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Gass has developed a large indie pop following

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    Experimentation reigns at Ecstatic Music Festival

    NEW YORK The musicians Canada Goose Jackets stood on the Merkin Hall stage in a tight semicircle flutist on one end, bass clarinetist on the other. One musician bowed at a double bass, while another strummed an electric guitar. On one side of the stage area, a laptop operator processed machine beats.

    The performance, on Monday, helped kick off the Ecstatic Music Festival, devoted to contemporary music that bridges the gaps between classical and pop. Over its 14 concerts, which will run through the end of March, top 20th century composers Charles Ives and Steve Reich will share space with indie rockers Buke and Gass, jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and in between projects such as the chamber pop band Clogs, which pairs bassoon and viola with drums and guitar.

    The Ecstatic Music Festival may be taking the classically oriented Merkin Hall into uncharted waters, but the opening program wasn exactly a plunge into the deep end. None of the 16 acts at the eight hour marathon used a full drum kit, and only one of the groups featured an electric guitarist (though Buke and Gass played plugged in string instruments of their own invention).

    Compositional influences from the nonclassical side could still be heard, even if they didn dominate, with hard rock bravado and an aggressive cello beat blended into Jefferson Friedman String Quartet No. 3, a work that recalled Xenakis in its daring cheap nike free runs and range of sounds, and was thrillingly played by the Chiara String Quartet.

    Much of the sonic experimentation at the marathon involved signal processing and electronics: There were more laptops onstage than you expect to see at an Apple press conference. Extended nike outlet techniques and amplification were also prevalent, and minimalism informed quite a few works.

    Some of the sonic departures made for fresh, mesmerizing performances. On Daniel Wohl “Aorta,” pianist Vicky Chow synchronized emotionally fraught, virtuosic outpourings with a laptop track that seemed to amplify and flesh out her gestures. Cellist Ashley Bathgate was one of the most appealing performers, especially in the engrossing “Industry” by Michael Gordon (founder of Bang on a Can, the all inclusive music festival that paved the way for experiments such as Ecstatic). With wry humor and sensitive orchestration nike roshe run such as wind parts seeming to lean into one another during a ballad all backed by electronic beats that seemed more lounge ready than concert hall material he fit the bill of “music between the gaps.”

    Gabriel Kahane who will appear at the festival again in March in a tribute to Charles Ives played an all too brief solo piano set that featured some of the most confident singing of the marathon. His well constructed songs split the difference between Ives and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, at his artiest. His compositions didn have hooks or singalong choruses, but they did contain memorable tag lines and arresting chord harmonies, and they leaned toward the cohesion of contemporary pop.

    Kahane brought down the house with one of his signature Craigslist lieder, made from a personal ad he seen on the infamous message board a dazzling, manic tour of the piano full of angular, agitated lines about a “neurotic and lonely” guy with a dreamily crooned portrait of his ideal gorgeous, genius woman and an anthemic battle cry against Ugg boots and Long Island.

    Julianna Barwick one woman church choir style, in which she sang into and against loops of her own voice, could seem gimmicky. But she gave a committed performance, with the different registers of her voice almost becoming like different people. And as she riffed on herself with an improvisatory freedom, the layers fit perfectly a house of cards effect. All seemed to take the same easy listening, yoga soundtrack mode, though, and more variety would have been appreciated.

    Barwick performance demonstrated the limits of this approach. Because the loops were ongoing and unbroken, she couldn create sections within her compositions. (It was also next to impossible to make out the words she was singing or if she was singing words at all.) It turns out that classical musicians have the same issues that electronic bands do: Their machines are difficult to control, and even harder to turn off. He ran his voice and violin through a software instrument called a Neurosampler. The name of the device sounded cool but in practice it was tricky to manage, and he had to keep frantically motioning to his laptop operator to turn down the volume.

    More success in instrumental ingenuity was to be found in the tricked out ukulele and bass and the percussive footwear of Buke and Gass. Full of personality and possessed of a pure, distinctive voice, Arone Dyer led the quirky duo in the first songs of the day that made you want to jump out of your seat and move around and she requested that everyone try.

    Buke and Gass has developed a large indie pop following (its album, “Riposte,” was a critical favorite in 2010), and Dyer is accustomed to addressing rock crowds. Her act resonated with listeners, in part, because she possesses an essential pop cheap nike air max commodity: charisma. She was one of the few performers at the marathon to address the audience conversationally, and when she sang, she acted like a frontwoman, calling attention to her lyrics and her voice. Her willingness to foreground her personality and maybe even show off a little was refreshing, even if it fell somewhat short of ecstatic.

    Buke and Gass was paired on an artistic blind date with the composer Missy Mazzoli chamber ensemble Victoire, and the collaboration was most successful when Buke and Gass was in the lead, with violin backing up Dyer vocals and the chamber group hammering out beats and engaging in a little choreography for an overall effect that was fun, infectious and an ideal way to end the concert.

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