As one-third of the composer-collective Bang on a Can, David Lang is something of a genial father figure of the indie-classical scene. Talk to any of the world's main players and you're likely to hear them tell you about their life-changing stint in Bang on a Can's summer festival, which has acted as a sort of feeder school and incubator for the group's try-anything mentality. Lang's music has undergone many stylistic shifts over the years: In the 80s, he wrote bristlier stuff, but in the last decade or so, he's shifted quietly into a more pensive register. The Little Match Girl Passion, his 2008 work that won him a Pulitzer, was written for only four voices and some hand bells. This Was Written By Hand, his most recent recording, is a collection of short solo piano works played by the British pianist Andrew Zolinsky. The album holds the same, sustained melancholy mood: thoughtful, searching, elegiac, minimalist. Lang's way with repetitive phrasing doesn't feel like that of minimalists like Glass or Reich's, though.
Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang cut different figures. Joe was combative, a joker and man about town. Eddie was quiet, considerate and careful with money. They were born in Philadephia - Eddie in 1902, Joe in 1903 - to Italian immigrant parents. Both studied the violin. Their partnership began in their mid teens when Eddie joined Joe's newly-formed band as a guitarist. Soon they were performing as a duo. Eddie made the early running. In 1919 he joined Charlie Kerr's Orchestra as a violinist, switching to banjo.