With Boston’s wealth of major universities and conservatories, it’s no surprise we live in a city brimming with living composers, some of whom have had music in publication for decades, and others that are fresh out of conservatory. Not only do we have the music itself, but we have ensembles and orchestras committed to stretching their repertoires beyond classical mainstays, bringing 20th and 21st century compositions to local audiences.
New music has a place on many concert programs, from the BSO to amateur student ensembles, but this list highlights local bands devoted solely to the performance of avant-garde music.
Boston Modern Orchestra Project
BMOP may very well be Boston’s best and most prolific recording orchestra, issuing beautifully packaged albums under their own label BMOP/sound. Their records deservingly receive international praise for their musical merit and excellent liner notes that educate listeners on new music that often would not have been recorded if BMOP didn’t do the job. And it’s a good thing they’re the ones doing it. A regular concert season in the acoustically lush Jordan Hall, as well as a Club Concert series set in a number of smaller intimate venues about town, put BMOP at the top of this list.
Sick Puppy or NEC’s Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice
New England Conservatory’s Stephen Drury is one of Boston’s greatest champions of new music. As artistic director of NEC’s Sick Puppy festival, he brings a week of free concerts to Boston audiences each summer, where talented student soloists and ensembles perform everything from works by 20th century masters to premieres of the work of young composers. Keep an open mind and be polite, because composers are often seated in the audience.
Boston Musica Viva
Tsai Performance Center
685 Commonwealth Ave.
Founded in 1969 as Boston’s first ensemble devoted to contemporary music, BMV has been presenting invigorating programs since, each usually featuring at least one world premiere. Composers are often in attendance to introduce their work to audiences. BMV’s four concert seasons are presented at BU’s aptly contemporary Tsai Performance Center and an annual family concert encourages participation from even the youngest of patrons.
Collage New Music
Pickman Hall, Longy School of Music
1 Follen St.
Collage New Music is one of contemporary classical’s best friends in Boston. Provocative programs that often include Collage’s own commissions are performed in the Longy School of Music’s acoustically perfect Pickman Hall to loyal audiences. Pieces are usually introduced with insightful remarks and students always get in free.
Bryce Lambert blogs on the Boston arts scene at BostonLowbrow.com, offering the occasional review and commentary on local shows, concerts, and art exhibitions.