One night it was Pierre Boulez at Carnegie Hall. On other nights it was John Zorn at the old Knitting Factory, or Devo in Central Park or Anna Netrebko at the Metropolitan Opera House. Maybe it was the punk band Atari Teenage Riot in the legendarily trashy dressing room at CBGB, or Ornette Coleman at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
The photographer Hiroyuki Ito stitched together 25 years of these nights, shooting wherever The Village Voice or The New York Times chose to send him. He went with open ears, figuring that life had handed him a chance to hear something new and serendipitous. “I want to come home with some kind of gift, because I was given something,” Mr. Ito, 49, said. “So instead of hating it, I want to find something good in it. Maybe not the whole concert, but five seconds of it.”
Mr. Ito has compiled 113 of his images in a self-published book called “Music NY 1992-2017,” with an accompanying essay by Ben Sisario of The Times — a visual guide to the city’s intensely diverse aural landscape. Does New York move to the beat of Lou Reed or the Kronos Quartet, to Fat Joe or the Latvian Radio Choir? The answer is yes, it does. And if you’re lucky, someone will send you out to catch all of it.
The work is a document of transience. Many of the venues and performers exist now only in memory. But the photos also tell a story of permanence, the suspension of time. The crowd-surfing fans at Bowery Ballroom, bottom or the retro flair of the Magnetic Fields, below left, could be from 1992 or 2017, or any year in between. Which is a trick of live music: The doors close, the lights go down, the workweek disappears. The only time is the time on the stage, the pulse of life itself.