Oh My Ears Marathon Concert Comes to Mesa Arts Center This Weekend

Written by Leah LeMoine Category: Music Issue: January 2016

Photo courtesy Elizabeth BayerIf you follow us on Instagram, you know we are die-hard devotees of Press Coffee here at the mag. You've seen our latte runs, paeans to cappuccino art and Press cup-strewn meeting tables. In December, we posted a picture of delicate little waffles sandwiching cardamom-infused caramel that barista Elizabeth Bayer made for us.

In an identity reveal on par with Clark Kent's phone-booth metamorphosis into Superman, we recently discovered that Bayer is an internationally renowned musician and composer as well as one of our favorite food-and-bev gurus. Not only that, but she and fellow musician Michael Ferraro have masterminded a “marathon concert” to be held at Mesa Arts Center this weekend.

We chatted with Bayer about her music acumen, the concert and the Valley music scene.


So, I know you as a badass barista and a waffle wizard, but it turns out you are also an accomplished musician. Tell me a bit about that.

I started playing the flute in eighth grade, but I didn't get into composing until my junior year of undergrad, about a decade ago. I've been accepted into music festivals as a composer in Italy and all over the U.S. Just to name a few: Bang on a Can Summer Festival, Cortona Sessions for New Music, highSCORE Festival, UNK New Music Festival... and my works have been presented at many more.


Photo courtesy Driftwood QuintetWhat was the genesis for this concert? Have you done anything like it before?

So this concert, as you can see, is really long. In my world – this weird place where hard-core academic music, pop culture, the music of world cultures, and technology combine – this is called a Marathon Concert. I'm referencing the Bang on a Can Marathon which was started in 1987 by composers David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon. They carved a space where the works of established composers like Steve Reich, John Cage and Philip Glass could stand alongside lesser-known rebels at the time. I went to the BOAC Marathon in 2014, and it was exhilarating to struggle to find a seat to listen to a Meredith Monk set.

I also interned at the Ojai Music Festival for a few years and got to be around renowned composers and performers like George Benjamin, Dawn Upshaw, eighth blackbird and Ensemble Modern (the same ensemble Verese and Zappa worked with). This is the same place where John Cage, Milton Babbitt, Steve Reich, Aaron Copeland and Lukas Foss walked. Being younger and un-established, I became more interested in what happens between graduation and larger gigs. The OME Marathon equally stems from that place.

As you can imagine, pulling this together takes a long time (we booked the venue a year ago). I am very grateful to have Michael Ferraro as my co-director and Connor McKee as our first OME intern this year.


How did you choose the venue and the acts?

The first two years we were in The Trunk Space – a small yet mighty DIY space on Grand Ave. I had an even smaller budget than I do now, but because of the low rent, I was able to pay my performers per person – not per ensemble – which is a very big deal to me. We chose to move to the Mesa Arts Center because the new music people of Phoenix and Arizona deserve a larger stage – literally. A 200-seat house allows more people to hear more world premieres!

As for the acts, we had an open application process. We had applications from all around the country alongside a long list of pioneers here in Arizona. I never thought 10 hours would seem short. Michael Ferraro and I sat down after applications closed and decided who we thought was best for this year's show.


What are you most looking forward to about the concert?

I honestly thought I would never have the opportunity to hear Timber by Michael Gordon LIVE. Now not only is it being performed in Arizona, it is being performed by local musicians. A huge thanks to Joe Perez for getting this group of percussionists together.

I am also looking forward to meeting new faces through our collaboration with the Society of Composers Chapter at ASU and finally meeting our out-of-town performers, the Keith/Larson Duo and the Exit 128 Contemporary Chamber Orchestra from the University of Missouri.

Even though the concert will be exciting aurally for me, I am most excited about meeting audience members and augmenting the new music family in Phoenix.


Photo courtesy thingNYAnything else you want to add or let readers know about the concert or the Valley's music scene?

New Music is a little hard to articulate because it doesn't describe a style, just a similar place of origin. Most people in the new music scene are classically trained and hold several degrees, but do not listen to Puccini in their spare time. John Zorn and Frank Zappa? Probably. For example, one of my favorite composers of my generation is Nick Omiccioli. He is really into metal, but it doesn't come out in the same way as it would most people.

The tricky part of being active as a composer is having people near you who are willing to either learn music you've already written or commission new works. In other large cities, like New York, there are gobs of ensembles who need composers as much as composers need them. This does not make things easy, but it does make a lot of things possible that are very difficult to do here in Phoenix right now.

If you are looking for music that is completely new, go buy a ticket for our Marathon and show up at noon to hear Arizona's only laptop orchestra (yes, laptop orchestras have been around for a while now), then hang around for the next 9 hours for some of the most beautiful and wild music and sounds you have heard.


(12) LORKAS (Laptop Orchestra of Arizona State)
Gulch (guitar and processing)
Orange Crunsh (minimal electric guitar duo)
(2) Exit 128 Chamber Orchestra (University of Missouri)
Society of Composers, ASU Chapter
(3:30) Driftwood Quintet **MUSICAL MAPS**
Jeffrey Young & Paul Pinto (thingNY) perform ...Patriots...
(5) Holly Pyle (voice and electronics)*
Keith/Larson Duo (flute/guitar)
Josh Bennet*, Black Air (clarinet and electronics)
(7:30) TIMBER by Michael Gordon, performed by Joe Perez & friends
(9) Magic Sky Fairy by Elizabeth Kennedy Bayer, performed by Kristilyn Woods (Dry River Yacht Club), Megyn Neff (North Brother Island), and Allyson Wuenschel
The Lessing is Miracle by Aleksey Izotov, composer/pianist

*Meet the Audience performers. Josh and Holly will take sounds uploaded by YOU and turn them into music. 


If you go:
Oh My Ears Marathon Concert
Mesa Arts Center – Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse
1 E. Main St., Mesa
480-644-6500, mesaartscenter.com
January 23, 12 p.m.; tickets cost $16