Matthew Neil Andrews

Music editor Matthew Neil Andrews is a composer, singer, percussionist, writer, and magician specializing in the intersection of The Weird and The Beautiful. An incorrigible wanderer who spent his teens climbing mountains and his twenties driving 18-wheelers around the country, Matthew can often be found taking nightly dérive walks all over the city. He and his music can be reached at monogeite.bandcamp.com. Complaints and requests should be directed to music@orartswatch.org.

 

MusicWatch Weekly: 0 brave new world

In which we lament Geter’s Requiem, remember Menomena, and set Kevin down on the PDX Couch

Caveat lector: this is a long’n, dear reader, as we begin to unpack the reality sandwich and lay the groundwork for our digital decalogue

That humanity at large will ever be able to dispense with Artificial Paradises seems very unlikely. Most men and women lead lives at worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor and limited, that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul.

Aldous Huxley, Heaven and Hell (1956)

There are some who say we’ve been screwed ever since Gutenburg invented the printing press. Others, like Socrates, go further and blame the written word itself. Some even go so far as to label Western Civilization itself Faustian, for its technological fascinations and its devil-may-care, “can do, must do” attitude. And although we have begun, relatively recently, to see the beginnings of a new mindset in things like the appropriate tech and organic gardening movements of the seventies, those are only the seeds of what comes after. For now, we’ve still got an apocalypse to get through.

As any disaster capitalist can tell you, every crisis is also an opportunity. This month, we’re looking at our increasingly irrelevant calendars and lamenting the Damien Geter African-American Requiem we recently didn’t get to go hear performed by Resonance Ensemble at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Beautiful Downtown Portland. We’re still smarting from March’s interrupted Caroline Shaw residency, and last month we were supposed to be at The North Warehouse for the premiere of Darrell Grant’s 3A-commissioned Sanctuaries.

Last weekend, we were supposed to be hanging out with 45th Parallel Universe and two of our favorite living composers: Andy Akiho and Gabriella Smith, whose work was on the bill for what would have been another wonderful Old Church concert. And just this past Monday we would have been back at TOC for Fear No Music’s “Haters Gonna Hate” concert, listening to Michael Roberts and Amelia Lukas play the big bad scary music of Morton Feldman and Edgard Varèse.

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MusicWatch Weekly: Welcome to Digital Heaven

Hermit like a champ with Oregon’s virtualocal superstars

These days we’re toggling between two extremes: on the one hand, digitally mediated mass socialization via zoom, youtube, social media, and all the rest of the burgeoning digital (after)life; on the other hand, some truly next-level hermit action in the form of baking, yoga, quilting, meditation, prayer, journaling, self-reflection, self-recording, and the simple joy of sitting and catching up on all those books you’ve been meaning to read since, like, the eighties.

Of course, most of us are splitting the difference one way or another–for instance, we know dozens of musicians who are spending their quarantine listening to and sharing their favorite albums, a perfect example of how a fundamentally isolated endeavor can be transmuted into an eminently social experience. Same goes, mutatis mutandis, for book clubs and TV show binge-watching parties (let me know if I can spoil Battlestar Galactica for you).

We’ll be talking in some depth about this nascent digital afterlife starting next week, when we’ll discuss: 45th Parallel Universe’s new friend Kevin; defunct Portland cyberpunk indie trio Menomena; recent and timely Matrixy entertainment like Devs, Westworld, and Upload; and media guru Douglas Rushkoff’s “Ten Commands for a Digital Age.” That’s all in the first of several new series we schemers at ArtsWatch have planned for your next few months of quarantined music reading. Stay tuned.

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MusicWatch Monthly: Mayday!

Strikes, unions, and the unpaid labors of love

Today we’re going to talk about one of the oldest musical traditions in the world: getting screwed. But first, we’d like to invite you to open a new tab and go cancel your account with Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more, Inc. If you can’t bring yourself to do that (but why not?), you should at least boycott them today, along with all the other government-sized corporations that can’t be bothered to attend to their employees’ needs. The virtual picket line is the easiest to cross–don’t give in, dear reader.

And now, here’s Oregon Symphony principal cellist Nancy Ives with a Sarabande:

Alrighty, let’s talk about Music and Labor. We’ll start with Portland Musicians Union Local 99 and their page of resources for musicians. These folks (led by trombonist Bruce Fife) are a part of the American Federation of Musicians, who in 1942-44 prosecuted the longest entertainment strike in modern history. The strike itself is worth looking into, and you can do that right here (and read about the 1948 follow-up here), but there’s one specific part of the story we’d like to call attention to on this unusually bizarre International Workers’ Day: the divide-and-conquer part.

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MusicWatch Weekly: La dérive symphonique

Examining the New Flesh; staying home and slaying dragons; running on a treadmill

Well, the good news this week is that beloved Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki is still alive. See, here he is conducting his Violin Concerto No.2 ‘Metamorphosen’:

Put down your pitchfork, dear reader: this isn’t a tasteless joke but yet another complicated philosophical point. Penderecki has indeed left this vale of tears in order to go do whatever composers do when they’re done with their bodies, and you can mosey over here to read Arts Watch contributor Charles Rose’s assessment of Krzysztof’s time on this plane. But Penderecki did, before departing, leave many copies of himself scattered about this realm, and I don’t just mean the usual copies: written musical scores (we’ve had that form of immortality since Gutenberg) and the fond memories of his students and colleagues (that road to heaven has always been open to us all).

No, I’m mainly talking about the New Flesh, the digital ghost realm Penderecki now inhabits via the audio and video recordings he made while inhabiting the Old Flesh–these myriad recordings of Penderecki conducting his own work over the years make especially good company right now, here in the vale of tears. As more artists follow Penderecki (and Prince, Bowie, Lemmy, et alia) along the via dolorosa into virtual immortality, that famous old “giants walking behind you” problem becomes more acute than ever.

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MusicWatch Weekly: Don’t just do something, sit there!

Turn off the web, put on an album, close your eyes, and listen

You can thank American Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein for this week’s title: we lifted it from her popular 1996 book about creating your own mindfulness meditation retreat. It took us a moment to track down the provenance of that memorable phrase and its author (whom we only dimly remembered from a version of Powell’s which no longer exists), and in the process we saw a cartoon and commentary that unpacks it all wonderfully. You can read that right here, so for now we simply wish to quote Boorstein’s later clarification of her witticism:

I think the phrase needs notation, like music, to let the reader know where the accent goes: Don’t JUST do something (i.e. impulsively respond) — Think It Over!”

And that’s what we really want to talk about this week, dear reader, as our global pause continues and many of us remain confined to quarters, sitting and doing nothing. Because there’s a problem there: you’re not really sitting there doing nothing, and neither am I. We’re sitting here using the internet.

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MusicWatch Monthly: Send the fool further

A leap of faith and a speculative symphonic season

We have to admit that it was very tempting to do a hoax column today. We might have crafted fake season announcements, reviewed boxed sets that don’t exist, written a biography of an imaginary composer, released a phony recording of Bach’s seventh cello suite. Everything is canceled anyways, might as well have some fun and lob a little laughter into the void.

But we’ve all had enough fake news, don’t you think? It’ll still be fun to talk about all that imaginary stuff, but we’d prefer to approach it as an exercise in forecasting where music–and especially “classical” music–might go next. To get started, we’d like to veer into occult history to talk about The Fool and The Oldest Custom in the World.

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MusicWatch Weekly: The Apocalypse will be livestreamed

As world ends in slow motion, musicians struggle in solidarity

First of all, how are you? Eating enough? Staying inside and entertained? Called your friends and/or family lately? Good.

Let’s start by collectively admitting that we’re Not Doing Alright. It’s been a busy two weeks since last we spoke, dear reader: schools closed, concerts canceled, tours derailed, musicians laid off, stay-home orders issued, force majeure clauses invoked. We’ve been comparing notes with our fellow Gen X-ers and other overthirties, folks who experienced 9/11 and its aftermath as adults, and we’ve all reached the same conclusion–this is weirder by far.

Nobody knows what the hell is going to happen next, and as we scramble to make sense of it all we find ourselves grasping for new definitions of “musical activity” in general and “music journalism” in particular. We’d like to quote words from Oregon ArtsWatch Executive Editor Barry Johnson’s Mission Statement, which have recently comforted us:

The arts remind us that we are in this together. That we aren’t alone in our particular thoughts and feelings. That things can be made right and whole, if just for a moment. They remind us that the individual can do great things, and so can individuals acting together. And somehow, they resolve the great tension of American life, that between the rightful autonomy of the individual and the responsibilities that come with belonging to a group. We can’t imagine a good outcome to our dire problems—as a community, a nation, a planet—without the complex lessons the arts teach us.

We believe that the processes of discovery, explanation and discussion of journalism have an important role to play in all of this. An “informed citizenry” extends to cultural matters, and that is the mission of Oregon ArtsWatch—to help those of us in this particular culture share support and create arts and culture that respond to our needs.

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