“It’s like a dream to be able to play over the course of only a few days and hear my most beloved musical pieces of our time, and to share with the audience members of the most vibrant and progressive festival on the American continent – OJAI. These pieces changed my life – I hope they will also find a very special place in your souls,” Patricia Kopatchinskaja, 2018 Music Director.
The 2018 Ojai Music Festival welcomes the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in its first extended United States residency. The Mahler Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1997 based on the shared vision of being a free and international ensemble, dedicated to creating and sharing exceptional experiences in classical music. With 45 members spanning 20 different countries at its core, the MCO works as a nomadic collective of passionate musicians uniting for specific tours in Europe and across the world. Based in Berlin, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra forms the basis of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and has long and fruitful artistic relationships with major artists, including Ms. Kopatchinskaja and Mitsuko Uchida, Ojai’s 2021 Music Director. In Ojai, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra will be featured both as an orchestral ensemble, and showcased for the solo and chamber music artistry of its members.
Major 2018 Festival projects include two staged concerts designed by Ms. Kopatchinskaja. The first is Bye Bye Beethoven, which she describes as a commentary on “the irrelevance of the classic concert routine for our present life.” This staged program features a mash-up of music by Charles Ives, John Cage, Joseph Haydn, György Kurtág, Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Ms. Kopatchinskaja’s second semi-staged concert is her own provocative commentary on the inevitable consequences on the planet of global warming. Titled Dies Irae, the program includes music by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Michael Hersch, Byzantine chant, Giacinto Scelsi, and Galina Ustvolskaya’s remarkable Dies Irae for eight double basses, piano, and wooden box.
American composer Michael Hersch will premiere at the 2018 Ojai Music Festival a new piece described by him as a dramatic cantata for two sopranos and eight instrumentalists. It will then be performed at Cal Performances’ Ojai at Berkeley and at Great Britain’s venerable Aldeburgh Festival. Mr. Hersch, who wrote a violin concerto for Ms. Kopatchinskaja two years ago, is considered one of the most gifted composers of his generation and is a formidable pianist. He currently serves on the composition faculty at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. This new work is a co-commission by the Ojai Music Festival, Cal Performances Berkeley, the Aldeburgh Festival, and PNReview, the prominent British poetry magazine at which Mr. Hersch is artist-in-residence.
Additional programming highlights include Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments; Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat on the occasion of its centennial; major chamber and piano music by Galina Ustvolskaya; as well as Roumanian and Moldavian folk music performed by Ms. Kopatchinskaja and her parents, Viktor and Emilia Kopatchinski on cimbalom and violin. The Festival closes with the Ligeti Violin Concerto performed by Patricia Kopatchinskaja.
Series Passes for 2018 Ojai Music Festival
Advance 2018 series subscriptions can be purchased here.
Ojai Valley schools are back in session and the BRAVO program is also in full swing! And thanks to the California Arts Council and generous donations from local organizations, all primary school grades will have full time music for the first time in several decades through our Education Through Music (ETM) classes.
In addition to programs in the classrooms, BRAVO will be out and about in the community. The Instrument Petting Zoo will once again make an appearance at Ojai Day on Saturday, October 21, 10am-5pm. Come visit us and try an instrument! Artist-in-Residence visits to the Continuing Care Center of Ojai Community Hospital, The Gables, and ARC-Ojai Enrichment Center will also continue throughout the year.
The Imagine Concert in February will inspire fourth through sixth grade students to join the magic of music-making. Then in the spring, the Music Van will make its annual appearance at the schools in February and March.
Many thanks to the BRAVO committee:
Sandra Shapiro, Co-Chair
Merrill Williams, Co-Chair
Joann Yabrof, Secretary
Save-the-date: The Festival Women’s Committee is looking forward to hosting the annual Holiday Home Tour and Marketplace November 11 and 12 with proceeds benefiting BRAVO.
I made my gift to the Festival’s Endowment Fund in gratitude for the years of music that Jeff and I experienced at the Festival, as an encouragement to maintain the creative spirit of the Festival, promote new works and artists, and in support of the Festival’s program and concerts which we hope will continue long into the future.
We dedicated the 2017 Festival to the unwavering support Bernice and Jeff have given to the Festival. As career-long UCLA Professors, both understand the importance of philanthropy in support of non-profit excellence. They never missed a year of being among the Festival’s most generous donors. This year, in addition to her annual support for the Festival, Bernice has made a new and pivotal donation: an endowment gift of one million dollars. And, as she had hoped, her gift became inspirational for others. Upon hearing of this donation, our Board Chair, David Nygren, made a very generous bequest to this endowment of his own. These gifts and bequests to the endowment are core to insuring that the work of the Festival will continue, and the margin for musical excellence will be maintained.
To honor Bernice and Jeff, we have placed, under the oaks in the lawn area, an historic bench from the Libbey Bowl with the same seat numbers, G 45 and G 47, where Bernice and Jeff sat together for more than five decades.
Their loyalty and their philanthropy are an inspiration to all. Bernice hopes that when you look at the bench you will be moved to join her in supporting the Festival with a current donation, and also consider a bequest or donation to the endowment of your own…. ensuring that you and others will experience the Ojai Music Festival for years to come.
BRAVO YEAR-END SUMMARY
The BRAVO committee, under the guidance of the Festival’s BRAVO education coordinator Laura Walter, has completed a very successful year of bringing music to Ojai Valley students and residents.
I. Local School Children
III. Outreach Presentations to Community Organizations
The 2017 Ojai Music Festival with Music Director Vijay Iyer embodied the spirit of the Festival with an openness to discovery and stretching musical boundaries. This year as Vijay expressed the 71st edition was an opportunity to bring various communities together. Relive the 2017 Festival anytime by watching our archived live streaming concerts on our You Tube channel. View photos here.
Feedback from our audience, artists, and members of the press is important to us. Read review excerpts, which we will continue to update as press reviews come in, or download the PDF version here.
[Vijay Iyer] made a festival with a history of daring and risk-taking become more vital and daring than ever. – San Diego Union-Tribune
The compelling feature was in what appeared to be Iyer’s own quest to find examples of how to take the next step and make the music your own.
For that he brought some of the great masters of day, with special and illuminating attention on Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Music. Friday night, Iyer presented the West Coast premiere of George Lewis’ brilliant 2015 opera, “Afterword,” written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of AACM” – Los Angeles Times
Over the weekend, we heard Iyer in multiple settings. He showed his ever-deepening attributes as a composer, most notably in the impressive world premiere of his engaging Violin Concerto, “Trouble,” for style-flexible virtuoso Jennifer Koh (whose late-night solo concert “Bach And Beyond,” melding Bach, Berio and others, was a bold highlight of the weekend). – DownBeat magazine
Proving once again that for the truly fearless, nothing is impossible, the 2017 Ojai Music Festival effectively erased the boundaries between jazz, classical, traditional Indian music, and more over the course of four sound-packed days in and around Libbey Bowl. – Santa Barbara Independent
Improvisation and invention from two continents staked out new ground somewhere in between. Was it jazz? Maybe. But as a whole, this year’s gathering in Ojai thrived under its long-held, suitably broad umbrella of “music festival,” and an excellent, engrossing one at that. Ultimately, those are the only labels that matter. – Los Angeles Times
Following 72nd Festival in Ojai with Music Director Patricia Kopatchinskaja
Ojai at Berkeley continues for 8th season June 15-17, 2018
“It’s like a dream to be able to play over the course of only a few days and hear my most beloved musical pieces of our time, and to share with the audience members of the most vibrant and progressive festival on the American continent – OJAI. These pieces changed my life – I hope they will find a very special place also in your souls. I am delighted we can share some of these programs with Berkeley and with Aldeburgh.” Patricia Kopatchinskaja, 2018 Music Director.
(OJAI CA – June 9) – As the Ojai Music Festival anticipates the 71st Festival (June 8-11, 2017) with Music Director Vijay Iyer, the Festival is proud to announce a new partnership with the renowned Aldeburgh Festival at Snape Maltings. Following the 2018 Festival in Ojai with Music Director Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the following week’s Ojai at Berkeley presented in collaboration with Cal Performances, the new partnership will take place during the Aldeburgh Festival (June 8th – 24th) based at the acclaimed Snape Maltings Concert Hall.
Ojai Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris said, “The Aldeburgh Festival has long been a beacon of music festivals – sharing Ojai’s commitment to adventure, innovation, and creativity. It is an enormous pleasure to announce our new partnership for co-productions and co-commissions with Snape Maltings, joining with our eight-year partnership with Cal Performances in Berkeley. Roger Wright, Chief Executive of Snape Maltings which runs the Aldeburgh Festival, is a long time friend and colleague, and his enthusiasm for new music, creative programming, and many of the same artists we enjoy in Ojai made the partnership inevitable.”
“I am delighted at the prospect of this new partnership between the Aldeburgh Festival and Ojai, and to join in the creation of new work and innovative programming for which both our Festivals are acclaimed. It will be a pleasure to work with Tom Morris, an inspirational colleague, and to continue to develop distinctive programming and build new audiences for significant new work,” said Chief Executive of Snape Maltings, Roger Wright.
“Ojai is more than a musical gathering — it is a festival of distinctive artistic ideas,” commented Matías Tarnopolsky, Executive and Artistic Director of Cal Performances, home of Ojai at Berkeley. “That’s the essential reason Cal Performances chose to create a now longstanding partnership with the Ojai Music Festival to bring the focused and concise best of each year’s programs to Berkeley. Aldeburgh Festival, a jewel among Britain’s summer festivals, is Ojai’s peer in intellectual stature and in its superb setting, and the perfect onward journey from Ojai at Berkeley. Cal Performances is proud to join hands with Aldeburgh Festival and the Ojai Music Festival in expanding Ojai’s musical horizons.”
The collaboration with Snape Maltings follows the formation of Ojai at Berkeley as a partnership of co-productions and co-commissions that affords the Ojai Music Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival, and Cal Performances the ability to present more complex and creative artistic projects than could be conceived by each partner separately. The relationship launches in June 2018, for an initial four-year period.
The 2018 Ojai Music Festival
The 2018 Ojai Music Festival welcomes the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in its first extended United States residency. The Mahler Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1997 based on the shared vision of being a free and international ensemble, dedicated to creating and sharing exceptional experiences in classical music. With 45 members spanning 20 different countries at its core, the MCO works as a nomadic collective of passionate musicians uniting for specific tours in Europe and across the world. Based in Berlin, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra forms the basis of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and has long and fruitful artistic relationships with major artists, including Ms. Kopatchinskaja and Mitsuko Uchida, Ojai’s 2021 Music Director. In Ojai, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra will be featured both as an orchestral ensemble, and showcased the solo and chamber music artistry of its members.
Major 2018 Ojai Festival projects include two staged concerts designed by Ms. Kopatchinskaja. The first is Bye Bye Beethoven, which she describes as a commentary on “the irrelevance of the classic concert routine for our present life.” This staged program features a mash-up of music by Charles Ives, John Cage, Joseph Haydn, Gyorgy Kurtag, Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Ms. Kopatchinskaja’s second semi-staged concert is her own provocative commentary on the inevitable consequences of global warming on the planet. Titled Dies Irae, the program includes music by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Michael Hersch, Byzantine chant, Giacinto Scelsi, and Galina Ustvolskaya’s remarkable Dies Irae for eight double basses, piano, and wooden box.
American composer Michael Hersch will premiere at the 2018 Ojai Music Festival a new piece, described by him as a dramatic cantata for two sopranos and eight instrumentalists. It will then be performed at Cal Performances’ Ojai at Berkeley and at the Aldeburgh Festival. Mr. Hersch, who wrote a violin concerto for Ms. Kopatchinskaja two years ago, is considered one of the most gifted composers of his generation and is a formidable pianist. He currently serves on the composition faculty at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. This new work is a co-commission by the Ojai Music Festival, Cal Performances Berkeley, the Aldeburgh Festival, and PNReview, the prominent British poetry magazine at which Mr. Hersch is artist-in-residence.
Additional programming highlights include Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments; Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat on the occasion of its centennial; major chamber and piano music by Galina Ustvolskaya; as well as Rumanian and Moldavian folk music performed by Ms. Kopatchinskaja and her parents, Viktor and Emilia Kopatchinski on cimbalom and violin. The Festival closes with the Ligeti Violin Concerto performed by Patricia Kopatchinskaja.
Additional details for Ms. Kopatchinskaja’s 2018 Festival will be announced in the fall. For up-to-date Festival information, artist biographies and photos, and access to concert, etc., visit website Ojaifestivals.org
Advance 2018 series subscriptions will be available for purchase during the 2017 Festival and online immediately following on June 12 at OjaiFestival.org.
Ojai at Berkeley
Next week marks the eighth year of artistic partnership. Ojai at Berkeley celebrates the dynamic nature of the Ojai Music Festival and of Cal Performances. As two distinct communities, Ojai and Berkeley are both known for intrepid artistic discovery, spirited intellect, and enduring engagement in the arts. Inaugurated in 2011, Ojai at Berkeley is a joint force that enables co-commissions and co-productions and allows artists to achieve more than could be imagined by each organization separately. Ojai at Berkeley will take place from June 15-17 in Berkeley, CA, following the Ojai Music Festival. For more information, visit CalPerformances.org.
Aldeburgh Festival was founded in 1948 by composer Benjamin Britten, and is centered in a collection of renovated mid-nineteenth century malthouses in England’s East Anglia, northwest of London along the coast in the village of Snape, a few miles inland from the town of Aldeburgh. Celebrating its 70th Festival in 2017, the two-week Aldeburgh Festival emphasizes the presentation of new and distinctive repertoire and performances and features the music of Britten. Music theatre and opera form part of the program, as does the presentation of a visual arts program. The Festival is run by Snape Maltings, which is a unique creative campus running a year-round residency and performance program including the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, Aldeburgh Residencies, Aldeburgh Young Musicians, the Jerwood Opera Writing Programme and the Snape Proms.
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Special thanks to Lynn Bremer and California Internet for making our live stream possible.
|7:45 PM||Live from the Libbey Bowl|
|7:50 PM||Steve Smith & Thomas Kotcheff: Welcome!|
|8:00 PM||Evening Concert
VIJAY IYER: Emergence, Trouble, A Cosmic Rhythm
9:00 AM Daybreak Concert
JEN SHYU: Seven Solo Rites
|12:50 PM||Steve Smith & Thomas Kotcheff: Welcome to Day 2!|
|1:00 PM||Afternoon Concert Part I
CLAIRE CHASE: Density 2036
|2:30 PM|| Afternoon Concert Part II
TYSHAWN SOREY: The Inner Spectrum of Variables
|6:55 PM||Steve Smith & Thomas Kotcheff|
|7:00 PM||Ojai Talks III
“The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians: Ongoing Impact,” moderated by Ara Guzeliman
|7:45 PM||Steve Smith & Thomas Kotcheff|
|8:00 PM||Evening Concert
GEORGE LEWIS: “Afterword”
|10:30 PM||Late Night Concert
JENNIFER KOH: “Bach and Beyond”
|9:00 AM||Daybreak Concert
NICOLE MITCHELL: Engraved in The Wind
|12:50 PM||Steve Smith & Thomas Kotcheff: Welcome to Day 3!|
|1:00 PM||Afternoon Concert Part I
|2:30 PM||Afternoon Concert Part II
TYSHAWN SOREY: Conduction
|7:30 PM||Thomas Kotcheff Interview with Rudresh Mahanthappa|
|7:45 PM||Steve Smith & Thomas Kotcheff|
|8:00 PM||Evening Concert
ICE with STEVEN SCHICK: “Le Sacre du Printemps” (Stravinsky, Arr. Cliff Colnot)
VIJAY IYER and PRASHANT BHARGAVA: “Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi”
|10:30 PM||Late Night Concert
BRENTANO QUARTET: “Art of the Fugue”
VIJAY IYER: “Time, Place, Action”
COURTNEY BRYAN: “Yet Unheard”
|10:00 AM||Free Community Concert
THE TRIO: Muhal Richard Abrams, George Lewis & Roscoe Mitchell
|12:50 PM||Steve Smith & Alan Chapman: Welcome to Day 4!|
|1:00 PM||Afternoon Concert
Zakir Hussain; Vijay Iyer; Rudresh Mahanthappa; Aruna Sairam
|5:00 PM||Alan Chapman & Artistic Director Thomas Morris|
|5:30 PM||Evening Concert
VIJAY IYER SEXTET
|5:20 PM||Steve Smith & Alan Chapman|
|5:30 PM||Evening Concert
VIJAY IYER SEXTET
|7:30 PM||Steve Smith & Alan Chapman|
Between concerts, you can roam the downtown Ojai Arcade but also enjoy Libbey Park where you can meet up with friends, relax in our sitting areas, or have a picnic.
New this year during the Festival is our Pub in the Park, where you can have a glass of wine or craft beer provided by Attitude Adjustment. Hours are Friday, June 9 and Saturday, June 10, from 5pm to 10:30pm. (Must be 18-years or older. Prices will vary on wine, beer, and cider)
Throughout the 4-day Festival, patrons and the public can enjoy the awe-inspiring audio-kinetic installation, Rio Negro II, created by Douglas Ewart and Douglas Repetto with music by George Lewis, which will be located near the Libbey Park Gazebo. And in the Gazebo, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will set up shop offering free ICE Pop-U concerts with music by George Lewis, Anthony Braxton, and Mario Diaz de Leon. View the Festival schedule here.
Another addition to this year, is our outdoor Green Room where audience members can mingle and chat with Festival artists after each concert. The Green Room will be at the the center of the park.
Take home something to help you remember your Ojai experience! Visit the Festival Pop-Up Boutique featuring merchandise from our new Patagonia® Ojai Music Festival line and Festival T-shirts, as well as essentials including baseball caps, back pillows, blankets, and tote bags. Plus, pick up the latest recordings of your favorite Festival artists. Visit other booths highlighting the best of the Ojai Valley, including the Ojai Olive Oil, Ojai Citrus Growers, Wachter Hay & Grain, and the “Inventing Ojai” exhibit of the Ojai Valley Museum.
Need a quick bite or refreshments during intermission or before and after the concerts? Visit the Festival Grab-n-Go Market for quick snacks, including local Thacher Road Cookies, Lark Ellen Granola, and Lori’s Lemonade, plus coffee provided by NoSo Vita. Sales benefit the Ojai Music Festival.
Special thanks to the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne for their underwriting support to foster engagement with Festival patrons, new audiences, and the community
Freelance writer/fine art and antiques broker Leslie A. Westbrook covers Ojai and Ventura County for Ventana magazine and the Ventura County Reporter among other outlets.
She had been attending the Ojai Music Festival off and on for more than three decades. Her father – “under the radar” jazz pianist and composer Forrest Westbrook – joined her at the Festival during the later part of his life and became a fan as well. Leslie really wishes he was still alive to partake in this year’s jazzy fest— but he will be with her in spirit. We asked Leslie for some of her favorite spots and things to do in Ojai and she has a nice long list to share:
Music fans cannot live on music alone (well, almost) so what to do in-between concerts? Explore the valley and all it has to offer. Here are a few more reasons (as if you needed one!) to hit Ojai for the Festival this year.
For quick, casual but tasty Mexican, two hole-in-the wall spots popular with locals:
The pineapple tamales at La Fuente (tucked into the corner of a strip mall) are sweetly addictive, but there are six other flavors ranging from cheese and chili to corn or pork. Street tacos on homemade rosemary tortillas at Ojai Tortilla House satisfy – be prepared to wait in line and eat on the street (no tables here), or better yet, head to Libbey Park and grab a picnic table where you can also enjoy the Rio Negro II sound installation.
Quick nibble before the tennis court pre-concert chat and evening concert? Pop into Azu for tapas and beers. Looking for a great gluten-free meal – Food Harmonics is the new “kid on the block” right on the Arcade.
For a more leisurely meal, Suzanne’s is a long time favorite for concert goers (seafood entrees at dinner; salads at lunch); Nocciola is a wonderful alternative in town. Leave plenty of time so you don’t miss a concert to indulge in the tasting menus in this charmingly restored historic Craftsman bungalow – Bravo to owner/chef Pietro Biondi for bringing a tasty bit of Italy to Shangri-La.
Wake UP! and smell the freshly roasted coffee sourced and roasted by the owners at Beacon Coffee Co. (new since last year’s fest) and a tasty savory or grab a cuppa java at longtime fave Ojai Roasting Co. The gigantic berry muffins at Ojai Café Emporium will hold you through morning concerts.
Midday refreshment? Grab a smoothie or healthy salads from the deli case at Rainbow Bridge – and people watch from a street side table.
Pop in for a pre-concert wine tasting at The Ojai Vineyard tasting room – we’ve never had a bad wine from winemaker Adam Tolmach. At the Festival’s new “Pub in the Park” on Friday and Saturday night, Attitude Adjustment will have OV wines available for purchase.
PRAY/MEDITATE / CHILLAX
Ojai is famous as a spiritualist retreat and community, Krishnamurti lived here – visit the philosopher’s library and former home in Ojai’s East End. Or head to Meditation Mount for stunning views of the valley.
From contemporary fine art to handmade pottery, Ojai prides itself on the talent in the valley. If you like what you see, plan to revisit Ojai during the annual Studio Artists Tour in the fall and visit studios and meet the artists.
The Porch Gallery shows cutting edge contemporary art, During the Festival check out its current exhibit – the Ojai Invitational 2017: “California Space & Light”, a collaboration with EMS Arts featuring selected works by Kelly Berg, Brad Howe, Andy Moses and Jennifer Wolf.
Ojai has an earthly side, too. Contemporary ceramics can be purchased at PSpace Pottery or take a drive up and over the grade to visit Ojai icon Beatrice Wood’s (1893-1998) pottery studio, who credited her longevity thusly: “I owe it all to art books, chocolates, and young men.”). We’d add good music.
De Kor & Co, is a great emporium for a mix of home wares, clothing and cool gifts. Rains is an old-fashioned department store and Ojai institution. Walk on through – for men and women’s clothing and a great kitchen department! Partake in olive oil tasting at former high fashion mode Carolina Gramm’s gorgeous shop – she flavors EVOO and vinegars as well with subtle flavors. Walnut balsamic vinegar is a fav, but find your own amidst the vast array.
Don’t miss the Sunday Farmer’s Market – Mingle with locals and check out Ventura County’s rich cornucopia of flavorful, fresh organic produce. Nibble on popsicles in unique flavors (chili anyone?), chocolates made by a mother/daughter team, baked goods and other treats and you might even find Golden State papayas – who knew these tropical treats are raised in our region?
Need to stretch? Hike Shelf Road – or take a drive 3 miles to stroll Taft Gardens to admire exotic and rare botanicals from Australia and beyond.
Last but not least, don’t miss Ojai’s famous Pink Moment – the magic glow at sunset that kisses the Topa Topa mountain range.
A Message from the Music Director
Thank you for joining us for these very special days and nights of music in Ojai. After two years of planning, we’ve somehow managed to gather dozens of my favorite artists: creative visionaries across generations, geographies, and histories, every one of them beyond category.
I am honored to be a featured composer and pianist throughout this Festival, but I’m even more pleased to report that it’s not all about me. You will find many other recurring themes over the weekend: improvisation and “real-time” music making; American experimentalism; radically inventive composer-performers; non-European musical systems; dialogue between the past and the present; collective struggles against racism and oppression; and central to all of this, the legacy of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).
You will recognize some performers and composers from past Festivals (Aruna Sairam, Tyshawn Sorey, Steven Schick, George Lewis, ICE), and you will meet others whose sounds are new to Ojai (Jen Shyu, Courtney Bryan, and myself). You will meet legendary elders (Zakir Hussain, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Roscoe Mitchell) and younger upstarts (Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Cory Smythe). You will hear state-of-the-art interpreters (Jennifer Koh, Brentano Quartet, Claire Chase, and Helga Davis) and wizardly real-time creators (Graham Haynes, Wadada Leo Smith, Nicole Mitchell, and Mark Shim). You will hear music as object—composed opuses, whether finished centuries ago or with ink still fresh—and you will hear music as process—the sonic choices of networks of actors moving in relation to each other and to their environment. And you might notice that—to some degree, every musical performance contains both of these elements.
By now you’ve probably heard or read my suggestion that we should replace the word “genre” with “community”—a very different word, concerned not with styles, but with people. I realize that the latter has become a no-less-hackneyed term, wishful and forced, invoked too often. With this distinction I only meant to point out a simple truth about music: In listening to each other, we become connected. When done with patience and compassion, listening can elicit recognition of the other as a version of one’s own self. This kind of empathic listening shakes us out of our habitual role as musical “consumers,” by reminding us that music is the sound of human action, and not a disembodied substance. It de-centers “the composer” as the primary actor in music, and reorients us instead towards the shared present: being together in time. Empathic listening begins to bring all of us in, music makers and observers alike, towards a shared purpose.
Here we find common cause with Judith Butler’s Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly, her recent far-reaching meditations on the politics inherent in the act of gathering. When we, as assembled bodies, are able to theorize a common purpose—to reflect upon ourselves, or to dream together, if you prefer—that is the moment that we become political; that is when we are first able to unite around something larger than the self, deeper than aesthetic enjoyment, more urgent than mere curiosity. In this sense, I would add, the moment we commit to empathetic listening, to hearing one another as fellow human beings, we immediately have the potential for not just community, but equality and justice, through direct action and collective transformation. And I am certain that such moments, such purposeful shared presence—a power stronger than itself—will emerge, here, this weekend, with and among each other.
So I thank you, once again, for assembling, and for listening.
Ojaipedia Entry #1
This series aims to provide additional information and context about the 2017 Ojai Music Festival.
Thursday, June 8
8:00 – 10:00pm
There will be three performances during the Ojai Music Festival’s opening concert. The concert offers distinct modes of performance that rarely share a concert stage. The concert begins with Emergence, a piece for orchestra and trio, which incorporates compositional interpretation alongside improvisation. After that, Vijay Iyer’s violin concerto Trouble premieres, with Jennifer Koh as the soloist. Finally, Vijay Iyer and composer-trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith will perform selections from their recent project A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke.
To quote Wikipedia: “In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is a phenomenon whereby larger entities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities such that the larger entities exhibit the properties the smaller/simpler entities do not exhibit.”
Under this definition, music making is emergence. The “simpler” entities are the individuals who exhibit sound, such as performers, audience members, the conductor, and the composer. In Vijay Iyer’s Emergence, an orchestra and a trio work together to create the music. The orchestra follows the lead of a score and a conductor (Steve Schick), while the trio members have license to improvise. If you listen to this recording from last week, you can hear the direct, emergent communication that occurs.
When the orchestra and an improvisational solo seem to perfectly synchronize, listeners may wonder, “was that on purpose?” Whether those moments are “composed” in advance or in real time, the answer is yes.
Vijay Iyer’s violin concerto Trouble premieres after Emergence. In his notes for the piece’s workshop version, Iyer says, “When meeting with Jennifer Koh over the past year to discuss the details of this piece, I often found it difficult to focus; typically we found ourselves instead recoiling in horror at the events of any given day. This pattern has only intensified since January 20, as we find our communities, our country, and our planet in greater peril with each passing hour. In creating the piece I found myself both channeling and pushing against the sensation of extreme precarity that pervades our moment.” Exploring different relationships between the soloist and the group, Iyer says “the soloist can embody the relationship of an artist to her community: not so much a “leader” or “hero,” but something more like a shaman, a conduit for the forces in motion around us.”
Jennifer Koh, the Oberlin Contemporary String Ensemble, and International Contemporary Ensemble will perform under the baton of Steven Schick, Ojai’s 2015 music director. Here is a picture of Vijay Iyer reviewing the score while Jennifer Koh and the Oberlin players rehearse in Oberlin’s Warner Hall:
(a nice shot by Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris)
A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke
In his New Yorker review for 2016’s Big Ears Festival, Alex Ross described Vijay Iyer and Wadada Leo Smith’s performance: “Smith presents a fragment of chiselled melody, like a pillar of a building that has otherwise fallen to ruin. Iyer answers with a misty dissonance or a ghostly filigree pattern. They create an illusion of vast space in which two solitary paths intersect. At one extraordinary moment, Smith began climbing up the steps of the major scale, as if he had found a stairway to the light; but then he let his tone crack, reverted to halting chromatic steps, and fell silent.”
Wadada Leo Smith was an early member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). The organization’s influence emanates through the Festival, with Afterword, an opera, art installation Rio Negro II, and a performance by a trio of early AACM members Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, and George Lewis as Festival highlights.
The title “Ojaipedia” draws inspiration from our friends at the LA Philharmonic’s “Philpedia” webpage. We designed this “pedia” to be interactive; please feel free to contribute, dispute, or clarify things by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Any additional information is welcome and encouraged.
When you make a gift to the Ojai Music Festival, you help to create a place for groundbreaking musical experiences where artists are encouraged to take risks; where audiences feel deeply connected to the music and to each other; and where the community is welcomed with free performances and year-round education programs – all in the beautiful setting of the Ojai Valley.
Thank you for supporting the Ojai Music Festival!