“What sets OPUS 1 apart is the way in which it blends accessibility and ease with an underlying science, and really high quality artists,” says Ken Farmer, the creative director on the project from Wild Dogs International. “It’s intended to be experienced as a whole, where you’re moving from installation to performance to culinary event, in one seamless journey.”
That journey can vary greatly depending on each participant’s approach to the installations laid out before them. It’s very much a choose-your-own-adventure kind of situation, with no set path for how to best navigate the starkly different, yet very much intertwined events and installations.
“You can go from seeing a music and dance performance with thousands of people, and then you have this opportunity to walk into the forest and have a truly intimate experience on a completely different scale,” Ken says of the different aspects that OPUS 1 brings together. “Having the privilege of the forest creates this cohesive environment where you might be standing in one space, but you’ll be taking in seven different installations simultaneously.”
A crisp autumn night in Downtown Columbia, Maryland is reason enough to gather family and friends for a stroll through the wooded elds and rambling pathways of Symphony Woods Park. Considered one of the nation’s first truly planned communities, the area was conceived as an intimate village where one could live, work, and play. Now, to cap off the celebrations of Columbia’s 50th year, the lush forest surrounding Downtown is about to come alive with a spectacular array of music, art and theatrics.
The OPUS 1 Festival will be the final ceremony celebrating Columbia’s golden anniversary, concentrating everyone’s gaze toward a new future inspired by art, culture and activity. The day- long experience set for October 7th will reimagine the area through an inventive convergence of sight and sound that blurs the line between observation, participation, and collaboration.
That array of choice offers something for all ages and interest levels, part concert, part art exhibit, part cinema – all cutting-edge spectacle. The festival’s unique utilization of the latest science aims to foster a more human, organic experience, rather than create that disconnection that often happens when high-art meets high-tech.
You only have to look to the Mutual Wave Machine to get a stunning example of this juxtaposition of art and science. Here, you and a partner will be given EG headsets that monitor your brainwaves. The neurofeedback is displayed as an artistic interpretation through light and sound, allowing you both to get on the “same wavelength.” The level of synchronicity you’re achieving will directly affect the projections creating an otherworldly atmosphere for all to see, that you ultimately help create.
Ultimately, OPUS 1 is celebration of the very principles on which this thriving community was first based. The idea of a village of individuals all working together to create a cohesive and thriving community strengthened by diversity and inclusivity is at the heart of the festival concept, where varied nationalities and ethnicities, styles and genres, disciplines and mediums, converge to form something far greater than the sum of its parts.
The day’s activities are in many ways a sneak peek at what’s to come for the city itself. For The Howard Hughes Corporation, the master developer revitalizing Downtown Columbia, the OPUS 1 festival is meant to give a glimpse into the next phase in Downtown Columbia’s cultural evolution.
“OPUS 1 is the first day of the next 50 years of Columbia,” according to executive John DeWolf, “It allows us to begin shifting perceptions of a sleepy suburb and paint the picture of what we imagine the future of Downtown will look like. A center of culture and commerce for the Baltimore—Washington corridor.”
What all of that will be like for anyone fortunate enough to attend the festival is nothing short of awe inspiring. It all certainly needs to be seen, heard, felt, smelled and tasted to be appreciated. Eleven large scale activities will surround the town’s renowned music venue, Merriweather Post Pavilion, transforming the entire setting into something innovative and extraordinary, and transporting festival goers to something imaginative and otherworldly.
Finding a simple description of this enchanted evening is elusive. Ken Farmer attempted to capture it, saying, “It’s both subtle and spectacular … a day where boundaries are blurred between audience and performer, onlooker and participant.” That certainly paints a compelling picture, but it all needs to be experienced first-hand to fully grasp its scope and the sense of wonder it aims to create.
Perhaps it’s better left with Ken’s final thought, said with more than its fair share of excited anticipation … “OPUS 1 is an enveloping journey down the rabbit hole.”