Matthew Neil Andrews

Music editor Matthew Neil Andrews is a composer, writer, and alchemist 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 his nightly dérive walks all over whichever Oregon city he happens to be in. He and his music can be reached at monogeite.bandcamp.com.

 

Black Music Matters, Vol. 3: Smell the roses

Amenta Abioto takes a walk, Tony Ozier conceptualizes

Last year, Third Angle New Music released a list of local composers they’d be working with on their new “Soundwalks” series. It was an exciting list, and the series is now five episodes in, including this month’s episode with percussionist and sound wizard Loren Chasse. The biggest names in that lineup are Darrell Grant and Andy Akiho, with the entire series being a study in artistic diversity, but one name stood out: Amenta Abioto. Because out of all the various local and/or living composers Third Angle has worked with over the years (and in series like this one), Abioto is the Oregonian musician I’d most like to see in a Caroline Shaw-style profile concert.

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Black Music Matters, Volume Two: Multiples

Joe Henderson multiplies, Bobby McFerrin medicates, Machado Mijiga jams for the beach

If you’ve been following Fear No Music’s season, you probably caught Amelia Lukas playing solo flute music by a quartet of Black composers last week. Lukas has been performing fearlessly on FNM shows for years, and we consistently enjoy her sensitive, emotive, virtuosic approach to the often gnarly contemporary classical world that FNM specializes in. So it was unsurprising that her livestream performance on March 1st (recorded in an endearingly empty Alberta Rose Theatre) was some of the best modern classical I’ve heard in awhile.

My favorite of the four was by Dr. Carlos Simon, and although you can’t hear Lukas’ performance of it (those livestreams expire after 48 hours), you can hear it performed by the flutist who commissioned it, Dr. Brice Smith. According to Smith, here’s what Simon has to say about his 2019 composition “Move It”:

Dr. Simon characterizes his solo work as, “a syncopated joy ride. I want to explore the percussive and rhythmic nature of the flute; something moves with energy and forward motion.”

Rainbow bridge

I wish every composer I know would take notes from local maestro Machado Mijiga. The composer-drummer-saxophonist has been cranking out music for damn near a decade, and the beautiful thing about Mijiga’s Bandcamp page is how it archives this varied musical history, from his earliest student work up to the most recent EPs. And, lucky us, we can trace that history with two of Mijiga’s original compositions: “Heimdall’s Creek” and “Diffused Solstices.”

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Black Music Matters, Volume One: Black Messiahs

Proggy jazz from the ‘70s, dubby thrash from the ‘80s, and new music by one of Portland’s favorite rappers

A little while back, I was watching a Portland Opera video of local composer Damien Geter singing a bunch of music by Black composers, and under his slick blazer you could just make out a t-shirt reading “Black Music Matters.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that phrase and the key word “matters” (as have we all, no doubt)–along with the implication that Black music has, for too long, not mattered for many audiences.

February is Black History Month, not Black Music Month (that’s in June, thanks to Presidents Carter and Obama). But this month which we’ve collectively set aside for appreciating Black history is also the shortest month of the year, so it’s quite obviously not the only time we should be paying attention. Let’s consider this month a good time to take stock, freshen up, and perhaps start a new tradition of deliberately seeking out and hearing Black music.

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Looking Back 2020: Reports from the orchestra seats

A review of our favorite ArtsWatch music stories from The Longest Year in History

What the hell happened this year?


LOOKING BACK: 2020 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR


To begin, I’d like to share a bit of MTV Generation perspective with my younger readers, those who may have never known (for instance) a pre-9/11 world. When everything shut down this spring and it all started getting extra weird, I sat dazed in my kitchen, staring out on empty streets and clear skies, and decided to ask around–how much weirder is this than 2001-03? Or, to go a bit further back, how much weirder than “the end of history” in 1989-91, when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed and tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and Iraq and Panama, and the New Cold War started?

Naomi Klein will tell you that a disoriented state of helpless confusion is exactly the point of such times (“shock and awe” indeed), while Rebecca Solnit continues to remind us that these times are also opportunities for human communities to come together in solidarity and mutual aid. But regardless of catastrophe’s many and varied uses, it’s mainly just exhausting for us normal humans who must suffer history (and its end) in our daily lives.

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Look–Christmas music is complicated. I don’t mean musically, although we’ll mostly be enjoying the more complex stuff today. No, I mean it’s complicated. For one thing it’s everywhere, ubiquitous and inescapable, a wide variety of excessively familiar tunes in every imaginable genre and style, covering everything from infant refugees to flying reindeer. We’ve got some of the oldest western music ever written rubbing elbows with ‘40s ballads and ‘50s jingles and ‘90s dance hits, all of it competing for a season’s worth of psychic space, blanketing the sonic terrain every year with promises of sugar, snowflakes, and salvation.

Few American traditions get more tangled than Christmastime. If you’re a believer, Christmas is an annual reminder of Easter, the price of which is Good Friday–Christ was literally born to die. And for us heathens, it can be a little disorienting toggling between Secular Shopper Santa and creepy lines from, say, Handel’s Messiah, the ones that sound like threats, stuff like this:

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Once things clear out, what do you hear?

Recalling Caroline Shaw’s Third Angle visit: a song, a memory, and a chat with the composer

I just have to tell you about this song I’ve had stuck in my head for the last nine months, rattling around my quarantined brain ever since my personal Last Concert from the Before Times.

It was Friday, March 6th (an obligingly dark and stormy night), two days before the state-of-emergency declaration, and Third Angle New Music Artistic Director Sarah Tiedemann was standing in the dimly lit Studio 2 at New Expressive Works on Southeast Belmont, starting the second night of 3A’s Caroline in the City concert with a Ram Dass quote:

When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You are too this, or I’m too this.” That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.

Caroline Shaw performing at New Expressive Works in March 2020. Photo by Kenton Waltz.
Caroline Shaw performing at New Expressive Works in March 2020. Photo by Kenton Waltz/Third Angle New Music.

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The spirit of radio

In praise of All Classical: keepers of the invisible fire, broadcasters of new commissioned works by Damien Geter and S. Renee Mitchell

This weekend I’m grateful for one of our most beloved Oregon musical institutions, All Classical. You know all about them, of course, and probably you have your own stories about their long custom of cultivating, curating, and communicating the healing power of music. Here’s mine.

It was a million years ago, at the tail end of the Dubya Ages (sometime before the infamous shoe throwing incident), and I was celebrating my 30th birthday at a flatbed trucking terminal and training facility in Jacksonville, Florida. Nothing against Florida (or flatbed trucking), but I was more than a little homesick and starved for culture. Enter my first smartphone: a phone that could internet! Wow!

The first thing I did was look up allclassical.org and download their player. The soothing sounds of the Oregon Symphony and the reassuring voices of John Pitman, Robert McBride and Christa Wessel were a lifeline during that time, a 24-hour buffet of invisible soul food tumbling out of sweaty earbuds and nourishing me all through that hot, dreary fall.

I thought of that recently while driving a moving truck definitively out of Portland after two drizzly decades drinking delicious coffee. Sure enough, the rugged old U-Haul was equipped with nothing but radio–always great for slipping into a “go with the flow” mindset. This time around it was Coast Radio that carried me home, DJ Ellen’s Celtic Aire program enlivening the evergreen-darkened Highway 30 with songs about witches and banshees.

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