Walk right in, sit right down/Daddy, let your mind roll on. Not that we’ll be hearing Gus Cannon’s 1929 country blues classic at the 2013 Ojai Music Festival, but his lyrics are a perfect fit for what Mark Morris has in store for us. It’s an informal, open-ended invitation to explore some of the most mind-expanding music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. American voices mostly, mostly West Coast, and very in the box: Lou Harrison, his teacher Henry Cowell, his friend and colleague John Cage, their patron saint, Charles Ives, and a couple of latter-day disciples in Terry Riley and John Luther Adams. Names we know, music we don’t. These are composers who have all challenged conventional High/Low, East/West, Music/Noise dichotomies and embraced what Morris calls a more inclusive idea of “Culture”.
Accordingly we’ll hear unusual mixtures of styles and instruments as in Harrison’s Concerto for Piano and Gamelan, Cowell’s Atlantis for voices, percussion and strings, and John Luther Adams’ songbirdsongs for percussion, piccolos and celesta (performed by red fish blue fish, the MMDG Music Ensemble, and UC Berkeley Gamelan Sari Raras). In the same spirit, we’ll see the Mark Morris Dance Group performs to string quartets by Cowell (played by the legendary American String Quartet), hear little-known songs by Cage, Cowell, Harrison, and Ruggles, and experience Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in an arrangement by the amazing The Bad Plus jazz trio. Morris has even re-imagined the concert experience itself by separating shorter, discrete musical segments with generous intervals that encourage the audience to discuss and explore. And there will be lots to explore because Morris aims to make year’s Ojai Festival a “valley-wide” experience with scheduled and spontaneous events scattered about town – extra concerts, films, talks, social dancing, toy pianos, and possibly even a marching band down Ojai Avenue. People on the move, taking notice, getting involved: Everybody’s talkin’’bout a new way of walkin’. And listening – thanks to Lou, Henry, John, and Charles.