By Julie Shapiro
BATTERY PARK CITY — The 13-hour Bang on a Can music festival is returning to the World Financial Center this Sunday with a fresh lineup from composers including Yoko Ono, David Byrne and Bjork.
The annual contemporary music marathon will kick off downtown's River to River Festival with more than 150 performers and dozens of shows running back-to-back on the Winter Garden stage.
"It's accessible but also challenging," said Andy Horwitz, curator for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which runs the River to River Festival. "You never know exactly what you're going to get."
While Bang on a Can always draws well-known artists — top billing this year goes to composer Philip Glass, who will play two of his works with the Bang on a Can All-Stars — its primary purpose is to spotlight those who aren't yet famous, said Julia Wolfe, co-founder of the festival.
Wolfe started Bang on a Can in 1987 with her friends and fellow composers Michael Gordon and David Lang. They wanted to create a platform for contemporary music, without limiting themselves to the narrow genres that were increasingly dividing the music world.
They decided that the best way to do that was to bring together a wide variety of new music and offer it in a more casual environment, so people could come for what they liked and maybe hear something that surprised them.
The first free marathon was held in a SoHo art gallery, and it has since grown in popularity and reach, even running for several years in Lincoln Center.
"It's really wild and interesting stuff," Wolfe said. "You can just take it in. It's very relaxed — you're not straight-jacketed in a chair."
Bang on a Can will run from 11 a.m. to midnight June 19 in the World Financial Center Winter Garden, 220 Vesey St.