Introducing Oregon ComposersWatch

Here at Oregon ArtsWatch, we believe that Oregon artists are making some of the world’s most compelling dance, music, theater and visual arts, and that Oregon arts lovers—our readers—need to know about it. In fact, we exist to bridge that gap between creators of Oregon art and the Oregonians who want to experience it.

Unfortunately, artists themselves aren’t always the best promoters of their own creations, and many of those doing the most interesting work are precisely those who can’t afford to hire professional help to get the word out. Today’s technology makes it a lot easier for even low-budget, independent artists to do that, yet too many Oregon composers (particularly those who work outside pop music) haven’t provided an easy way for listeners—and potential performers—to hear their music. It’s not the only reason too many Oregon performers and presenters deplorably deny Oregon music to Oregon audiences, but the absence of an easy way to find that music certainly doesn’t help. Even journalists who want to cover Oregon music often find it difficult to tell our readers what they’re likely to be hearing when they consider attending one of those rare non-pop concerts with an Oregon composer’s music on the program.

So we decided to do something about it.

OCF

We’ve made Oregon ComposersWatch, an ArtsWatch page that’s a resource for listeners and performers interested in Oregon music, particularly (for now, at least) those who write in what’s inadequately called “contemporary classical” arenas, but really, it’s for any Oregon composer who wants someone to play or hear their music.

Each composer has a page on OCW that provides a bit of biographical information and links to YouTube, SoundCloud and other online sources of the music. Performers, journalists and listeners who want to know what an Oregon composer’s music sounds like now have a one-stop place to find out.

To make it happen, we turned to our friend Gary Ferrington in Eugene, a retired University of Oregon faculty member who has has worked with Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts, edits the newsletter of the World Forum on Acoustic Ecology and ardently pursues the music of contemporary composers, particularly emerging Oregon composers.

Ferrington

Gary Ferrington

“Although I have a deep respect for music of the classical past, I’ve always been most connected with the contemporary voices of my time be that in music, art, theater, dance, or literature,” he says. “I attribute this to the ‘golden age’ of television that introduced me to the artists of the day including the music of Leonard Bernstein, the conducting of Arturo Toscanini, the play- and screenwriting of Paddy Chayefsky and James Agee, and the many other artists in various fields. I also thank my piano teacher who encouraged me to perform music by living composers such as Leo Sowerby, Aaron Copland, and Paul Creston. It only seems natural for me to search out and listen to new work and consequently I have a special interest in those emerging voices that can often be found today on the world wide Internet.”

Gary, who earlier this year told ArtsWatch readers about the composers’ scene at the UO,  and about how arts lovers can hear new music via live streams, also seemed a natural choice to set up and host the OCW page for ArtsWatch, and we’re enormously grateful to him for that, and for all his efforts to spotlight Oregon music and art. We hope you are, too.

We asked a pair of ArtsWatch’s regular contributors who lead double lives—as Oregon composer and long-time performer of Oregon contemporary music, respectively—to give their perspective on why ComposersWatch matters to Oregon arts lovers.

“Traditional media outlets in Oregon are paying less and less attention to any music that doesn’t fall into familiar commercial, popular genres,” explains Portland composer and pianist Jeff Winslow. “At the same time, the number of Oregon composers exploring their art outside these genres keeps getting larger and larger. Thank heavens Oregon ArtsWatch is around to pick up the slack and showcase their work with Oregon ComposersWatch, not only for Oregon audiences who are curious about what their composer neighbors are up to, but for anyone worldwide interested in compositional voices nourished by Oregon’s famed natural environment.”

Pianist Maria Choban has been performing music by Oregonians and other contemporary composers for decades in solo concerts and ensembles, alongside the classics. “I’ve had the greatest success at my own concerts performing music by Oregonians like Tomas Svoboda, Brent Weaver, Mark Vigil, Ted Clifford,” she writes. “OAW has certainly made it easy for us performers and presenters to explore this rich vein. I cannot think of a better time for us Oregon performers and presenters to grow up, stop worshipping dead Europeans or living Brooklynites/Los-Angelenos, and delve into our own rich talent pool of Oregonian composers. Do we want to be sheeply followers or do we want to come together, become leaders and show off our Oregonian talent, becoming a role model on the world scene?  I’m ready for us to be something more than simply Portlandia-parody-worthy.”

Of course, all we can do is provide the means; it’s up to Oregon composers to contribute and update their profiles, so this venture’s success depends entirely on their initiative. But you can help. Please check out the site, spread the word to composers whose music you think deserves attention, and to performers who might play it, and let Gary know how to improve  it, via the contact info at the OCW site. Feel free to comment here as well, but first please visit  Oregon ComposersWatch and hear the music Oregonians are making today.

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3 Responses.

  1. bob priest says:

    LOVE it!!! – perhaps we can squeeze this worthy collective/project aboard MMM?

  2. Fantastic! PYP would love to be part of this conversation and resource.

    Over the years, PYP has commissioned and performed the works of many Oregon composers.

    This season, we have already performed the World Premiere of Kenji Bunch’s Supermaximum (full orchestra version) and will be performing Kevin Walczyk’s “Celebration Fanfare” on our March 1st Winter Concert.

    If you’d like video of Kenji’s piece, please let us know as it’s already on our YouTube channel.

    Looking forward to the development of this site!

    • Barry Johnson says:

      Thanks, Rachel. We need to get a Kenji Bunch listing up on the site. It’s easy for him to register, and the video could be part of that. Actually, I’d love to see representative videos and soundclips on the homepage, but maybe in the future!

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