The MusicIC festival returns for its seventh year in Iowa City. — photo by Jorge Franganillo
Too often overlooked among the series of festivals that bring an influx of artists to Iowa City is the MusicIC festival, now in its seventh year. The festival runs June 21-24 and is presented by the UNESCO City of Literature organization.
The pairing of music and literature makes sense beyond the fact that Dylan won the Nobel Prize in literature last year. The pairing of music and literature recognizes the dynamic force present in both musical scores and narratives. At a deeper level than “telling a story,” both forms of art unfold gradually over time, requiring audiences to integrate words and sounds that flash into mind and disappear in a series of instants that create a masterful whole.
In other words, the way that we recognize a story by putting together a series of words read over the span of ten minutes—or ten weeks—is similar to the way that we can understand a melody by integrating its sequence of notes. This basic level of comprehension can then expand into thematic pairings of harmony and dissonance, light and darkness, joy and sorrow, struggle and resolution.
The 2017 program is once again assembled by MusicIC Artistic Director Tricia Park, and will feature a series of string quartets composed by recognizable figures — Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven and Mendelssohn — in addition to a modern composition by an Argentinian, Osvaldo Golijov. This year’s offerings feature the blend of literature and music that makes MusicIC at home in Iowa City. Primarily composed of free events, the festival offers a very low cost opportunity to become enriched by that fusion of music and literature.
The festival begins on Wednesday, 21 June at 7:30 p.m. with a free concert at Trinity Episcopal Church (320 E College St). The theme for the evening is Lightness, featuring Haydn’s “Sunrise” quartet alongside Golijov’s “Tenebrae” and a work by Beethoven tied to his “Heiligenstadt Testament,” a letter which articulated both his despair over his deafness and his will to overcome his mental and physical struggles to bring his aesthetic vision into its fullness, realizing his potential.
June 22 offers a second free concert at Trinity, also beginning at 7:30 p.m. This night’s program is Darkness, featuring music exploring loss and longing composed by Schubert and Mendelssohn.
Friday evening’s performance, an exploration of Transcendence, will be held at the Englert Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Park describes the music as “contemplative attempts to converse with God and the afterlife.” Tickets are $15 for a night that joins the poetry of T.S. Eliot (Four Quartets) with the sounds of Beethoven that may have inspired Eliot’s imagination.
The festival concludes with a free family concert, held at 10:30 a.m. on June 24 at the Iowa City Public Library. It will pair music from Haydn with local writing provided by authors involved with the Iowa Youth Writing Project.
Throughout the festival, the Solera Quartet will once again translate score to sound, with Tricia Park and Miki-Sophia Cloud on violin, Molly Carr on viola and Andrew Janss on cello. Actress Jennifer Fawcett will join the quartet for Friday evening’s concert.