A weekend with the devil and other delights

Plazm celebrated 20 years/30 issues this weekend.

This weekend I was ensnared by a couple of assignments for other places/sites/outlets. Oregon Arts Watch encourages its associated journalists to distribute their work as widely as possible, after all. If arts and culture journalism is going to be important at all to the culture, people have to see it, and not just those of you who are interested enough to join us here at the base camp.

So, what was I doing? I spend most weekends out and about looking for material to squeeze into a regular Monday post at Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Arts & Life page online. By “material” I mean almost anything related to the culture but especially arts stuff, performances and exhibitions. I then boil that down to several hundred words for OPB.

This weekend, I started at the Electric Opera Company’s “Sympathy for the Devil” show, then dropped in on Plazm’s 20th anniversary (30th issue) party and finally caught Mark Williams’ organ recital at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, part of the ongoing William Byrd Festival. Here’s a bit of what I wrote for OPB:

But then I started thinking. Maybe the devil’s in the excess, which is why some religions have tried to ban music. Music can get excessive — those mad flights of fancy, those flourishes, the bombast, the puckish wit, the surrender of the audience to the song, the ego of the composer and the performer. Even in a song entitled “Stairway to Heaven”! And the Electric Opera Company shows just how closely rock and classical really are, how they share a taste for the excessive, though admittedly the company cherry picks a bit, sorting through classical standards for the ones that fit their scheme. Or as The Band wrote, “take what you need and leave the rest.”

I was thinking a lot about Plazm, too, because of an assignment from The Oregonian, which led to a great afternoon with Josh Berger (I started to type Josh Plazm!) and Tiffany Lee Brown, going over old issues of the magazine together. They didn’t look old at all. Maybe because Plazm is so adventurous and heterodox in its design, even the issues from the early ’90s seem somehow current. Amazing. Anyway, I think I caught the gist of the Plazm philosophy and history, enough to write a little story for The Oregonian.

Every great party needs the right sort of host, and Berger has hosted Plazm, with a lot of help, for 20 years. A good host is a facilitator, making introductions, solving problems, providing a stage and then receding to the shadows

Here’s how Plazm co-editor Jon Raymond describes his experience at the magazine: “For me, the lessons of Plazm have been many and varied. Most of all, I’d say, the lessons have stemmed from Josh as both a creative collaborator and as a human being. His combination of incredible open-mindedness and dogged determination on a practical level has been an example that I’ve turned to many times in my creative life. Think broadly, and then figure out how to make it happen. That’s a life lesson for so many things.”

Yeah: the nature of the devil and creativity, two of my favorite subjects. Give them a read maybe, if you’re interested, too?

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