Movement and Flow: Portland Dance Films

Fuchsia Lin talks about her new film in next week's Northwest Film Center dance film evening

Can you believe it? It’s a dance-free weekend (as far as I know)! It’s the first in a really long time (Portland dance makers have been really really busy this year). But don’t worry, you won’t have to wait too long to get your dance fix. Opening Wednesday at NorthWest Film Center is a brand new evening of Portland-made dance films called Movement and Flow: Portland Dance Films.

The evening is curated by filmmaker, and NorthWest Film Center’s Filmmaker Services Manager, Ben Popp, who after curating last year’s Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival realized the need for a dance specific film event after seeing how many dance based/themed films had been submitted to the festival. NorthWest Film Center also partners with BodyVox Dance Company in the Contact Dance Film Festival.

Exploring a range of dance and movement elements that can play in the cinematic realm, Popp has brought together six Portland dance filmmakers: Amy Yang Chiao, Jackie Davis, Conrad Kazcor, Fuchsia Lin, Gabriel Shalom, and Dylan Wilbur Media. The films range in style from documentary format, to site-specific, to collaborative projects, and mixed media.

Fuchsia Lin, the director of the film Crystal’s of Transformation, is one of those mixers. She is a conceptual artist and filmmaker who works in costume design, film, performance, and dance. Originally from Michigan, Lin has resided in Portland since 2008 after living and working in New York, Paris, and Taipei. Her work focuses on questions of cultural identity (she is a second generation Taiwanese American), and explores ancient mythology and religious stories. Lin’s mission is to bring awareness to the importance of our relationship with water, which is what drives her film the Crystals of Transformation. Crystals of Transformation is about how the energetic environment of water affects those near it.

I spoke with Lin via email about the film and the filmmaking process. That conversation unfolds below.

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Extradition Series summer concert video preview: open season

Seventh edition of Creative Music Guild's quarterly experimental music series showcases spacious 21st century sounds

by MATTHEW ANDREWS

In January 2016, Portland composer and percussionist  Matt Hannafin spontaneously stood up during intermission at a CD release concert for a recording with Portland oboist Catherine Lee and declared it the first in a new quarterly series. Thus, in appropriately improvisatory fashion, was born Creative Music Guild’s Extradition Series: concerts of sparse, meditative, experimental music drawn from “the 20th-century experimental tradition” that often features works by composers associated with the Fluxus movement, the Wandelweiser Group, and Portland’s improvisation scene, of which Creative Music Guild is a key component.

Matt Hannafin performing with Tim DuRoche, Branic Howard, and Loren Chasse, Extradition Series spring concert 2016, Portland.

The written scores are usually open in some way: flexible in instrumentation and duration, frequently aleatoric and/or improvisatory, and often graphically rather than conventionally notated. It can all be pretty weird, even tedious if you’re not used to it, but once your monkey mind settles down it’s extremely potent stuff.

This Saturday, July 22, the Extradition Series Summer Concert features seven works over the course of about two hours. As with the other Extradition concerts Hannafin’s put on since then, the upcoming summer show—their seventh altogether—alternates solos with larger ensemble pieces. Click on the video below to see excerpts from a rehearsal for this concert.


Video interview with Matt Hannafin and Epstein rehearsal.

Doug Theriault will bring out his electric guitar to perform Giacinto Scelsi‘s percussive 1967 piece Ko Tha. Lee will perform two recent compositions written specifically for her: Dana Reason’s 2017 Chanson de Fleurs – Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Taylor Brook’s 2016 microtonal piece Alluvium for oboe d’amore and pre-recorded sound. Pianist/electronicist Matt Carlson and bass clarinetist Jonathan Sielaff will trade off on a pair of solo pieces by Wandelweiserist Anastassis Philippakopoulos, Sielaff playing 2002’s “Onissia” on bass clarinet and Carlson switching from synthesizers to piano for “Song No. 2” from Two Piano Pieces 2006-2008.

And it wouldn’t be an Extradition show without at least one big ensemble piece. Carlson, trumpeter Douglas Detrick, saxophonist and clarinetist Lee Elderton, and Lee will perform Samuel Vriezen‘s melodic collage The Weather Riots from 2002, and the group (with: sound engineer and composer Branic Howard, saxophonist Reed Wallsmith, and percussionist Loren Chasse replacing Detrick, Lee, and Theriault) will play Nomi Epstein‘s Combine, Juxtapose, Delayed Overlap from 2013. This last ought to be a hoot, if the rehearsal I attended is any indication. Each of the players chooses three sounds and passes them around the ensemble according to the composer’s titular directions.

A lot of the fun in this kind of music, aside from the transcendent realms your spirit can reach when you sit back and soak it up, comes from the interactions among the various players, some of whom have been working together for nearly a decade. This is a group of highly advanced musicians who could be doing whatever they like—and what they like, at least four times a year, is to make slow, beautiful, contemplative music together.

 Extradition Series Summer Concert begins at 7 pm on Saturday, July 22 at Portland’s Leaven Community Center at the edge of Alberta Park on Northeast Killingsworth. Tickets are sliding scale, $5-15.

Matthew Neil Andrews is a composer, percussionist, and editor at Portland State University. He and his music can be reached at monogeite.bandcamp.com.

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A China-Oregon connection: UO’s Jeffrey Stolet bridges the Pacific through music

Electroacoustic concert enriched by cross-cultural influences concludes an intensive University of Oregon workshop for visiting Chinese composers

by GARY FERRINGTON

It is a long journey from Beijing to Eugene, but each July for the past eight years, a cadre of Chinese conservatory students and faculty has been making the 5,000-mile trip to participate in the University of Oregon’s Summer Academy for Computer Music directed by Dr. Jeffrey Stolet, professor of music and head of Future Music Oregon.

Jeffrey Stolet and assistant Chi Wang with Summer Academy students.
Photo: FMO/symbolic sound 2012.

On July 29, the 2017 Summer Academy will culminate in a final concert of new music influenced by the crossing of a cultural bridge between China and Oregon. For some listeners, with an ear tuned to traditional instrumental music, the experience of hearing a soundscape of acoustic effects and driving rhythmic patterns from suspended speakers around the concert hall may seem unfamiliar, distant, and sometimes unsettling. Yet an attentive ear will hear electroacoustic performances rich in compositional practice and musical forms.

The music will be forged in an intensive two week workshop involving Chinese and Oregon student and faculty musicians, a continuing collaboration almost a decade in the making.

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Makrokosmos 3 review: powered by percussion

Minimalist and locally grown music headlined this year's edition of Portland's annual summer new music marathon

Story by MATTHEW ANDREWS
Photos by MASATAKA SUEMITSU 

I walked into Northwest Portland’s Vestas building lobby just as Portland Percussion Group was leading the crowd in a Steve Reich clap-along, an exercise in audience participation that I’d love to hear more of at these types of concerts.

Actually, there aren’t enough of these types of concerts. Produced for the third summer in a row by piano duo Stephanie & Saar (Stephanie Ho & Saar Ahuvia), the June Makrokosmos presented five hours of contemporary classical music in a setting that allowed the audience members to move around, even leave and return, as they pleased.

Portland Percussion Group played part one of Steve Reich’s ‘Drumming’ at Makrokosmos.

The original of Reich’s Clapping Music calls for two players, although many other arrangements are possible (some of my favorites are the Evelyn Glennie rendition and this dollop of ridiculousness), and PPG’s enforced recreation had the audience split into halves to play the two phases of Clapping Music’s diverging pattern. Everyone seemed to be having a grand old time, which is reason enough to do something like this, but doing service as both Happy Hour Ice Breaker and New Music Process Demonstration made it a lot better than other pre-show talks I’ve endured.

I missed the actual opener, PPG’s performance of Steve Reich’s Drumming (Part One) but I can’t say I minded too much: I’ve seen that famous video of theirs, after all, and one of the very few things I’m stodgy about is performances of single movements of larger works. But all this was just the happy hour appetizer. The real action in Makrokosmos 3: Reichmokosmos! happened up in the open atrium/auditorium on the Vestas third and fourth floor, a bright, modern space I heard multiple audients comparing to the Wieden+Kennedy auditorium two blocks away. The stage area—little more than a wide walkway limning the bottom of a tiered wooden seating area covered in floor mats—already housed the six pianos, along with a vast amount of percussion.

Pianos dominated, as in previous years, but this year PPG came out to show us (came out to show us, came out to show us) the power of percussion with some marvelous new ensemble music. The resulting spectacle, for all its epic grandeur, somehow remained delightfully intimate.

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‘Cosí fan tutte’ review: psychedelic shtick

Portland Opera's new production adds 21st century multimedia and more to Mozart's comedy

by TERRY ROSS

Portland Opera has done itself proud with its production of Mozart’s silly, sexist, lighthearted, and hilarious opera Cosí fan tutte, written in 1790 and now playing in Portland5’s cozy little Newmark Theatre. The opening night show on Bastille Day showed all hands on deck and also all the shtick one could ask for, including some psychedelic business from the 21st century’s drug culture.

Aaron Short, Daniel Mobbs, Ryan Thorn in Portland Opera’s ‘Cosí fan tutte.’ Photo: Cory Weaver.

Although performed only five times in Mozart’s lifetime due to the untimely death of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, considered at the time to have commissioned the opera, Cosí has been in almost continuous production somewhere in the world ever since. The reasons are simple. The music, although not serious in the vein of Don Giovanni or even Idomeneo, is vivacious and beautifully crafted. And the story, all about whether young lovers can be sexually faithful, is universal. If the focus is entirely on the faithfulness of the women in the two featured couples, and not on their menfolk, chalk it up to the patriarchal mores of 18th-century Europe’s dominant culture. And to the 18th-century seats of power, in the arts, in politics, and in all walks of life.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: a Persian R&J

Outdoor Shakespeare with a twist; more music festivals; Mozart & Bach; an ArtsWatch apology; a profusion of prints

Summer and Shakespeare seem to go together like Abbott and Costello, or toast and jam: You can have one without the other, but somehow they’d feel incomplete. Little danger of that in Oregon, where we get our summer Shakespeare aplenty, often with a twist.

 

Nicholas Granato as Romeo/Majnun in Bag&Baggage’s “Romeo and Juliet (Layla and Majnun).” Casey Campbell Photography

Consider Romeo and Juliet (Layla and Majnun), an interweaving of Shakespeare’s romance and the 12th century Persian poet Nizami’s epic tale of a feud between families. Bag&Baggage’s premiere opens Thursday on the outdoor stage of the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza in downtown Hillsboro, in a production that B&B artistic director Scott Palmer believes blends R&J with one of its primary sources. “When you read the texts side by side, the parallels between the two tales are really astounding,” Palmer tells ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell. “There’s no smoking gun, but we do know (Shakespeare) was reading Italian sources and those were heavily influenced by Persian masterpieces from the 11th and 12 centuries. There is just no question that Layla and Majnun had a powerful, although indirect, influence on Romeo and Juliet.” Read Campbell’s full story here.

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The Art of Inclusion

ArtsWatch apologizes for concert review's errors of judgment and fact

by BRETT CAMPBELL, BOB HICKS, and BARRY JOHNSON

“Reviews now are different kinds of battlefields. Who is writing them is just as important — perhaps more important — than what is being reviewed.”

That’s from an insightful and important story called “Like it or not, we are in the midst of a second arts revolution,” published a few weeks ago by our friend and colleague Chris Jones, chief theater writer for the Chicago Tribune. We thought it said so much about the state of the arts and arts journalism that we immediately posted a link to ArtsWatch’s Facebook page. “Administrators, artists and critics all have to get used to the intensity of amplified opinion, and the widespread desire for empowered involvement, that now surrounds their work.”

A few days later, ArtsWatch found itself engaged on such a battlefield. One of our regular freelance writers, Terry Ross, who’s covered classical music for decades, wrote a review of a June 17 concert by Portland’s Resonance Ensemble that sparked outrage — “amplified opinion.” You can follow the action here.

Resonance Ensemble performed music by Renee Favand-See and welcomed other musicians in its last concert. Photo: Rachel Hadiashar.

To give our readers the chance to express themselves, we have let that battle play out before weighing in ourselves, and in general we’ve been impressed by the passion and thoughtfulness of many of the responses. The comments taught us important lessons about our community’s arts culture. As hard as it was to read them without contributing ourselves, we thought this thread was important beyond anything we could add. Now it’s time to state clearly where we editors stand, and to apologize, appreciate, and explain.

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