The Boston Globe
Linda Matchan
August 1, 2008

The Institute of Contemporary Art continues to push boundaries in its fall lineup of performances, and this year a lot of these boundaries are musical.

“The artistic goal of our performing arts program is to present to Boston the full range of what artists are doing across disciplines,” says David Henry, the ICA’s director of programs. “For the first year and a half we highlighted dance. But you cannot ignore music.”

Two ambitious programs will highlight new music - the four-day Ditson Festival of Contemporary Music Sept. 18-21 with an emphasis on classical; and New Music Now, a series of three musical programs throughout the fall, in the jazz tradition.

The Ditson Festival is the first in a series of biennial festivals of contemporary music in different cities initiated by the Alice M. Ditson Fund, which supports music by emerging American composers. It will spotlight the work of leading composers performed by top ensembles, all with a connection to Boston. These include the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Cantata Singers, Firebird Ensemble, Callithumpian Consort, and Boston Musica Viva. Also performing are cellist and music pioneer Matt Haimovitz (a Harvard grad); and jazz giant George Russell, directing his Living Time Orchestra in a concert celebrating his 85th birthday. Dinosaur Annex will present premieres from around the world as well as works by Boston-area composers.

“This is classical art music in all its flavors,” says Gil Rose, artistic director of the series as well as of BMOP, which performs and records music of the 20th and 21st centuries.

“In curating the festival we wanted to accomplish two goals,” he says. “We wanted to showcase local musicians: 95 percent of the performers and composers have some longstanding Boston connection. And we wanted to show the breadth and width of musical language in Boston over the last 30 or 40 years.”

New Music Now is being organized in collaboration with composer/performers Ned Rothenberg and Marty Ehrlich. There will be three programs: Multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers will perform with his trio and with a big band of New England Conservatory alumni and students on Sept. 12; British saxophonist Evan Parker and jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell share the bill on Oct. 10; and guitarist/composer Fred Frith will play on Dec. 12 with Cosa Brava, his new experimental rock and improvisation band.

Dance continues to be a big part of ICA programming this year. Irish tap dancer James Devine makes his Boston debut Oct. 17-19, morphing tap, step dance, and urban rhythms: He holds the distinction of being a Guinness World Record holder as “Fastest Dancer in the World.” (He clocks 38 taps per second.) Philadanco - the Philadelphia-based dance company - is slated for Nov. 14-16, blending African-American-based moves with ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance.

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will return (Oct. 24-26) to launch its 25th anniversary celebration.

The three-man Cambridge-based audiovisual ensemble called Sosolimited will present a live remix of the Sept. 26 presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, titled reConstitution. The event is one of the ICA’s occasional late-night experimental events - part performance space, part club - aptly called Experiment.

The life and work of filmmaker Danny Williams - Andy Warhol’s lover who mysteriously disappeared at age 27 - will be featured in September. The ICA will host the Boston premiere of the award-winning documentary “A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory” on Sept. 27 and 28, directed by Williams’s niece Esther Robinson. (Robinson will introduce the film on Sept. 28.) Three of Williams’s never-before-seen short films will also be shown that day.

Throughout the fall, ICA curators will offer short talks at noon relating to exhibits in the ICA galleries. “We’re trying to keep the place lively,” Henry says.

Tickets for all programs will be available to ICA members on Aug. 19. Tickets for the Ditson Festival only will be available to the general public on Aug. 19; remaining tickets will be available Sept. 2. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 617-478-3103.

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