If only I'd seen that Darcy James Argue wasn't going to be liveblogging the Bang on a Can Marathon this year, I would have attempted to pick up the slack! Of course my laptop charger was all screwed up and so I would have been able to liveblog about the first five minutes or so, and I only showed up at the thing more than an hour into it, but I could at least have fired off something like lisa moore stellar as usual altho gosfields piece is a bit shapele— before ol' Lappy fizzled out. (That also explains why I didn't get a chance to shmooze with DJA this time around; I wanted to say hi but I was looking for somebody hunched over a glowing computer screen and he was, apparently, sitting in the audience like a normal person.) Anyway, I didn't really sit through the whole thing, but wandered in and out as the spirit moved me. Stupid spirit! You made me miss Bora Yoon, which everybody said was awesome. Things I managed to see, which were breath-takingly perfect: So Percussion doing David Lang's so-called laws of nature (can you believe I never saw them play it in person before? They must do it every time they're in town and every time I miss it). Witty piece, hypnotically precise performance, oh yeah and it was that rare set that wasn't completely swallowed by the cathedral/food-court acoustics. Also perfect for the space: Donnacha Dennehy's Grá agus Bás, which Argue has described better than I could. Just when you thought traditional Celtic music had been irredeemably schlocktified by pop co-option, Dennehy and the Crash Ensemble managed to transmute it back into something beautiful and pure. They walked through a minefield of cliché and sentimentality and emerged nearly unscathed. Oh hey look, you can download an excerpt here, or even, check it out— Hooray for Internet! Julia Wolfe's piece for bass ensemble was also a dazzler, reminding me one minute of Shaker Loops by John Adams and of Industry by hubby Michael Gordon the next—two pieces that, really, everything should resemble a little bit more. (The acoustics did murdalize this one, though.) The capstone of the night was definitely Toby Twining Music's rendition of Stimmung by Karlheinz Stockhausen. I'm not going to take even one step back from my assertion that Stockhausen was a horrible poet, but I have to say that I enjoyed the piece vastly more in person, at dawn, half-conscious, than I ever did on disc (and I liked the piece on disc). Part of this was the simple circumstance of a live performance—I found myself listening so closely that when the lights came on by accident in the middle of the piece, the sound of the lights was an unbearable intrusion. But it was also the brilliance of Twining's ensemble. How did they make sound so easy? The overtones were warbled. Warbled. How in the hell do you warble that shit? A lot more opinions. But... not now. I'm late for work. Also check out Nico's contrarian take, here.