Two days after joining in the standing ovation for John Adams during curtain calls at the final performance of The Death of Klinghoffer at The Met, it was strange, to say the least, to be stitting less than five feet from him last night at SubCulture. (He was, conspicuously, wearing the same plaid jacket and shirt.) Adams, who was there to host the NY Phil's first CONTACT! new music concert of the season, made it clear from the outset that he wasn't supposed to be the center of attention, either as a composer or conductor. Rather, he was merely asked to curate and serve as the evening's host.
This was the first opportunity I'd had to attend CONTACT! since it moved to SubCulture last season - how has that not happened already? - and the small, intimate room is a big improvement over Symphony Space and the Met's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, both of which feel a bit big and sterile for this sort of music. With carte blanche to do whatever he wished, Adams chose to highlight the music of some of his favorite young composers, all of whom have also appeared on the LA Phil's Green Umbrella new music series, where Adams serves as Creative Chair.
"Back when I was in my 30's," Adams told us in his casual, incisive opening remarks, "it was still the Bad Old Days in American music, where everything was supposed to be written according to the principals of Serialism and 12 Tone music. Things have really opened up now, and I don't think there's been a better time for music in this country."