Ojai 2013

The Ojai Music Festival has shown up once before on DTM, on a 1962 program by Gunther Schuller where Eric Dolphy played Varèse.

Over the years it has grown into one of America’s most respected classical musical festivals.  The current artistic director is Thomas W. Morris, and this year the music director is Mark Morris.

Mark is my former boss and mentor. (This old Terry Teachout NY Times profile explains further.) One day I’ll write a proper essay about everything I’ve learned from Mark Morris. That will be a long essay. The first TBP/Mark Morris Dance Group collaboration was Violet Cavern in 2004. Reid, Dave, and I are thrilled about his next premiere, Spring, Spring, Spring.

Ojai has never focused on American composers before, but since Mark has choreographed Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Henry Partch, John Harbison, Kyle Gann, and especially Lou Harrison, it only makes sense for the Morris-curated year to invite Californian classical music lovers to discover who lives in their neighborhood. My own first exposures to Cowell and Harrison were through Mark:  I can’t wait to see the new dance Jenn and Spencer set to Cowell’s unjustly obscure but utterly delightful neo-baroque Suite for Violin and Piano.

The full program for the Ojai Festival includes not just MMDG in flight and important concert music by Cowell, Harrison, and Ives, but also generous servings of John Cage and John Luther Adams, plus glimpses of Samuel Barber, William Bolcom, Carl Ruggles, Vincent Persichetti, and even Terry Riley’s In C.  At least some of TBP is planning to join in the latter…

Other TBP engagements include a “concert” version of our Rite of Spring alongside original music, a (relatively) spontaneous score to the legendary Charles Bryant/Alla Nazimova film Salomé and an open mic night (!) led by Mark.

With Yulia Van Doren I’ll be playing Four Walls by John Cage. This early work is long but easy on the ear.  Apparently it was the first major Cage/Cunningham collaboration from the mid-40s.  As always, Cage gave himself some strict rules. All white notes: two metronome markings: extreme dynamics: a surprise easter egg (the vocal in the middle). It’s my first time working on Cage. I’m planning to be pretty theatrical with it, especially since Yulia and I won’t have dancers. At least I will have a “Four Walls Costume” made by Maile Okamura.

The following week we all travel up to Berkeley for Ojai North! and the premiere of Mark Morris’s dance to the Rite of Spring. I hope I’m not letting a cat of the bag here: Mark told me years ago that the Rite was “unchoreographable.” (Apparently that was Balanchine’s ruling.) Of course, it is famous as a ballet, but I understood what Mark meant after I saw assorted terrible Rite dances over the years.

I’m glad Mark has changed his mind. Reid and I played through our version with MMDG last week. To see all of Stravinsky’s complex yet clear, frankly prog rock mixed meter rhythms translated precisely and perfectly to Mark’s brilliant company was heart-stopping. We expect Spring, Spring, Spring to be a hit.

TBP/Salomé and Four Walls reprise in Berkeley, too.

LA Times preview of Mark Morris at Ojai.

NPR: Why Jazz Musicians Love The Rite of Spring.

DTM: Mixed Meter Mysterium.