Via The New York Times, written by Nate Chinen:
Paola Prestini, the creative and executive director of National Sawdust, stood in the space’s balcony one recent afternoon, looking over what would soon be a bustling concert hall. “The speakers just came in,” she said cheerfully, pointing at a rig hanging from the ceiling, still in its filmy protective covering. A geometric metal framework crisscrossed the room’s far wall, next to the hydraulic platforms that will make for a flexible stage.
National Sawdust, a nonprofit performance space, recording facility and creative hub in the shell of a century-old sawdust factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, opens on Oct. 1. It will be a significant addition to the musical landscape in New York — at least for a broadly defined constellation of artists working in the zone where compositional form, improvisational technique and global or technological savvy find ways to converge.
Founded by Kevin Dolan, a tax lawyer and amateur composer who contributed roughly $9 million to the project, National Sawdust has been in the works for years. (Its previous name was the Original Music Workshop.) Its centerpiece is an acoustically sealed theater, designed by the Brooklyn studio Bureau V with Arup, an engineering firm. A restaurant and lounge will be run by Patrick Connolly, a James Beard Award-winning chef.
The primary mission of National Sawdust is the incubation of new works through commissions, artist residencies and in-kind services like rehearsal space. Its first month of programming will include festivals devoted to the composers Terry Riley (Oct. 3-5) and John Zorn (Oct. 9-10 and 30-31); a screening of the silent film “Nanook of the North,” with a live score by the Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq (Oct. 2); the flex dancer Reggie Gray, known as Regg Roc, with the performance artist Helga Davis (Oct. 13); the mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran (Oct. 19); and the vocal shape-shifter Theo Bleckmann, with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble (Oct. 22).
“It’s essentially artists who have very, very strong identities,” said Ms. Prestini, a celebrated composer herself. “They are more than just great performers; they’re auteurs. They’re bringing forward a very specific perspective on their field — and an international perspective, really treating New York as a bridge to different cultures.”
National Sawdust has held performances throughout construction, and Ms. Prestini seemed unfazed by the apparent unfinished business on site. She was looking ahead to an opening-night program, “Discover the Space,” whose early show would include performances by Ms. Tagaq, Mr. Bleckmann, the mandolinist Chris Thile and the composer Nico Muhly.
The late show will include the steel pan player Andy Akiho, the poet Roger Bonair-Agard, the explosive art-pop band Cibo Matto and a special unannounced guest.
“I feel really ready,” Ms. Prestini said. “Even if there’ll be some kinks to work out, we’re ready.”