How do we love OpenICE? Let us count the ways

by Arlene and Larry Dunn (@ICEfansArleneLD)

We haven’t been in the pages of the ICEblog much recently, though we've had no shortage of ICE events to feed upon. We are swooping back in at this juncture because we are committed to immersing ourselves more deeply into OpenICE as it moves into its second season. What we love most about OpenICE is, well, its openness. By design, it is open with respect to venue, genre, instrumentation, audience, community, etc. But most exciting, OpenICE is open to the unknown.


OpenICE workshop in Chicago with composer Wojtek Blecharz (photo by Larry Dunn)

We had the opportunity to meet with OpenICE co-directors Alice Teyssier and Ryan Muncy in Chicago last December to learn more about where OpenICE is headed. This season they will start working with four composers — Wojtek BlecharzMorgan KraussMonte Webber, and Sabrina Schroeder — to collaboratively develop new evening-length works over the next two years. The parameters around these projects are, you guessed it, open! The composers were selected based on proposals they submitted that only outlined the driving concept for the piece. The process is beginning with workshops with each composer (open to anyone who would like to attend) where they are starting with a blank slate. Everything is on the table to be developed in the workshops —- instrumentation, size, style, length, venue, lighting, theatrics, movement, electronics, you name it. The objective is to unleash ideas and generate work that could never be done without this sort of radically open collaboration.

This latest concept was inspired, in part, by a workshop Levy Lorenzo led in November to teach 10 participants to build a new electronic instrument, compose pieces for those instruments, and then play the pieces, all in one three-hour session. It opened a whole new platform for creating new collaborative compositions. The session fulfilled so many ICE purposes – sharing skills, education, collaboration – that OpenICE wanted to build off this idea. OpenICE is providing agency for ICE members to take their own area of expertise, try something new with it and expand the community in the process. It’s a very ICE-y way of working – making music together and expanding the circle. As this evolves, it could even be adapted to include untrained musicians and the public in ways beyond just listening, to become deeper participants, certainly in the discussion and development process, and perhaps even as performers. The possibilities are virtually limitless. We were able to participate in the first of these new OpenICE workshops with composer Wojtek Blecharz in December and it was exhilarating to be there at the inception of a new work of art. Is it any wonder we came away committed to get more involved?


ICE member Levy Lorenzo leading OpenICE — Electronic Etudes No. 1 Workshop

So now we are about to head out on the road for a long weekend of OpenICE activity, starting Thursday with the inaugural OpenICE performance in Fort Wayne, Indiana, ICE clarinetist Campbell MacDonald’s hometown. Then it’s on to Chicago, where there will be the added excitement of starting a new ICE working relationship with the Rebuild Foundation, which was founded and is led by visionary artist and activist Theaster Gates. Most events during this four-day Chicago session of OpenICE will be held in Rebuild Foundation venues Stony Island Arts Bank and Dorchester Arts and Housing Collaborative. Included in this week’s events are composer workshops with Morgan Krauss, an improvisation session with Glass Lantern and  resident artists Train and Maggie Brown, and a Sunday afternoon concert at Chicago Cultural Center.

This Chicago session of OpenICE will conclude with the Midwest premiere of Tyshawn Sorey’s Perle Noire: Meditations on Joséphine, which explores the music, artistry, and inner life of Josephine Baker. This work features soprano Julia Bullock embodying Josephine, with Alice Teyssier (flute), Ryan Muncy (saxophone), Rebekah Heller (bassoon), Jennifer Curtis (violin) Dan Lippel (guitar), and the composer on drums and piano. We were fortunate to be the world premiere in Ojai last summer and it was one of the most moving musical experiences we’ve had. We can’t wait to hear it again in its latest iteration. All OpenICE events are free, However, Perle Noire requires advance reservations, available here.