MusicWatch Weekly: psychedeliclassical

Trippy visuals and more enhance Oregon classical music concerts

Classical music still lags a ways behind, say, the reggae community when it comes to appropriately celebrating 4/20. Admittedly, the some of the thrill has kind of, uh, gone up in smoke since Oregon finally ended the preposterous cannabis Prohibition, but it’s never too late explore the possibilities of imbibing ear-opening music with mind-altering visuals, and this week offers a couple of psychedelicious opportunities.

Radiance Orb prepares for its Hult Center trip.

On Thursday, the Eugene Symphony’s The Color of Sound concert spotlights Russian composer Alexander Scriabin’s notorious expansive voluptuous music, which partakes in both Romanticism and Impressionism. Whether or not he was actually gifted by synthesthesia, the crazy visionary Russian composer (like others then and now) “saw” sounds as colors — the note A was green, for example. His score for Prometheus included a part for a “light organ” that could display colors corresponding to the pitches in his music, but he was born a century or so too soon for technology to fully accommodate his vision. Fortunately, the mad scientist/artists at Eugene’s Harmonic Laboratory and Light at Play have arrived to help the ESO realize Scriabin’s vision for that proto-psychedelic 1910 piano concerto (subtitled Poem of Fire), with an eight-foot keyboard-controlled “Radiance Orb” suspended above the stage projecting tapestries of light around Silva Hall matched to the music.

The show also includes Scriabin’s famous 1908 fourth symphony, Poem of Ecstasy, which zooms from erotic to mystic to cosmic, plus short classical greatest hits by Handel, Grieg, Debussy, Pärt and more. ESO should sell edibles out in the lobby before this one.
Thursday, Silva Hall, Hult Center, Eugene.

• As should Cascadia Composers, whose 4/20 All Wired Up concert doubledose features more than a dozen of the region’s most accomplished composers, including some of its most promising next-gen voices. This mini festival of new electronic music includes original homegrown compositions for electric guitar and bass, keyboards, percussion, vocals, oboe, amplified trumpet and horn, piano, organ, and interactive fixed media. Then they add projections, modern dance, even an aerial drone. And that’s just the 4 pm show.

After a break (including an optional talk about “data-driven instruments” by prog/electronic/algorithmic composer percussionist Steve Joslin and electronic music and soundscape wizard Mei-Ling Lee), the video-enhanced 7 pm concert includes video/sound art for percussion, electronics, piano, electric guitar and fixed media. Composers include Timothy Arliss O’Brien, Dana Reason, Paul Safar, Brian Field, Greg Steinke, Nicholas Yandell, Matthew Andrews, Ted Clifford, Jennifer Wright, Tristan Bliss, Antonio Celaya, Stacey Philipps, Vivian Elliot, Mei-Ling Lee, Jeffrey Ericson Allen, Joshua Hey, Greg Bartholomew, and Daniel Brugh.
Saturday, The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave., Portland.

• The Creative Music Guild’s fascinating Extradition Series features 20th- and 21st-century experimental music that often blurs the imaginary line between composition and improvisation. The five pieces in Saturday’s concert leave many artistic choices up to the interpreters. A score by Bay Area composer Danny Clay consists of a large wooden box containing dice, playing cards, a clock, marbles, and instructions to the performers to turn the melange into music. Alexis Porfiriadis’s Happy Notes, Sad Notes gives performers ten “episodes” of graphic symbols and a series of questions regarding how they are to be interpreted (“Are these happy notes? Shall we play them?”) and invites them to take it from there. Performers include harpist Sage Fisher (Dolphin Midwives), clarinetist Lee Elderton, Branic Howard on guitar/electronics, pianist Matt Carlson, oboist Catherine Lee (oboe), cellist Collin Oldham, trumpeter Douglas Detrick, flutist Maxx Katz, percussionist Matt Hannafin, and more.
Saturday. Leaven Community, Portland.

Trotter & McNeal perform Friday and Saturday.

• In Golden Organ, Margaret McNeal and Stephanie Lavon Trotter use electronic and acoustic music and voice to “reclaim Opera.” This weekend’s “performative installation,” and there was a new voice which you slowly recognize as your own, includes original compositions, improvisations, multimedia and more. C
Friday and Saturday, Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave. Portland.

• If you missed Portland Piano International’s latest Rising Star Portland recitals with Jonathan Ferrucci that we told you about last week, you have one last chance to hear the Italian-Australian pianist play sonatas by Bartok and Schubert and a J.S. Bach partita.
Saturday, Columbia Center for the Arts, 215 Cascade Avenue, Hood River.

• Speaking of pianos, pianist Michael Allen Harrison’s admirable Ten Grands returns for its 19th annual concert. Harrison arranges classical, jazz, New Age and contemporary pop music for ten pianos played by Tom Grant, Colleen Adent, Monica Ohuchi, Julianne Johnson and many other keyboard aces and musical prodigies. Proceeds benefit Harrison’s Snowman Foundation and the Play It Forward Program, which helps bring music education and instruments to organizations that serve disadvantaged youth in the Northwest.
Saturday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Oregon Symphony members perform in Classical Up Close. Photo: Joe Cantrell.

• Another worthy cause: Classical Up Close, the annual festival of free chamber music concerts produced and performed by musicians of the Oregon Symphony and their friends. They pop up all over the Portland region, including this year Powell’s City of Books, Bethany Presbyterian Church, German American Society, and Tigard Library, and also include kids concerts. Stay tuned for more ArtsWatch coverage.
April 20-May 5, various venues.

• And speaking of festivals, the ninth annual Soul’d Out Festival includes legends and locals from bluesmen Buddy Guy and Curtis Salgado to funk legends Bernard Purdie and Tower of Power, Portland electronic artists Korgy & Bass, hip hop pioneers Sugarhill Gang & Furious Five and Eric B and Rakim, jazz with Theo Croker, neo-soul by Roy Ayers, global sounds with Soriah and Dakhabrakha, Saeeda Wright’s Aretha tribute, and so much more.
April 16-21, various Portland venues.

Stay tuned to ArtsWatch for previews of Portland State University’s production of Mozart’s comic opera The Fake Garden Girl (La Finta Giardiniera) this weekend, and FearNoMusic and Reed College’s celebration of the music of David Schiff Tuesday.

Streaming

PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY: Noon Concert featuring the PSU String area performing their annual spring recital. Thursday, April 18, noon.

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: University of Oregon Symphony plays music by Arthur Honegger, Serge Koussevitzky and Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished” symphony.  Saturday, April 20, 7:30pm.

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: International Tuba Day. Saturday, April 25, 7:30pm

LIVE FROM BEALL HALL: Romantic Scenes from Operettas. Saturday, April 25, 7:00pm.

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