Wordless Music is devoted to the idea that the sound worlds of classical and contemporary instrumental music – in genres such as indie rock and electronic music – share more in common than conventional thinking might suggest. To illustrate the continuity between these worlds, the series pairs rock and electronic musicians in an intimate concert setting with more traditionally understood classical music performers.
The goal: to bring audiences together, and to introduce listeners from both sound worlds to composers that they might otherwise not encounter, for a completely new concert experience. In so doing, Wordless Music seeks to demonstrate that the various boundaries and genre distinctions segregating music today – popular and classical; uptown and downtown; high art and low – are artificial constructions in need of dismantling.
The Wordless Music Orchestra is the house band of New York City's Wordless Music series, which was founded by non-musician Ronen Givony in 2006 and has since presented dozens of concerts in museums, churches, nightclubs, and out of doors, pairing artists from the sound worlds of so-called classical, electronic, and rock music. Comprising some of New York's most omnivorous young musicians and members of groups such as Alarm Will Sound, ACME, So Percussion, Ensemble Signal, and the JACK Quartet, the orchestra presented its first concerts over two sold-out nights in January 2008 under conductor Brad Lubman with the U.S. premiere of composer and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood's Popcorn Superhet Receiver, on a program with music of Gavin Bryars and John Adams.
In 2009, four months after its world premiere by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Arvo Pärt's Symphony No. 4 ("Los Angeles") had its New York/East Coast premiere by the Wordless Music Orchestra under conductor Jeffrey Milarsky in two sold-out concerts at which the orchestra also performed alongside the Japanese instrumental noise-rock band MONO. These performances with MONO were recorded and released by Brooklyn's Temporary Residence label as Holy Ground: NYC Live with the Wordless Music Orchestra, a limited-edition CD/DVD/LP set. Also in 2009, the orchestra recorded with former Battles multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton for Central Market, the composer's solo debut on Warp Records, and went on tour the following year with Braxton to Alice Tully Hall in New York, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. In 2010, the Wordless Music Orchestra performed alongside The Hilliard Ensemble and Latvian National Choir as part of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival, in world premiere compositions for orchestra and voices by Kjartan Sveinsson and Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós with his partner, Alex Somers, again under the baton of Jeffrey Milarsky, and the following year at the Guggenheim Museum rotunda in a unique collaboration with visual artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster for Gavin Bryars' The Sinking of the Titanic.
On September 11, 2011, the Wordless Music Orchestra performed a memorial concert for the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art under conductor Ryan McAdams, with the world premiere orchestration of William Basinski's Disintegration Loop 1.1 alongside music by Alfred Schnittke, Osvaldo Golijov, and Ingram Marshall. In the 2012-13 season, the orchestra will return to the Metropolitan Museum for the U.S. debut performance of music from the Danish indie-pop band Efterklang's new album, Piramida, with orchestrations by Missy Mazzoli, and will also perform in the 2012-13 BAM Next Wave Festival with musical icon John Cale of the Velvet Underground, for songs from Cale's classic album Paris 1919. Recordings and Audio:
- William Basinski, The Disintegration Loops, dlp 1.1, live at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Temporary Residence, 2012)
- MONO, For My Parents (Temporary Residence, 2012)
- Johann Johannsson, The Miners' Hymns live at the Winter Garden (WQXR, 2012)
- Jonny Greenwood / Gyorgy Ligeti / Glass-Bowie-Eno (NPR, 2011)
- Rhys Chatham, A Crimson Grail (Nonesuch, 2010)
- Jónsi & Alex, Riceboy Sleeps live at the White Light Festival (WQXR, 2010)
- Tyondai Braxton, Central Market (Warp, 2009)
- MONO, Holy Ground: NYC Live with the Wordless Music Orchestra (Temporary Residence, 2009)
- The Varieties of Ambient Experience (Percussion Lab, 2009)
- Wordless Music: Jad Abumrad of Radiolab (WNYC, 2008)