Find Your Band | Bang on A Can | The Art Assignment | Summary and Q&A

September 11, 2014
The Art Assignment
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Find Your Band | Bang on A Can | The Art Assignment


Explore the experimental music festival organized by Bang On a Can at MASS MoCA, featuring innovative art and performances.

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Key Insights

  • 🤫 Bang On a Can focuses on both brand new, experimental music and revisiting traditional elements through a modern lens.
  • 🧑‍🎤 John Cage's philosophy of everything being music and Pete Seeger's inclusive approach to singing along inspire the assignment given by Julia Wolfe and Mark Stewart.
  • 💅 The assignment encourages participants to find beauty and creativity in everyday sounds, turning them into musical elements.
  • 🫒 Experimental musicians like Julia Wolfe and Mark Stewart are unafraid and live in front of everyone, embracing the spirit of adventure and exploration.
  • 🥇 The assignment prompts a reconsideration of what is considered noise and encourages participants to discover sonic treasures in unexpected places.
  • 🫰 Musical elements like hums, tubes, nail files, and even household appliances can be transformed into instruments for creating unique compositions.
  • 😃 The assignment promotes a mirthful and playful approach to creating music, highlighting the joy and creativity that can be found in experimental practices.


Today, we're in North Adams, Massachusetts, in a former textile mill that is now the home to MASS MoCA, a museum where you can see some of the most innovative new art being made today. They're currently playing host to an experimental music festival that is organized by the group Bang On a Can. Formed in 1987, this group has staged marathon concert... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is experimental music?

Experimental music can be a first-time experiment, where something entirely new is created. Other times, it involves combining musical elements in a new way or revisiting traditional musical styles with a modern approach.

Q: How does listening play a role in creating music?

Listening is fundamental to the creative process of making music. By absorbing and responding to the sounds around us, creators can develop unique compositions and performances.

Q: What is the assignment given by Julia Wolfe and Mark Stewart?

The assignment is to go through the day and notice the sounds around you. Choose one or a group of these sounds to create your own band. Document your participation in the band by joining in with your chosen instrument.

Q: Can the created music be shared with others?

The assignment allows participants to choose whether to document and share their created music or not. It provides an opportunity for personal exploration and experimentation.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • MASS MoCA, a former textile mill in North Adams, Massachusetts, is now a museum showcasing innovative art.

  • Bang On a Can, a group formed in 1987, organizes an experimental music festival at MASS MoCA, featuring marathon concerts, new works, and performances.

  • Julia Wolfe, a co-founder of Bang On a Can and a composer, and Mark Stewart, a member of the Bang On a Can All Stars, collaborate on an assignment to create and appreciate adventurous new music.

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