Preview: Tune-In Festival and TullyScope

The Park Avenue Armory and Lincoln Center open house in expansive style.

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  • Elliott Kaufman

    tunetully1OP

    The Park Avenue Armory inspired eighth blackbird to think big in the Tune-Up Festival.

  • Iwan Baan

    tunetully2OP

    TullyScope is meant to explore all the ways Alice Tully Hall can be used.

Elliott Kaufman

tunetully1OP

The Park Avenue Armory inspired eighth blackbird to think big in the Tune-Up Festival.

There are festivals about new music, about old music, about composers, regions, eras and philosophies. But the upcoming Tune-In and Tully Scope festivals, taking place this week at the Park Avenue Armory and Lincoln Center, respectively, don't seem to fit any of those descriptions. There are no overarching themes, historical periods or literary sources linking all the performances in each series. Instead, both events emerge from a desire to showcase venues that are just coming into their own.

The Armory has occasionally hosted operas or concerts over the years, but the current season marks the first time it produced its own schedule of artistic offerings, rather than leasing its space to other organizations. Meanwhile, Lincoln Center, which reopened the thoroughly overhauled Alice Tully Hall in February 2009, is still discovering the space's new strengths. These similar searches have led down disparate paths, the most obvious point of diversion being size. Tully was sculpted into a womblike recital space that holds barely 1,000 concertgoers. Meanwhile the 130-year old, 60,000-square-foot drill hall in the Armory has more in common with an airplane hangar. Each space fits a niche in the New York music ecosystem, which organizers hope become apparent in these two festivals.

"You forget how much a theater or a concert hall determines what you do, but it really does," says Armory president Rebecca Robinson. "Things feel epic when you come in here." Paul Haas's ARCO, the Armory's first musical commission, which opened the Tune-In Festival on February 16, was written with the drill hall's dimensions in mind. For the three remaining events this week, new-music ensemble eighth blackbird sought works that would resonate in the space. "We all in eighth blackbird were nervous about...whether we could come up with a program that would be ambitious enough to take advantage of a space that huge," flutist Tim Munroe says.

One early selection, Louis Andriessen's Worker's Union (to be performed Thursday 17 in a program called "PowerFUL"), will bring together more than 40 musicians on stage. The festival finale, John Luther Adams's Inuksuit, will be presented for the first time indoors on Sunday 20; previously staged on hillsides in Texas and Banff, the work employs 72 percussionists and six piccolo players. Even the Friday 18 offering, "PowerLESS," seems monumental, taking in Georg Friedrich Haas's In Vain (played in total darkness) and Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians.

While the Armory can be imposing to both artists and audience, Tully Scope emphasizes its home's accessibility and ability to accommodate a variety of artists. "You can go from Heiner Goebbels to Emanuel Ax and have it be in an acoustically wonderfully space for both," Lincoln Center vice president Jane Moss says, referring to an avant-garde composer and a celebrated pianist both featured in the festival.

In fact, Lincoln Center has used Tully Scope—much as it used last fall's White Light Festival—to unite a diverse array of artists, ranging from viol master Jordi Savall and his early-music group Hesprion XXI to alt-rocker and former Battles member Tyondai Braxton, who will performing with the Wordless Music Orchestra. "A festival always gives you the chance to open up new ground," says Goebbels, whose Songs of Wars I Have Seen concludes Tully Scope. "My works very often are presented in festivals rather than regular programs, because they don't really fit into any of these categories. Even the title, Songs of Wars, is a bit aggravating, because there's not so much singing."

Perhaps the most ambitious objective of Tully Scope is to use the entire building, including its glass-enclosed foyer and caf, to foster a dialogue between performers, presenters and attendees. Throughout the three-week festival, Lincoln Center will use those spaces for free performances, including "Opening Bells" on Tuesday 22, as well as artist talks and postconcert gatherings. "It took us a while to discover how beautifully the public space works in relationship to the hall," Moss says. "It's really unique in New York. It creates a wonderful community around a festival, which is really what you want."

The Tune-In Festival runs Wed 16--Sun 20 at the Park Avenue Armory. Tully Scope runs Tue 22--Mar 18 at Alice Tully Hall (at Lincoln Center).

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