coordinating efforts from around the city.
"I think of it a lot like Halloween, where there's nobody organizing it," said Friedman. "It's just an idea. And anyone can take the idea and sort of run with it in whatever direction they want, you don't have to have permission to dress up as Frankenstein, you just sort of do it. The difference is that in New York there are lots of regulations about what kind of spaces you can use for amplified sound and what kinds of permits you need using parks and so forth. So, just for that reason, we try to organize it as best we can."
He said the spirit of the day was democratic and open-ended.
"Some of the bands are absolutely terrible and some of them are world class and everyone is equally welcome to be part of it."
Friedman, who stood next to Bloomberg as he played harmonica, complemented the Mayor's playing.
"He acquitted himself quite well, I felt," he said.
More by this author:
- Director Andrew Bujalski celebrates 10 years of 'Funny Ha Ha' with a big fan, Lena Dunham
- A festival built on the hope that film can bridge the deep political divide over Israel