Two decades ago, clarinetist and composer Evan Ziporyn cofounded the Bang on a Can All-Stars. The sextet was the house band for a collective intent on pushing past the balkanized environment in which contemporary music seemed to be mired. Like Bang on a Can itself, the group — with its innovative instrumentation of cello, bass, clarinet, keyboards, guitar, and percussion — seemed to define eclecticism. It’s a measure of how influential they were that a similar lineup seems almost orthodox today.
“I’m not claiming that we were the first or the only ones to do anything,” said Ziporyn recently, “but when we started, you didn’t see contemporary classical groups that had an electric guitar next to a cello. You didn’t see groups that were doing really serious reexaminations of popular music, working with jazz musicians to the extent we did, reaching out of the little ghetto that contemporary music was. There’s tons of groups doing that kind of thing now, and that’s great. . . . The whole world has really changed.”