This summer at Boulder’s Dairy Arts Center, you can get your fill of classical music—with an innovative twist—at the Colorado Musical Festival’s (CMF) new series Artistic Currents. Curated by CMF creative partner and senior TED fellow Joshua Roman, the three-concert series features musical works that incorporate a range of other genres, including dance, spoken word, and visual art.
The series kicks off July 16 with “We Do It to One Another,” an original composition by Roman. Set to lyrics adapted from the Pulitzer-prize winning poetry collection Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith, the vocals will be performed by soprano Jessica Rivera. Roman, a cellist, says he was drawn to the poetry because of its distinctly modern imagery.
“It seemed very real, very thoughtful, and extraordinarily nuanced in the form and the choice of words, but also relatable for me,” he says.
Next up on July 23 is “Blackbird, Fly,” a hip-hop inspired duet between violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and spoken-word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Delving into a narrative of Haitian folklore, the performance also features elements of dance.
Then, in the final installment on July 30, pianist and vocalist Gabriel Kahane combines the traditional German song cycle “Dichterliebe” with a pop-inspired American singer-songwriter style. He will also perform his track “Craigslistlieder,” which includes eight songs set to lyrics pulled from Craigslist ads.
The offerings are certainly diverse, and what ties them all together is the use of words or lyrics—which is pretty unusual for classical music.
“Today, classical music has this image of being archaic and sort of like a museum piece. Some of that might have to do with how we present it, and some of that might also have to do with the fact that there are often no words associated with a classical piece,” says Roman. “Without intending to, that is one of the relationships that came out in the three concerts; the directness and the use of words that removes some of the abstract quality and takes this music straight to the meaning.”
He notes that a common theme between the three performances is a focus on human relationships. Which is fitting, because for Roman, one of the most important aspects of the series is its relationship to the audience; his hope is that attendees come away feeling that they’ve truly experienced the music.
“As a performer, I want people to feel free to join the artist on their journey, whether that journey is familiar or unfamiliar, comforting or discomforting.”