Brooks Frederickson. Photo: Julie Rooney

Putting it together: Brooks Frederickson at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival

{ published New Sounds, New York Public Radio, Wednesday, July 25th 2018 }


by Lasse D. Hansen



Given the opportunity to work with noted conductor Brad Lubman, composer Brooks Frederickson did not think twice: This was the ensemble he was going to write a new piece for. It was in spring 2018, and the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival asked him to choose one of three different instrumentations for the commission work he was about to write for the festival's Musician Fellows.


Giving the unusual instrumentation a second look it struck him: “Oh no! What am I going do with four percussionists and two singers?” Realizing that this configuration of instruments would probably never be accessible again, Frederickson decided to focus his attention on making the most out of this particular event by not worrying about usual concerns for a classical composer, such as whether the music would be suitable for every other hall or playable for every other musician. Instead he joined the Festival Ensemble on stage at the World Premiere Composer Concert this Monday—the only one of the nine Composition Fellows to do so.


“I didn’t intend to write myself into the piece in the beginning,” Frederickson recalled in an interview at MASS MoCA Wednesday afternoon, “but as I was working on it I started to get really interested in vocoders. It’s an instrument that basically creates a new sound by taking two existing sounds and putting them together, and voices are really good for that.” Using the two singers as source material he wrote himself a vocoder part.


When he lived in New York, surrounded by highly skilled musicians for eight years, Frederickson didn’t perform much. Now, having just moved to Durham, NC, where there are fewer musicians around, he is getting more involved in the performance of his music.


“I want to be a participant in my music rather than just write it, send it off, show up at the rehearsal, say ‘It’s good!’ and sit in the audience,” he said. “This piece is a continuation of that feeling. I’m still getting comfortable with being back on stage and I have to relearn how not to be afraid of it or to have stage fright again, and that feels good.”


Stratus-embedded waves moving against mean flow received its world premiere performance by the 2018 Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival Ensemble and Brooks Frederickson this Monday evening at MASS MoCA.




Lasse D. Hansen is a Copenhagen-based composer and writer, whose latest performances includes the theatrical fantasy Face the Music at the 2018 MATA Festival in New York. As a music journalist he is interested in the mysterious process of doing creative work.