The Pacific Symphony Receives NEH Grant
Pacific Symphony, National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded $300,000 to a consortium of orchestras led by Pacific Symphony and Music Director Carl St.Clair for Phase Two of "Music Unwound," providing continued support for a multi-year commitment to integrate humanities content with live concert performances.
The joint recipients include the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Austin Symphony, the North Carolina Symphony, the South Dakota Symphony and the Louisville Orchestra. (The University of Texas is also a principal recipient of the grant.) Conceived and directed by New York-based author, scholar and Pacific Symphony advisor Joseph Horowitz, the consortium of orchestras, in collaboration with local universities, is engaged in a multi-season exploration of aspects of the American musical experience. The project takes the form of cross-disciplinary festivals that also link to high schools, museums and two South Dakota Indian reservations.
"I believe we are witnessing a sea change in the symphonic community, and that the 'Music Unwound' consortium is at the center of it," says Horowitz. "Orchestras are re-thinking the concert experience. They're also re-thinking their scope of activity in the community. 'Music Unwound' speaks directly to both of these refreshed priorities."
The project represents an unprecedented commitment to incorporate thematic programming, with scholarly input, into the mainstream subscription programming of American orchestras. Phase One, also funded by the NEH for $300,000, allowed for the launch of "Music Unwound" during the 2011-12 season with "Dvorak and America" (Pacific Symphony Youth Orchestra in collaboration with Irvine high schools).
The topics, developed by Horowitz, meld symphonic concerts with humanities content and affect a variety of strategies and challenges for the symphonic field. Each topic focuses on a composer to illuminate issues of culture and society, with each orchestra exploring one or both via festivals incorporating multi-media subscription concerts. These scripted events, incorporating visual tracks, would subsequently be offered elsewhere. The project's ancillary components include lecture/recitals; museum exhibits; and collaborating with middle schools, high schools and universities.
"The project incorporates concerts with integrated visual and dramatic components," says Horowitz. "Also, the intellectual heft of the topics in play-'Dvorak and America,' 'Copland and Mexico,' and 'Charles Ives' America'-not only facilitates linkage with universities and high schools, but also virtually demands it. Phase Two of 'Music Unwound' not only enlarges the participant group, but also the projects themselves. In particular, the South Dakota Symphony's 'Dvorak' project-taking Dvorak's New World Symphony to two Indian reservations-can only be described as boldly experimental. And the Phase Two recipients include the University of Texas, which will host a multi-week Ives festival engaging the orchestra, the chorus, the wind ensemble, and both music and history scholars and classrooms-in effect, a pedagogical experiment built around public programs."