Detroit Symphony Launches New Multi-Genre Festival, 8 Days in June

Classic Arts News   Detroit Symphony Launches New Multi-Genre Festival, 8 Days in June
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra launches today a new festival that incorporates multiple genres and media in an attempt to broaden classical music's reach and appeal. 8 Days in June features artists such as rapper Chuck D., actor F. Murray Abraham and percussionist Yacub Addy as well as classical musicians.

In addition to traditional symphonic, chamber, jazz and solo fare, 8 Days will present drama, film, lectures and visual art, as well as rock transcriptions, African drumming and a poetry slam. The festival is centered on a theme called Creating and Conflict; many of its featured works stem from personal suffering and political unrest.

"When you're talking about conflict, it's healthy ... That's the way it is in the creative world," Peter Oundjian said in the Detroit Metro Times yesterday. Oundjian, who conceived 8 Days in June, is the Detroit Symphony's principal guest conductor and artistic advisor. He leads the orchestra tonight in the festival's opening concert, dubbed "Music Shocks", performing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring; both works created enormous controversy at their premieres.

"You get a whole new perspective on [Beethoven's Fifth Symphony] when you stop to think about it as a reflection of its time and the Napoleonic Wars," Oundjian told The Detroit News. "As an expression of its time, the beginning of the 19th century, it is so new, so bold and informed by the conflict Beethoven was experiencing all around him." Other 8 Days in June programs will investigate the composer's personal suffering further with presentations of a documentary and lecture touching on recent scientific discoveries.

"Headcase and Radiohead," another scheduled performance exploring inner turmoil, begins with Brett Dietz's multimedia work Headcase, inspired by the composer's recovery from a stroke (which he suffered in his late 20s) that left him paralyzed and temporarily mute. The piece involves Detroit Symphony members and baritone Timothy Jones, along with a prerecorded audio track of Dietz's own haunting utterances taken from a journal he kept while rehabilitating. Video of his MRI scans will also be projected on a screen above the stage. Pianist Christopher O'Reilly will close this June 23rd program with his transcriptions of songs by Radiohead.

On day five of 8 Days, Public Enemy founder Chuck D. will discuss race and the social impact of hip-hop in the U.S. in a lecture entitled "Race, Rap, Reality and Technology," drawing from his best-selling 1997 book, Fight the Power: Rap, Race & Reality. Detroit's top spoken-word artists will open the evening.

Other festival performances include Kurt Vonnegut's version of Stravinsky's A Soldier's Tale (with Abraham as the General and Colm Feore as the Soldier), Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Yacub Addy and his group Odadaa, and a closing program titled "Music Confronts" featuring Oundjian conducting the DSO in Shostakovich's Eleventh Symphony.

"This festival is meant to bring down the barriers," Detroit Symphony president and executive director Ann Parsonn told the Fraser-Clinton Township Chronicle. "I don't want people to be intimidated by the music we present."

"You're gonna feel welcome, and you're gonna feel that you're communicated with," said Oundijan. "You're experiencing kind of a first, in terms of presentation. It'll be very difficult to get bored."

8 Days in June runs through June 28; full information is available at

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