VIDEO: Philip Glass Announces Days and Nights Festival
February 26, 2011
It happened on the rain-spotted Friday afternoon of Feb. 25—Philip Glass arrived in Carmel Valley to talk about the first festival to which he’s attached his name, to take place here. (See the video of Glass talking with the Weekly after the announcement about the festival, the inspiration he draws from Big Sur and the acoustics at Henry Miller Library.)
He mingled among and blended right in to the 70-or-so others, mostly musically or artistically inclined luminaries like jazz saxophone master George Young, who teaches master classes at Hidden Valley's famed music workshops, and Cheryl Anderson, who, according to Hidden Valley's dance instructor Deanna Ross, runs the Choral Department of Cabrillo College (Glass is reportedly a big fan of the school's contemporary and classical music festivals and consciously nestled his own inaugural local festival in the space between it, the Carmel Bach Festival, and the Monterey Jazz Festival).
Also in attendance were Cheryl's husband, John Anderson, founder and conductor of Ensemble Monterey and head of MPC's music department; musician, opera singer and "the voice" of the Bach Festival, David Gordon, who was as excited about the Bach Fest's arrival of an accessible and eloquent conductor Paul Goodwin as he was about being in the presence of Glass ("[He] is the future of music…this [event] will send ripples beyond the Peninsula"); Henry Miller Library's Magnus Toren and his wife Mary Lou, who said she drove Glass and cellist Wendy Sutter to their performance at the pastoral Big Sur venue in 2008 and reported that prior to his performance, Glass was "calm and confident"; and John Dotson, who consulted recently in the Carl Cherry Center's one-woman show of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, and the Arts Council for Monterey County's executive director Paulette Lynch. They all showed up to hear the composer/pianist talk about the anticipated announcement of a music and arts festival slated to go down this August at Hidden Valley Music Seminars and the Henry Miller Library: It goes by the name, it can now be revealed, of Philip Glass Presents: Days and Night Festival.
"It's not easy to introduce Philip Glass," said Hidden Valley's executive director Peter Menkel, sitting at the central press conference table under bulbous, luminescent Japanese lanterns. "You have to go back to Ernest Hemingway’s moveable feast, this incredible gathering of people in Paris—Joyce, Hemingway, de Borge. People whose contributions to the arts changed Western art and music."
But introduce Glass he finally did, saying "it pleases me on a personal and professional level that he would come to us…our little place in the province of Carmel Valley," before presenting Glass with a "floppy hat" from the Carmel Hat Company, which Glass promptly put on, hugged his host, and got to the point.
"We are talking about a festival to start with and I have some really interesting people for you to meet," he said before humbly orchestrating the rest of the press conference. He revealed the logo for his eponymous festival, which was designed, he said, by the same man who concocted the MTV logo.
Then, like the repeating motifs in many of his musical compositions, he went back to the beginning.
"How I came here," he mused. "I was here 2009? 2008! Doing a concert [at Henry Millery Library] and the exchange was I got to spend a week in somebody’s house [on] Partington Ridge. That got under my skin right way.
"I had, in my '20s, driven through [the Peninsula] on my motorcycle," he said. "That's just what you did in those days. I thought I would meet Henry Miller, but he was in Pacific Palisades. I was kind of overwhelmed by how beautiful it was.
"I know this is a rich place for music. Jazz Fest, Cabrillo, Bach. [That] makes it more attractive. I like to be in a place where there’s a lot of good music and musicians…What would I do if I had a festival?
"I was having lunch just about a year ago [with Big Sur Land Trust's Amy Anderson] and Amy said 'What about Hidden Valley?' Amy called Peter [Menkel] and Peter said 'bring him down tomorrow.' And we saw this beautiful place. [It] had places for people to live, a dance studio, a big field where things can happen…'Peter, this place was made for us to work here,' I said. And he said ‘Yes, I know.’
The festival will take place Aug. 19 to Sept. 4—with tickets and a website coming online April 4—a blending of works from the traditional classical canon with modern experimental pieces by a super-group of artists and musicians. That includes composer John Moran presenting a music and dance piece with dancer/gymnast (and his neighbor and "muse") Saori Tsukada. That includes screenings of films Glass scored like Martin Scorsese's Kundun and Errol Morris' Tabloid. That includes 15 (for now) individual performances from Glass's collection of collaborators, friends and artistic colleagues.
"I have an appetite for inclusiveness that even startles me," Glass said, before introducing Magnus Toren, whom he counts as a friend.
"I feel a little like Forrest Gump, sitting here," said Toren as he sat next to Glass at the table. "I'm very proud and pleased that this has been the result of our knowing each other. When Philip came and played [at the Henry Miller Library in 2008], it was only three weeks after the fires had been put out. A most memorable evening, you gave us."
A press release promises "an evening of poetry [and music] curated by Glass and Magnus Toren will take place" at the library, though which poets, said Toren, was as yet undetermined, though the film component was slipped in.
"Can I announce this?" Toren asked Glass.
"We’re going to do Dracula," Toren said, referring to the 1932 Todd Browning film starring Bela Legosi, which received a new score by the Philip Glass Ensemble. (They are performing the score to the innovative "film poem" Koyaanisqatsi at the Hollywood Bowl the week before they play Carmel Valley).
"We played [Dracula] in France, not on Halloween, and people came dressed up as characters in the movie," Glass said.
This would not be Glass's first filmic collaboration with Toren; last year he served as a judge for the Henry Miller Library's Big Sur International Short Film Festival.
Glass next introduced dancer, choreographer and longtime collaborator Molissa Fenley.
"In 1975 I got on a bus and struck out for New York to make my fortune and one of the fist people I met was Philip," she said. "This past January I [was going to] call Phil on his birthday [Jan 31] and he was calling me up invite me to this. A lovely way to wake up at 6 in the morning. I was very thrilled."
The pieces she will perform with one her dancers include Providence Unknown, in five parts, the 28-minute Metamorphosis and a new solo piece called Dreaming Awake, all scored to Glass's music by the Buzeck Quartet and/or the Days and Nights Ensemble.
"The wonderful thing about working with Philip is you become part of his family. It’s always growing. A widening experience."
To that end, she talked about YOA, Orchestra of the Americas, some of whose musicians will accompany her dance pieces, and two of whose members joined Glass at the table to talk about their involvement in the Days and Nights Festival.
"We were founded in 2001 by the New England Conservatory," said YOA Executive Director Katarina Weir. "We have two conductors, including Mexico's national conductor Carlos De Prieto." Two years ago Prieto performed here with the Monterey Symphony with his son Miguel; YOA's artistic advisor is Placido Domingo, with Glass, Yo-Yo Ma, Ennio Morricone, Joshua Bell and others on their council.
The orchestra counts a roster of young musicians from 24 countries, particularly across the Americas, who otherwise would not have much opportunity to play venues like Carnegie Hall, the Vatican and Teatro Cologne, according to Artistic Manager Mark Gillespie.
"Musicians who've gone as far as they can go in their home [towns]," he said. "Our concerts can become a symbol of the power of diversity, the strength of all these different backgrounds.
"To bring orchestral music into more remote settings, we’re working with the Harvard School of Architecture on a project to design a symphonic tent, to allow the orchestra to travel into very remote regions."
Then he demurred to Glass, who added, "We’re talking about testing the tents here…This is why I love these guys. This is what we want music to be. It's not the 'extra.' It's the core.
"From this place [Carmel Valley], we can record, we can broadcast, and we can travel. I would like this festival [to be] the beginning of what I see as a year-round thing. Right now we have August…We have a place to start, thanks to Peter and Magnus."
At the end of the formal announcements, Glass fielded questions from the audience. One woman asked Glass to expound on the "orchestra tent"; another woman asked how the "local community" might be involved.
"We’re looking for a local audience," Glass said. "We don’t expect people to drive in from Albuquerque…One of the strange things about being a traveling musician—I've been on the road 40 years [and] I probably look it—is you can lose track of where your home is. I know where I pay my taxes and where my family is, but your musical home…If I’m around long enough, you’ll find me playing with people around me [laughs]…My hope is that people will be happy we’re here, they like what we do, and we grow into this amazing culture here…Frankly, we want to be a part of it."
Then Glass announced, "This [press conference] is officially over, but we’d be happy to talk to you."
And he did just that, as captured in Joel Ede's video of Glass's one-on-one interview with the Weekly.