'The Next Wave' will shake up conventional ideas of what art is all about
Whether music, dance, or multimedia is your choice, big things are brewing in Brooklyn. ''The Next Wave'' is about to make another splash, shaking up conventional ideas of what art is all about.
The first ''Next Wave'' series took place last season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Devoted to ''new masters'' of various arts, it featured some of the most adventurous figures on the current scene. Exploratory and sometimes iconoclastic, the program added up to a broad overview of new performing trends, with a special focus on the relationship between music and movement. Among the highlights were a full-scale opera by Philip Glass, a spectactular dance concert by the Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians, and an evening-length collaboration among director Robert Wilson, choreographer Lucinda Childs, and composer Jon Gibson.
It could have been a risky program to present. But it was a clear success, with full houses cheering things as drastic as a Sanskrit opera (to cite the most striking example) night after night. The series was no esoteric affair. It reached out to large audiences, and pleased them with what it delivered. In the process, it pointed up one of the most encouraging developments on the artistic scene, especially where music is involved: the large and enthusiastic band of followers who are willing to take chances along with an artist, and celebrate successful results no matter how offbeat they may seem.
Now the Brooklyn Academy is ready for another go-round, and the program promises to be as strong as last year's. This is all speculation, of course, since any new work could turn out to be a bomb. But the academy knows its business, and has cannily selected talents who have already proved themselves to be invigorating as well as aesthetically radical.
The series will open Thursday with a pair of concerts (each to be given twice) by Steve Reich and Musicians. A leading light on the contemporary-music scene, Reich is riding high at the moment with a luminous new work called ''Tehillim,'' based on his studies of Hebrew cantillation. Available as a record on the ECM label, and having had a recent premiere in a rich orchestral version by the New York Philharmonic, it will be featured in the Brooklyn series. So will the world premiere of ''Vermont Counterpoint,'' a work for flute and tape commissioned and performed by flutist Ransom Wilson. Other pieces on the slate include two of Reich's most energetic works, ''Drumming'' and ''Six Pianos,'' as well as the ambitious ''Music for 18 Musicians'' and Variations for Winds, Strings, and Keyboards.
Coming up after Reich will be programs by Laurie Anderson and Robert Wilson. Among their other qualities, they epitomize the many new artists who move easily among different fields - incorporating different media in their work, or collaborating with colleagues in different artistic areas.
Miss Anderson has worked in the visual arts, in classical music, and in popular music. And sometimes she blends all her talents into multimedia events. Beginning Feb. 3 and 4, the BAM will present four complete performances of her mixed-media work ''United States,'' a four-part ''portrayal of modern America'' that features music, projections, electronics, and the spoken voice, all woven into a single tapestry.
This should be a big draw for fans of the new Anderson record ''Big Science'' (Warner Bros., BSK 3674), a disc of experimental rock that includes her unique ''O Superman,'' which has reached top-of-the-chart popularity in England. According to the Brooklyn Academy, the complete ''United States'' will probably not be performed in the US again, so extra thanks are due the academy for making it available in toto.
Robert Wilson, the radical stage director and designer, rarely works in the United States these days, finding receptive audiences (and adequate financing) easier to come by in Europe. This is too bad for American admirers who are fascinated by his slow and stately spectacles, which move according to a strange inner logic all their own.
To its credit, BAM has snared the elusive Wilson for a second season in a row. Though his version of ''Medea'' will not be on the ''Next Wave'' program as originally announced, he will be represented in November by ''Great Day in the Morning,'' an evening of ''American Negro spirituals.'' The respected soprano Jessye Norman will be the singer, with decor and staging by Wilson. If the occasion shares the originality and imagination that have marked such Wilson musical events as ''Einstein on the Beach'' and ''Relative Calm,'' it will be impressive for enthusiasts of both music and theater.
Of all today's younger musicians, one of the most innovative and controversial is Glenn Branca, who works in a one-of-a-kind idiom that's entirely his own invention. Classical and rock critics alike have laid claim to his pieces, which live in their own shadowy realm betwixt and between the usual musical boundary lines. Such works as ''The Ascension'' and his two symphonies are scored for small armies of electric guitars, all amplified to the point of sonic overdose.
At its best, the effect is thrilling, but there has been some question about how far such a bizarre approach can be carried before it sinks into mere self-repetition. Has the enigmatic Branca figured out a new path for his platoon of strummers? His new Symphony No. 3, to have its premiere Jan. 13, will provide the answer.
These are some highlights on the ''Next Wave'' slate. Completing the lineup will be Dana Reitz and Dancers beginning Feb. 10, and the premiere of a new collaboration between choreographers Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane and the great jazz drummer Max Roach, beginning Feb. 24. In addition, the Flying Karamazov Brothers - billed as ''le nouvelle vaudeville'' - will make several appearances beginning Oct. 14. Brooklyn may never be the same.