Ever the "classical innovator," Ballet Austin looked to Mozart and some unexpected musical luminaries—including one world famous DJ—for its most recent collaboration piece, appropriately titled The Mozart Project. The original creation, opening Friday, mixes classical standards and modern styles for a show that's both visually and audibly innovative.
Artistic Director Stephen Mills says he chose Mozart's work due to the composer's "naturally appealing, happy, joyous, and dynamic" music, which makes it the perfect focal point for Ballet Austin's three-piece performance.
To open the first ballet, WOLFTANZT, Dr. Michelle Shumann and the Austin Chamber Music Center will perform the original Mozart’s "Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major." Critically acclaimed composer Graham Reynolds will then take the helm for the second ballet, Though the Earth Gives Way, which reinterprets the "Concerto No. 12" on electric violen and cello.
Yes, writing a new score using unexpected instruments is a lovely, satisfying update to Mozart's work. However, the real twist comes in with the addition of Paul D. Miller—otherwise known as experimental hip hop artist DJ Spooky out of New York. For the third and final piece, Echo Boom, Miller will sample and mix a live, string ensemble on the spot via his iPad, creating a robust electronic soundscape.
Not your average ballet anymore, is it?
Pushing the boundaries and presenting a modern interpretation of art is the company's intention, drawn directly from Mozart's own philosophies. Shumann explains that The Mozart Project team looked to the composer as inspiration: "Mozart himself had an open mind…He was a trailblazer bringing in a new kind of emotionalism that wasn't really thought of in the Baroque era."
DJ Spooky acknowledges that sampling in and of itself is playing with history—an old record, track or sound transforms into a vibrant reflection of the current moment when reworked.
"There is a lot that can be said about looking at history itself as a part of your palette," he says. "I've done Classical before and worked with composers like Steve Reich and Pierre Boulez. I thought it would be a real pleasure to extend this to the older guys—like Mozart—and see what happens."
Miller notes that throughout history, most influential art has spoken to contemporary desires and issues. Accordingly, each collaborator tapped for The Mozart Project was chosen in an effort to ensure the performances—and Ballet Austin as an organization—would be no different in maintaining a modern point of view.
The Mozart Project debuts at The Long Center with shows at 8 pm on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1; there's also a 3 pm show on Sunday, October 2. You can reserve tickets online.