Art does not seek to describe but to enact. —Charles Olson

Festival IX

August 1-9, 2012

Samantha Benjamin + Andrew Dieck + Paul Feyertag + Evelyn Ficarra + Melissa Fusco + Alexis Graman +
Cole Heinowitz + Kurt Isaacson + Ian Power + J.H. Prynne + Dana Reason + Mauricio Rodriguez + Elise Roy + Marcia Scott + Alexander Sigman + Jeffrey Treviño + Erik Ulman + Ian Winters

As always, this is only a sketch of the activities at this year’s festival. I have not been prompt enough in making this summary to remember all the details of our activities (among them our meals!), and many of the most valuable interactions were not officially scheduled, but were spontaneous conversations among the participants. Still, this will give some idea of the gathering…

August 1
Several of us (Erik, Marcia, Jeremy, Alexis, Kurt, and Elise) had already arrived at the ranch the night before, to get settled and to begin setting up. Cole and Andrew were scheduled to arrive, but, due to inclement weather, they were delayed on the East Coast a full day; so the day was spent largely in preparation. Kurt and Elise prepared the first of two excellent dinners, and there was vigorous conversation about the state of contemporary music, in the middle of which Paul arrived from Wisconsin.

August 2
In the morning Erik played and discussed recordings of Ravel’s Oiseaux tristes and Une Barque sur l’océan (from Miroirs) by Marcelle Meyer and Walter Gieseking, offering cursory analyses; then Jeremy read and led a discussion of Frank O’Hara’s “Ode to Joy.” After lunch there was free time to explore the grounds, and after dinner Kurt presented his recent work for the Talea Ensemble, a black filament connects venus to the limb of the sun.

August 3
In the morning Cole and Alexis read from and discussed the poetry of the Mexican poet Mario Santiago Papasquiaro, which they have been translating. At night, after dinner and the arrival of more participants, there were two further presentations. Elise performed Debussy’s Syrinx and Erik’s Lacrimosa, which Erik discussed in light of his association with Cy Twombly, also playing a recording of his Bacchanale. Then Alexis presented images of his paintings, detailing the development of his work.

August 4
Andrew read Kevin Davies’ “Lateral Argument” in the morning, and this was followed by Jeremy’s reading of a large section of his most recent poem, Kazoo Dreamboats, whose gestation and themes he discussed. After lunch, Alex presented examples of his recent work, including glimpses of a collaborative work in progress on the theme of the minotaur. Over the course of the day, Evelyn and Ian constructed an interactive installation of sound and light in the meadow, which was ready for view at night: the projection of light and silhouettes into the trees was very grand. Finally, we viewed a video of Philip Guston, to which Jeremy responded very negatively and which provoked lengthy conversation.

August 5
In the morning Ian played (premiered?) his recent Construction Song for Piano (after Dick Higgins), a long and austere work; and he also described its place in his development as a composer. Then Melissa gave us an introduction to the principles of analytic philosophy, concentrating on the work of Bertrand Russell.   Since this day was the most heavily populated of the festival and and there were to be several departures before evening, we scheduled two further presentations after lunch. First Jeff presented a range of recent explorations, both musical (a computer version of a work for twenty horns), sociological (mappings of publicly maintained trees in San Francisco), and architectural (projects for structures derived from an antique vacuum cleaner housing). Then Dana performed at the piano, offering two improvisations, including a version of My Hands Are Tied, a work involving the imposition of numerous physical obstacles in Dana’s relation to the instrument. In the evening, people listened to music (more Ravel, especially), conversed, and studied.

August 6
Paul Feyertag shared some of his recent compositional work, and also shared the results of his venture in instrument building—balloon bassoons, with which we attempted, with variable success, to execute graphic scores derived from various data. Then Cole read from both older and more recent poems. After lunch Erik played recordings of “Tout Orgueil…” and this until. After dinner I believe it was on this night, that several participants watched Carol Reed’s film of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, in preparation for Cole and Andrew’s play.

August 7
The day began with a fieldtrip to the Yuba River, to see the sights and swim. Most of the rest of the day passed in smaller discussions, study, and creative work, including preparations for the upcoming play.

August 8
In the morning Andrew read his new poems, collectively entitled Jewelry. After lunch came the traditional river reading: Cole read from Jean Day’s Romantic Fragments; Erik selected two of Pound’s Horace translations and his Canto XC; and Jeremy chose Blake’s “Night”, Coleridge’s “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison”, and Swinburne’s “Ave Atque Vale.” Mauricio Rodriguez had arrived the night before, in time to participate in Cole and Andrew’s play, and this afternoon he presented several examples of his music. In the evening came the premiere reading of Cole and Andrew’s collaborative play about Stephen Spender and CIA sponsorship of the arts, 49 Martinis, 1,001 Costumes: A Cold War Play, in which everyone took a role.

August 9
After cleaning up the premises, those who were left took another trip to the splendid Yuba, before the final departure…

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