Performance Initiative 

Bana Haffar and Third Coast Percussion perform Shed

On Thursday, February 13, 2020 Grammy-winning Chicago-based percussion ensemble Third Coast Percussion and composer Bana Haffar debuted the newly commissioned Shed for percussion and modular synthesizer. Drawing from the rich legacy of Anni Albers, Haffar engages with the materiality of sound, the essence of cloth, and the symbiosis of the machine and handmade by transposing standard weaving draft notation into musical scores.

Commisioned by BMCM+AC as part of Question Everything! The Women of Black Mountain College.

Johnny Gandelsman performs Bach’s complete cello suites on violin

On December 12, 2019 Johnny Gandelsman brought this new project to BMCM+AC. Gandelsman is the one of the first to record or perform Bach’s complete cello suites on violin. This is Gandelsman’s second initiative towards adapting Bach’s compositions to violin, following his recordings of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas in 2018. Having worked with incredible masters of various world music traditions, like Bela Fleck, Martin Hayes and Kayhan Kalhor, Gandelsman’s playing of the Suites is equally inspired by folk and fiddling traditions, as it is by historically informed performance.

Cherokee Chamber Singers, Si Otsedoha (We’re Still Here). Composed by William Brittelle

November 21, 2019. In 2017, Cherokee student leaders assembled a forum for open discussion on what it means for them to be Cherokee in the past, present, and future and how they view their cultural heritage. This new work was created with the words, voices, and vision of the Cherokee Chamber Singers, choral students at Cherokee Central Schools, written by composer William Brittelle. Originally commissioned by the North Carolina Symphony, the BMCM+AC event includes a pre-concert discussion and performance with the Cherokee Singers and music director / pianist Michael Yannette. 

Aki Onda, Reflections and Repercussions

The Southeast premiere of this work at BMCM+AC on Wednesday, November 6, 2019. Aki Onda Reflections and Repercussions, a multi-media performance exploring the interplay among luminosity, acoustic, architectural, and emotional relationships within the space. Performing with various types of lighting equipment such as theater lights, flashlights, bare light bulb, mirrors and other objects, Onda arranges and rearranges the tools composing the visual and aural as a total environment.

Cage Shuffle performed by Paul Lazar of Big Dance Theater

Performed July 18th, 2019 Cage Shuffle is a 50 minute dance/theater solo performance by Paul Lazar featuring a series of one-minute stories by John Cage from his 1963 score Indeterminacy, while simultaneously performing a complex choreographic score by Annie-B Parson. Cage’s humor, intellect and iconoclasm find ideal expression in this work which adds dance to his original performance instructions: Read stories aloud, paced so that each story takes one minute, using chance procedures or not. 

Amy Williams performs John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano

On August 1st, 2019 pianist/composer and Guggenheim Fellow Amy Williams performed Sonatas and Interludes, John Cage’s groundbreaking cycle for prepared piano. The work was composed in 1946–48, shortly after Cage’s introduction to Indian philosophy and the teachings of art historian Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, both of which became major influences on the composer’s later work. Sonatas and Interludes is generally recognized as one of Cage’s most important compositions.

Press for Sonatas and Interludes:

Mountain Xpress, Smart Bets: Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano

The Fresh Cut Orchestra and Melanie Charles perform We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite

A timely restaging of We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, a seminal recording from the civil rights era. The piece was performed on February 22 + 23, 2019 by the NYC / Philadelphia-based ensemble Fresh Cut Orchestra with vocalist Melanie Charles. Recorded in the fall of 1960, the Freedom Now Suite was the most openly political jazz recording ever made, combining musical prowess with political dialogue. Nearly 60 years later, the issues posed by We Insist! are still relevant to our current political moment.

Presented as a part of Come Hear North Carolina, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Natural & Cultural Resources and the North Carolina Arts Council. Additional support provided by UNC Asheville.

Brooklyn Rider Healing Modes

On November 7th, 2018 BMCM+AC and UNC Asheville presented the Asheville debut of the eclectic string quartet Brooklyn Rider with the premiere of their new project Healing Modes. The healing properties of music have been recognized from ancient Greek civilization to the field of modern neuroscience and expressed in countless global traditions. The slow movement of Beethoven’s Opus 132, a ‘Song of Holy Thanksgiving From a Convalescent to the Deity in the Lydian mode,’ is among the most profound expressions of healing in the string quartet repertoire. This autumnal masterwork is presented in its entirety alongside five compact new commissions which explore the subject of healing from a wide range of historical and cultures perspectives. Composers include Tyondai Braxton, Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Matana Roberts and recent Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw.

Bonnie Whiting performs 51’15.657″ for a Speaking Percussionist by John Cage. 

June 27, 2018 at BMCM+AC at 56 Broadway. Presented in collaboration with the Asheville Percussion Festival, 51’15.657″ for a Speaking Percussionist is Bonnie Whiting’s realization of a solo simultaneous performance of John Cage’s 45′ for a Speaker and 27’10.554″ for a Percussionist. These are vintage pieces: music from the mid-50’s and part of a series of timed works that Cage enjoyed mixing together and referred to in notes and letters as “the ten thousand things.” A culmination of 14 months of work and study, Whiting is the first performer to execute both pieces in their entirety.

John Cage 33 1/3 (1969) performed by María Chávez and Audience

Performed June 6, 2018 at BMCM+AC at 56 Broadway. Conceived in 1969 as an audience participation work, John Cage’s original “score” simply stipulated that the gallery be filled with about a dozen record players and two- to three-hundred vinyl records. Museum visitors were encouraged to act as DJs and create a musical mix by playing records freely and thus performing the work. This realization was performed by María Chávez and an open audience, with 300 records compiled by curator Jade Dellinger, including records chosen by Yoko Ono, Iggy Pop, Graham Nash, David Byrne (Talking Heads), Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music), Jack White (The White Stripes), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Richie Ramone (The Ramones), Jad Fair (Half-Japanese), Alex James (Blur), Meredith Monk, Terry Allen, Irwin Chusid, Arto Lindsay (DNA & Lounge Lizards), Blixa Bargeld (Einsturzende Neubauten), Mike Kelley (Destroy All Monsters), S.A. Martinez (311), David Harrington (Kronos Quartet), Emil Schult (Kraftwerk), Pauline Oliveros, The Residents, Vito Acconci, The Art Guys, Martin Atkins (Public Image Ltd.), John Baldessari, Matthew Barney, Christian Marclay Joan LaBarbara, Jim Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha and William Wegman.

Dance Heginbotham + Maira Kalman’s The Principles of Uncertainty

The BMCM+AC Performance Initiative continued on March 16 + 17, 2018. BMCM+AC, in partnership with UNC Asheville, presented the Southeast Premiere of Dance Heginbotham and Maira Kalman’s The Principles of Uncertainty, a new evening-length dance theater work by choreographer John Heginbotham and author/illustrator Maira Kalman. Adapted from Kalman’s New York Times column turned book of the same name and described by the two artists as an “absurdist travelogue,” Principles of Uncertainty marries the nostalgic whimsy of Kalman’s illustrations with Heginbotham’s controlled yet playful choreography to create an evening that explores life, death and everything in between. Heginbotham directs and choreographs the work, while Kalman oversees all elements of design—sets, props, projections and costumes, bringing her 2D illustrations to life on the stage. Kalman is also present on stage, alongside Dance Heginbotham, actor Daniel Pettrow and members of The Knights. Composer Colin Jacobsen—a member of string quartet Brooklyn Rider, chamber ensemble The Knights, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble—serves as Music Director of the project. Principles of Uncertainty premiered August 17, 2017 at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival followed by a New York Premiere at BAM Next Wave Festival and travelled to Durham, North Carolina after this Southeast Premiere in Asheville.

Related Events:

  • Wednesday, March 14th at 6pm – Maira Kalman Reading and Book Signing at Malaprops Bookstore for The Principles of Uncertainty (2007) and her new book, Beloved Dog (2017.)
  • Wednesday, March 14th, Dance Heginbotham Workshop at NC School for the Deaf
  • Wednesday, March 14th, Dance for PD Masterclass with John Heginbotham
  • Saturday, March 17th at 1pm, Coffee + Conversation with John + Maira

Press for The Principles of Uncertainty, Asheville:


Made possible, in part, by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, & support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with UNC Asheville. The Principles of Uncertainty was co-commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and was created during residencies at BAM Fisher, The Banff Centre, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the NYU Center for Ballet and the Arts. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Image credit: David Dashiell, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow Dance

The Tesla Quartet


On Friday, February 23 the Tesla Quartet performed selections by composer Hugo Kauder. This special program is presented in collaboration with The Hugo Kauder Society. Kauder was a composer-in-residence at BMC in the summer of 1945. The program included Kauder’s String Quartet 4, a piece performed at BMC in 1945, as well as Bartok’s String Quartet 3 and transcriptions of works by Gesualdo and Ravel by Tesla violinist Ross Snyder. Praised for their “superb capacity to find the inner heart of everything they play, regardless of era, style, or technical demand” (The International Review of Music), the Tesla Quartet brings refinement and prowess to both new and established repertoire. The group was formed at The Juilliard School in 2008 and includes Ross Snyder (violin), Michelle Lie (violin), Edwin Kaplan (viola), and Serafim Smigelskiy (cello).


Cardell Dance Theatre’s Supper, People on the Move


Silvana Cardell’s Supper, People on the Move is a dance performance inspired by themes of migration and the complex experience of dislocation. Physical bodies moving between physical places define migration and the immigrant journey at the heart of humanity’s ability to survive. This Asheville engagement was accompanied by an exhibition of photographs and narratives by Philadelphia-based artist Jennifer Baker and local photographer Steve Mann, “Portraits of People on the Move” featuring stories of those in our WNC community. Audiences were invited to share in a group meal to discuss and connect over the themes brought forth by Cardell Dance Theatre’s performance. Supper, People on the Move was hosted at Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer’s 22 London Road Studio/ Exhibition Space on October 27 + 28, 2017. 

What began for choreographer Silvana Cardell as dance borne of her personal history, evolved into an examination of the human experience of all people on the move, looking for new horizons. The immigrant journey is at the heart of a human’s ability to survive. Physical bodies moving between physical places define immigration. It is only appropriate that dance performed by virtuosic, striking dancers, is the art form to explore this experience and create a work of art from it. From the beginning of history people have migrated; it is at the soul of human evolution. Supper takes the movement of migration and transforms it into art, into a dance that transcends its literal origins yet is grounded in them. In performance, the art of the movement of human migration is revealed.


The presentation of “Supper, People on the Move” was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and support by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. We extend our gratitude to those who bravely shared their stories of immigration for “Portraits of People on the Move,” as well as all those who brought their personal experience to “Supper.”  

Image Credit: Bill Herbert


Music for Modernist Shapes: Reimagining Spectodrama

ACTIVE ARCHIVE is a stream of programs that pairs the museum’s extensive collection with contemporary artists, curators, and cultural thinkers. It launches with an exhibition featuring the museum’s permanent collection curated by Philadelphia-based interdisciplinary artist Martha McDonald.

McDonald brought the ideas of Black Mountain College alive through an exhibition of artwork and ephemera from BMCM+AC’s collection and a live performance drawing on the rich history of experimental performance at BMC.  The exhibition, across both galleries, focused on the importance of process and material exploration at BMC. 

McDonald’s performance activated her installation of objects and costumes drawn from Xanti Schawinsky’s 1936 experimental theater piece, Spectodrama, which formed the basis of his Stage Studies course at BMC. McDonald’s piece, in collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Laura Baird featured music inspired by John Evarts’ collaborations with Schawinsky at BMC from 1936-38. 

Music for Modernist Shapes: Reimagining Spectodrama was performed on November 17 + 18 at BMCM+AC’s 69 Broadway Gallery.

Press for ACTIVE ARCHIVE: Martha McDonald: 

Support for this project has been generously provided by the following: Henry Luce Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Windgate Charitable Foundation. Special thanks to Bill Adair and Connie Bostic.

Image Credit: Michael Oppenheim

Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ Black Mountain Songs 

The BMCM+AC Performance Initiative kicked off during ReVIEWING Black Mountain College 9 with the Southeast Premiere of the acclaimed work Black Mountain Songs. Commissioned and produced by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and BAM, and curated by Bryce Dessner (The National) and Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Black Mountain Songs is inspired by Black Mountain College, its prolific community of artists, and their work, and rekindles the College’s utopian spirit. The Chorus performs music written for them by eight composers: Dessner and Parry, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, Aleksandra Vrebalov, John King, Tim Hecker, and Jherek Bischoff. Featuring contributions from filmmaker Matt Wolf (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell), Black Mountain Songs is an expansive choral and visual work. This exquisite production premiered at BAM in 2014. New Amsterdam Records released an acclaimed recording of the work—Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ first album—earlier this year.

The Black Mountain Songs performances took place at the Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville on September 29 + 30. 

Press for Black Mountain Songs, Asheville:

Thank You to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their support of the BMCM+AC Performance Initiative, a partnership with UNC Asheville that brings world class performances to Downtown Asheville. 

Image Credit: Michael Oppenheim