The Best Band I’ve Ever Been In

A bright moment in a dark year was being asked to join Another Night on Earth, an international collective of electric guitarists performing classical music.

They say you’re a lucky musician if you get to work with players who are better than you. If this is true, I’m really frickin’ lucky.

Another Night on Earth (ANOE) is the brainchild of Heiko Ossig, a renowned concert guitarist who teaches of the University of Music and Theater in Hamburg, Germany. There he created the innovative Guitar Lab, where students meld traditional classical guitar approaches with modern technology. Ossig invited American composer/guitarist and Princeton University music professor Steven Mackey as a guest lecturer. (Mackey is almost certainly the world’s leading exponent of employing electric guitar in modern classical composition.) When the pandemic made that visit impossible, Ossig launched this project as an alternative.

In addition to Ossig and Mackey, the group includes six distinguished musicians: 

David Robertson is one of America’s leading orchestral conductors. After a long tenure as music director of the St. Louis Symphony and appearances with many of the world’s leading orchestras, he now serves as the director of conducting studies at New York’s Julliard School of Music. He also wields a mean Telecaster. 

Gretchen Menn is a California guitarist known for her virtuosity, musicality, and sheer stylistic range. A classic rock specialist, she performs with Zepparella, one of the leading Led Zeppelin tribute bands. But she also boasts a formidable classical pedigree, and she combines her influences in exciting and distinctive ways, often in ambitious extended-form compositions. 

• Italian virtuoso Daniele Gottardo boasts drop-dead technique and a phenomenally broad stylistic range. His rock shredding is second to none, but his repertoire also embraces classical music and jazz. Guitar icon Steve Vai has cited Daniele as his favorite contemporary player. 

• Korean-born classical guitarist Jiji is an assistant professor of music at Arizona State University. A tireless advocate for new music, she has premiered many works by emerging composers, often employing electric guitar. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and other premier classical music venues. 

• The New York Times rightly described composer/guitarist James Moore as “model new music citizen.” His career highlights include performing the music of John Zorn, George Crumb, and Steve Reich at such venues at BAM and the Barbican. He’s currently pursuing a PhD in music composition at Princeton. 

• Sometime last century Joe Gore dropped out of the PhD music composition program at UC Berkeley to play in rock bands. He went on to record and tour with Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Tracy Chapman, Courtney Love, John Cale, and many other artists. He’s also a music journalist who has edited for the magazines Guitar Player and Premier Guitar.

Assembling all this was a complicated but gratifying process. I talk about it in this video chat with conductor David Robertson, who may well be the heaviest musician I’ve ever collaborated with.

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