Days and Nights Festival: Through A Glass, Gladly
While our national “leaders” go through their Kabuki dance inWashington, gesturing wildly at shadowy villains of their own imagination, it’s heartening to see other models arising: communitarian, artistic, generous.
As usual, California seems to be ahead of the curve, enacting sensible immigration laws, providing health care and focusing on workable and humane solutions. Just this weekend, as No Depression readers know well, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, with its plethora of amazing free performances, is taking place in Golden Gate Park. As also noted here, the extravaganza is funded by Warren Hellman, a banjo-loving plutocrat who understood that his financial blessings were just that, and who wanted to give back.
And at the San Francisco Public Library, a group of poets, publishers and literature lovers gathered at the San Francisco Public Library for an event called “Tales From Two Cities: Writing From California” aimed at connecting the dots in the Golden State, from “immigration to innovation,” as organizers put it.
But perhaps the most ambitious, and certainly one of the most beautiful of the events was occurring in the pastoral centers of Carmel and Big Sur, where minimalist master Philip Glass was mounting a four-day event called the Days and Nights Festival, with the goal of gathering artists from disparate fields – chamber music, film, environmental activists – to foster a sense of community and exploration.
Undertaken in partnership with the Monterey Bay Film Society, founded by Cal State Monterey Bay Cinematic Arts Chair Enid Baxter Ryce, which aims to bring film, video and tech skills to underserved youths in the area, the program kicked off with a screening of “Powaqqatsi,” scored by Glass and directed by Godfrey Reggio, at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur (preceded the night before by a free screening and discussion for CSUMB students attended by Reggio).
In case you were in despair (as I have been) about the deep dysfunction in our nation, the Friday film program screened “Rebels With A Cause,” Nancy Kelley and Kenji Yamamoto’s inspiring documentary about the successful fight to save the Northern California coast. It was a vivid reminder that there was a time, not so long ago, when Democrats and Republicans (even Richard Nixon!) could come together in common cause for the good of the nation. (The film is scheduled to air on PBS sometimes next April in honor of the Earth Day celebrations).
But even greater things were in order. On Friday night, at Carmel’s Sunset Center, Glass gathered together some of the finest musicians in the field to perform a string ensemble concert series, from classical to modern, that included composers from Shubert and Schumann to contemporary faves Nico Muhly and Bryce Dessner. But the topper was Glass performing his own pieces, “The Orchard’ & France,” with violinist Maria Bachmann.
Not to be outdone, Saturday night, another performance is slated, this time of Tara Hugo singing from Glass’ work, including his re-orchestrations of the songs and poetry of Leonard Cohen. This is beyond category, as Duke Ellington described music; neither highbrow nor for mass consumption, just a chance for people to perform the music they love for those lucky enough to be hearing it.
The event ends Sunday, with a solo piano performance by Glass from 1 to 3 at the Henry Miller Library. Limited tickets for this astonishing event, as well as tonight’s Tara Hugo/Glass collaboration, are available at: daysandnightsfestival.com
Work like Glass is mounting, or that of the good filmmakers of Monterey and beyond,is not happening in a vacuum. I recall Sonny Rollins’ famous quote, performing “Without A Song,” in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, “Maybe music can help. I don’t know, but we have to try something these days.”