Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

MusicWatch Monthly: Becoming marble

Remembering David Bernstein, Tomáš Svoboda, and Metallica. A vinyl celebration of Roselit Bone, Spoon Benders, The Shivas, and Møtrick. Joe Kye sings about grandma.

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Augustus of Prima Porta, marble, 1st century C.E.
Augustus of Prima Porta, marble, 1st century C.E.

Once out of nature I shall never take

My bodily form from any natural thing,

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of hammered gold and gold enamelling

To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;

Or set upon a golden bough to sing

To lords and ladies of Byzantium

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Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium,” 1926.

***

I have water for my journey

I have bread + I have wine

no longer will I be hungry

for the bread of life is mine

So I’m walking through the desert

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and I am not frightened although it’s hot

I have all that I requested

and I do not want what I haven’t got

Sinead O’Connor, “I do not want what I haven’t got,” 1990.

***

I don’t have to see it, Dottie. I lived it.

Pee-Wee Herman, “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” 1985.

These days it feels like we’re always mourning multiple people all at once. Just recently, we “lost” Sinead O’Connor (Shuhada’ Sadaqat), Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), and — closer to home — Cascadia Composers co-founder David Bernstein. How do we even begin to mourn such complex and titanic figures?

We begin with those scare quotes on “lost” — that is, we begin by acknowledging that in a sense they aren’t entirely gone. That is the special mixed blessing of the artist, that the art lives on. It might not be immortality, but at the very least the artist does survive as long as their art does. Which is to say, they live on as long as someone remembers them, which is true of all of us.

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In the case of Bernstein, we’re bummed that he never got the kind of enduring exposure that Tomáš Svoboda has been getting the last couple of years — meaning album releases. We can certainly hope for that, and it would be a worthy endeavor for Cascadia to gather up its archived Bernstein recordings and release them in some durable format. Even if that means no more than a curated and mastered digital release, it’ll be more than currently exists (aside from a fine but mostly forgotten 2011 recording released by North Pacific Music). Like many academically inclined composers, David didn’t even have his own website.

David Bernstein. Date and source unknown.
David Bernstein. Date and source unknown.

In the meantime, we can remember Bernstein’s music by what means we have. Like all composers within the Cascadia fold, there’s no shortage of videos from various CC concerts through the years (see below). And there’s that 2011 album, Late Autumn Moods and Images, which features such august Oregon musical figures as cellists Hamilton Cheifetz and Nancy Ives, pianists Susan DeWitt Smith and Alexandre Dossin, percussionist extraordinaire Joel Bluestone, and the mighty violin-viola duo of Inés Voglar Belgique and Joël Belgique.

Yes, dear reader, that means half of Fear No Music and all of the Palatine Piano Trio played on that album — and perhaps this bodes well for Bernstein’s future memory. We’ll return to Palatine and Svoboda later, and stay tuned for Brett Campbell’s full memorial next week. For now, here’s those videos.

Whispers of the Lakota

Late Autumn Moods and Images

Shades of Autumn

Three Bagatelles

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Cascadia Composer Monthly Presentation, March 14, 2022

Stay home

All this sorrow and chaos is enough to make anyone throw up their hands in dismay and decide to stay home — or is that only agoraphobes like the present author? For the shut-in contingent, anyways, now is the time when music festivals like the recently concluded Chamber Music Northwest really start. We’ve enjoyed reading and editing all the lovely reports from ArtsWatch writers, the last of which are trickling in this week. And one of those — Lorin Wilkerson’s review of the mid-fest concert Uncovered Voices, which featured CMNW co-director Gloria Chien flutist Amelia Lukas, clarinetist Anthony McGill, pianist-composer Stewart Goodyear, and the Catalyst Quartet — gives a glimpse into the present.

Because this particular concert is one of the fest’s five concerts which were professionally recorded and are now available for home-streaming via CMNW’s “At-Home” virtual series. That means this is one that we can not only read about, but watch and listen to as well. In a controlled environment, on high quality speakers, in our pajamas, with a mug of hot coffee and a slice of homemade quiche by our side.

You too can jammy up and listen to Uncovered Voices right here. All five streamed concerts are ticketed (thirty bucks a pop) and will remain available through the end of August.

Bandcamp Fee-Free First Fridays return this week, and we’ll be highlighting various old and new releases today. That starts with Ofrenda, the upcoming fourth album by Roselit Bone — it’s not available in toto until the 24th, but you can pre-order the vinyl (yes! vinyl!) now, and you can watch videos of the first two singles right here:

We’re big fans of Roselit Bone, having been captured by their perfect Oregon Country Fair energy at Mississippi Studios back in the pre-pandemic days. Here’s what we had to say about them at the time:

…a Portland-based octet working the gothic end of the Americana tradition. They put on a great show, partly because they’re essentially three bands in one: the Southern Rock Trio stage left, grizzled bearded dudes with drums and bass and spooky lap steel; the Hipster Trio stage right, glammy violin soloist flanked by a deft pair of multi-instrumentalists switching between keyboards, percussion, and dueling mariachi trumpets; and dead center the founding duo, bandleader Charlotte McCaslin and snazzily dressed Victor Franco, matching their guitars and voices like some old MTV special starring Siouxsie Sioux and Frank Black.

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The band’s big, complex sound pays off splendidly in their engaging live show, and you can hear the same energy on their latest release Crisis Actor, a rich half-hour of delightfully gloomy outlaw country songs which you should put on right now.

The band is on the road through October, with no local shows on the schedule (unless you feel like going to Madame Lou’s in Seattle on August 24) — which gives you every reason to stay home, order the records, and bliss out on all the hootin’ and howlin’ and twangin’.

We’ve gotta get in to get out

There’s still no news on when the beloved Doug Fir Lounge will actually stop hosting concerts — which means you better get out while you still have the chance to brave the wilds of East Burnside and mosey downstairs to the wood-paneled room that will remain Oregon’s best music venue no longer than “through the end of summer,” if their press statement from earlier this year is to be believed.

Two particular concerts grabbed our eye in this final stretch. The first is this weekend (if you’re reading this on or around the first week of August). Spoon Benders, one of Portland’s various basement-psych bands, will be performing there on Friday the 4th, and they’re the perfect act for this perfect venue: sweaty, groovy, punky, weird. It also so happens that they have two excellent physical releases which you can summon to your home through the magic of Bandcamp.

First: their most recent album, How Things Repeat, released this May. The vinyl is sold out but you can still get a Compact Disc for your car. Second, and perhaps more exciting: Their 2020 album Dura Mater (named for the “tough mother” part of your nervous system). This one also sold out its initial run, but has been re-pressed and re-released by Portland independent label Nadine Records. Listen to both right here:

The second Doug Fir show we want to talk about is way over on the other end of the musical spectrum: singer-pianist Jimmie Herrod and violist-pianist Chibia will perform next Thursday, August 10. You’ve probably heard Herrod before, on America’s Got Talent or with Pink Martini or whatever, and you can hear (and order a vinyl copy of) the five-song EP he recorded with PM, Tomorrow, right here:

Chibia is less well-known but no less compelling. Listen to her single “Leave It All To Me” right here:

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Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

We talked to these two when they performed together at The Old Church a few years ago, and here’s a sample of what they had to say at the time:

Chibia: Growing up Nigerian-American, I was always surrounded by all sorts of African music so that was definitely a big influence in my upbringing. Nigerian artists like King Sunny Adé or The Nkengas, Fela for sure. I also grew up listening to a lot of Congalese music like Awilo Longomba. I’m a huge Strokes fan and always will be. As of right now, some of my top picks would be Thundercat, Laura Mvula, Lianne La Havas, Matt Corby, and Rex Orange County. I think music is ever-shifting and that’s what makes it so cool. I mean, yes you can put music in a box and say this is this genre and what not, but I think that stifles the artist’s ability to explore their sound. We aren’t bound to the rules that were set before us. If we were, Gregorian Chant would be all the rage, and I’m not quite sure I’d be happy with that. Now I’m scared to answer this question [categorizing my own music] ‘cause I just ranted about putting myself in a box, but the goal is R&B. We’ll see. I might change my mind.

Herrod: I wonder about this a little too. Maybe people are being more exposed to things, like we are with food. I can go to a restaurant and try a localized version of something, maybe it’s not the most “true to home” version of that meal, but it’s at least an introduction. I think music has moments of this experience. I think my music leans on pop forms, while using some aspects of theater and jazz-based harmony from time to time. I used to hear melodies on the go a lot more frequently, but with the lifestyle I have now it’s rare that I have a real piano to touch and translate that musical daydream onto. I record things I’m humming, I write down words, and I travel with a mini two-octave keyboard and try to use some of my downtime on tour exclusively for writing. I would say what I’ve learned over time is to record everything. I’ve been haunted by many an idea that I will never hear myself play again, left only to misquote myself, or doubt the quote itself.

If you want to really get out–out of the cities, out into the country–you could follow the herd out to Happy Valley for this year’s Pickathon Experiential Music Festival (read Charles Rose’s report on last year’s fest right here). This year, the lineup includes a ton of hipster acts (mostly from Elsewhere) all across the genre spectrum: folk and bluegrass and African and Latina and hip-hop and soul and rock and funk and country and on and on and on.

There are a couple of standout local acts on this year’s roster. First, The Shivas, who unashamedly call themselves “a rock & roll band.” Second, Møtrik, a band that has the audacity to play Krautrock in Oregon and use one of those oh-so-foreign Ø’s in their name. Listen to both bands on Bandcamp right here (note that, once again, vinyl is an option):

To those about to metal, we salute you

Metallica will never die. Witness the Portland cover band Motorbreath (named for a song off the band’s 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All). They’re playing on Friday August 11 at Dante’s on West Burnside with a bevy of other metal tribute acts: Megadead (Megadeth), Live Undead (Slayer), and Primal Concrete Sledge (Pantera). Technically, there should be an Anthrax band in there somewhere, but we’re satisfied with this lineup–especially when the Slayer band has the fucking bassist from fucking Everclear. I mean what’s that about?

It’s a bizarre phenomenon, this tribute band thing, and metal is an especially appropriate genre for it. Much as we love listening to Ride The Lightning (at home, on vinyl) there’s nothing quite like getting all sweaty with a bunch of other metalheads in a dank old hellhole like Dante’s. It’s tradition, it’s cosplay, it’s an expression of a lineage and a love of physical culture. That Metallica song, “Motorbreath” — it’s about living fast and hard, and it’s also a reference to Motörhead, perhaps the earliest band that can justifiably be called “metal” (Black Sabbath absolutely does not count, and we will fight you with knives over that fact).

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Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

And Metallica themselves are a kind of tribute band, in the sense that once upon a time there was a band called Metallica, and they made a fistful of the indisputably greatest metal albums of all time — and then their bassist died, and the remaining members regrouped and formed a new band, also called Metallica, and proceeded to spend the next three decades playing tribute to themselves. Metallica is dead — long live Metallica!

“Your grandma lives across the sea”

Perhaps the most charming thing about “Halmoni Song (​할​머​니​)” from violinist-composer Joe Kye’s children’s music project “Hi Joe Kye!” is how the chords and lyrics are right there for everybody to play along with. They’re all easy chords too, whether you’re playing guitar or ukelele or whatever: E, A, F#m, B.

E

Your grandma lives across the sea

E

Yoo hoo yoo hoo

E

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She sends her love to you and me

E

Yoo hoo yoo hoo

A

We say hello

E

She says 안녕

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Seattle Opera The Life and Times of MalcolmX McCaw Hall Seattle Washington

F#m E

We tell her all that we have done

A E

Today we went out for a run

F#m B

We miss you to the sun

This celebration of family and happiness — especially in the face of fear, sorrow, and separation — runs through most of Kye’s music. Consider his Safe Harbor, performed by Resonance Ensemble a couple of years ago:

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Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

You can hear Kye this month in a beautiful outdoor setting — the ubiquitous SoundsTruck NW mobile venue, parked for the occasion up on Mount Tabor in Southeast Portland — when the looping-singing-violinist-composer performs with drummer Cory Limuaco. The August 20 concert is called Mount Immigration, presented in partnership with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) and Montavilla Jazz, and it’s part of SoundsTruck’s summer series (you can read about the last one, at the Japanese Gardens, in James Bash’s review right here).

The concert also features trombonist-composer Denzel Mendoza’s Illegal Son, with Matthew Holmes on upright bass. Mendoza also has his music up on Bandcamp, last year’s I Want To Go Home:

Northwest legacies

We told you we’d return to Palatine Piano Trio and Tomáš Svoboda. The group’s credentials are perfect — Susan DeWitt Smith, Inés Voglar Belgique, and Nancy Ives are objectively some of the best musicians in Oregon. They too will perform in the SoundsTruck this summer, on the first day of September. This one — Northwest Legacies, a release party for the trio’s upcoming album of Svoboda’s music — happens at Lewis & Clark College, whose Rome-invoking Palatine Hill Road gives the trio its name.

And here we return to our title and our theme. The first emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus, is infamously quoted as boasting that he “found it of brick, and left it of marble.” That we still quote this man, 2,000 years later — and still take inspiration from the city and empire that he turned to marble — is a testament to the immortalizing power of legend.

To those who become marble: We salute you!

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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.

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