The Stone, an Influential Music Space, to Move to the New School
By ZACHARY WOOLFEMARCH 1, 2017
John Zorn, left, with Richard Kessler, the executive dean for performing arts at the New School. Todd Heisler/The New York Times
The Stone, a tiny but influential performance space that has been a fixture of the New York experimental music scene since it opened in 2005, has a new home. Its founder and artistic director, the composer John Zorn, announced on Wednesday that it will move from the East Village to Greenwich Village and take up residence at the New School’s College of Performing Arts.
Starting in March 2018, the Stone at the New School, as it will be officially known, will offer one concert a night at 8:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, in the Glass Box Theater, a ground-level space with large windows along West 13th Street in Arnhold Hall, the recently renovated home of the College of Performing Arts.
“It’s going to put this music into a different context,” Mr. Zorn said on Wednesday morning, in an interview in the theater with Richard Kessler, the executive dean for performing arts at the New School. “We’re not marginalized over on Avenue C and Second Street. We’re in the heart of the Village, in a serious space. I think it’s going to help the visibility of the music and the artists.”
The unlikely partnership between the small, scrappy Stone and the sprawling, 10,000-student-strong New School is actually natural, said Mr. Kessler, who is also dean of the school’s Mannes School of Music, and Mr. Zorn, who will remain artistic director of the new endeavor. Under Mr. Kessler, Mannes has become increasingly identified with contemporary work: Last month, students there gave the first conservatory performances of Robert Ashley’s innovative 1998 spoken-word opera, “Dust.” And since 2012, the school has presented short monthly educational residencies by performers appearing at the Stone. From June through next February, in addition to continuing performances at its East Village location, the Stone will present two shows a week at the New School, on Friday and Saturday evenings. (The lineup includes the bassist Bill Laswell in July, the guitarist Mary Halvorson in September and Laurie Anderson in December.)
“This is not just, ‘They’re using our space,’” Mr. Kessler said of Mr. Zorn and the Stone, who will collaborate with the school rent-free. “It’s something we own, something we’re responsible for. We have skin in the game. We’re seeing it as shared, as much ours as John’s.”
The Stone announced in December that it would leave its current home; Mr. Zorn said he made the decision merely because it was “time for a change” and not for any financial reason. He added that he is exploring the possibility of a new brick-and-mortar Stone, in addition to the New School location — perhaps a bar-performance-space combination like his Lower East Side club Tonic, which closed in 2007.
Showcasing a broad array of styles, from avant-jazz to contemporary classical, the Stone has operated as a nonprofit and is largely run by volunteers. Its vibe is informal but focused and a bit austere: No food or drink is served, and there is hardly room inside for socializing before or after performances. Artists, who have generally appeared in weeklong residencies, have been given wide programming latitude and receive all of the ticket revenue from their shows.
That revenue-sharing arrangement, and the volunteer network, will continue at the New School, where tickets will be $20, as they are in the East Village. But the new location is spiffier and more bustling, and, rather than weekly residencies by a single performer, artists will program a month of concerts at a time, featuring a variety of musicians. New School students may be involved in some performances, and the school plans to commission works from Stone artists. Once the paying audience is seated, students will be able to claim any remaining seats for free.
And to maintain the intimacy — not to say claustrophobia — that is the Stone’s trademark, the number of seats offered at the Glass Box Theater will be 74: precisely the same as in the East Village.