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Bent Frequency at 10: contemporary classical music ensemble celebrates a decade with a gala concert at the Goat Farm Arts Center

Bent Frequency, one of Atlanta’s most dynamic contemporary classical music ensembles, will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a gala concert and party at the Goat Farm on May 18.

As unlikely as it might seem, contemporary and experimental classical music are particularly strong in Atlanta, with several high-quality professional chamber groups giving regular concerts. And the audience, relative to that elsewhere, is often quite young and enthusiastic. Bent Frequency is probably the “leader of the pack” nowadays, and to last 10 years is something of an accomplishment in this rarefied corner of the music spectrum. Still, the city has been something of a hotbed of new music for decades, with other groups coming and going. Inevitably, this has helped foster Atlanta’s vibrant community of composers.

Since its inception in 2003, Bent Frequency has performed at various venues including Spivey Hall, the Woodruff Arts Center, the High Museum and Eyedrum, which operated an impossibly hip club in Reynoldstown for several years. The May 18 benefit will take place at the Goat Farm Arts Center, a 19th-century industrial complex that has become a thriving center for the visual and performing arts, located off Huff Road in West Midtown.

The group performs music ranging from seminal works by 20th-century titans such as Morton Feldman and Pierre Boulez to local composers to the latest cutting-edge composers in the world. This season has included a four-day centenary celebration of the iconoclastic John Cage, for example. Also featured this season was “XXX_Live Nude_Girls!!!,” a staged “Barbie opera” by Irish composer Jennifer Walshe, and a premiere of her work “Atlanta 2089.” A program titled “The Innocents” dealt with injustices in the U.S. prison system and featured works by Frederic Rzewksi, Allen Otte and John Lane.

From its inception, Bent Frequency has looked for innovative ways to present music, often incorporating film, dance or other visual elements into the performance. In its community-based events, audiences get to take part in the process.

The co-artistic directors of Bent Frequency are saxophonist Jan Baker and percussionist Stuart Gerber, one of the group’s founders. Of the core performers, several are members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and most hold faculty positions in music.

The anniversary concert is an example of another core aspect of the group, its penchant for collaborating with others. In this case, the group will be joined by Mercury Orkestar, a “Balkan-style brass band,” and DJ Little Jen, a composer/performer/DJ known for electronic remixes of classical composers, among other musicians.

Composers to be featured include Chris Burns, Lee Hyla and Jeff Herriot. The evening will culminate in a performance by an ensemble of more than 20 musicians of “In C” by minimalist pioneer Terry Riley.

In addition to celebrating Bent Frequency’s anniversary, the concert is part of National Chamber Music Month and is one of hundreds of special events taking place in all 50 states.

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