MusicWatch Weekly: voicing identity

Portland performances bring new perspectives to music and gender

When making the transition to align their bodily appearance with their true identities, transgender women must learn to deal with the fact that their old voices don’t transition biologically, even with hormone treatment. One of them, New York composer Sarah Hennies, turned that experience into multimedia drama. Thursday and Friday at PICA, 15 NE Hancock St., Third Angle New Music presents her Contralto, a multimedia work that uses “the sound of trans women’s voices to explore transfeminine identity from the inside and examines the intimate and peculiar relationship between gender and sound.”

The Last Artful, Dodgr performs at TBA.

The new music organization’s collaboration with PICA’s Time Based Arts festival combines live music for strings and percussion with film and recorded voices of transgender women. Hear an OPB interview with Hennies.

After Contralto’s Thursday show, stay at PICA to hear a pair of electroacoustic duos: LA lap steel dobro guitarist Caspar Sonnet & koto master Kozue Matsumoto (seen recently at Portland Creative Music Guild shows), and Oakland’s Kaori Suzuki & John Krausbauer, who create soundscapes with voice, bell, percussion, electronics, and amplified strings. Also at TBA, catch Portland’s own fab The Last Artful, Dodgr‘s Saturday late night show at PICA.

Speaking of gender and voice, hear seven women perform scenes from famous operas with a queer twist at Queer Opera Experience’s debut concert Saturday at Portland State’s Lincoln Hall. Instead of casting based on traditional gender roles, the scenes from Marriage of Figaro, Cosi fan tutti (They’re All Like That), La Boheme, Ariadne at Naxos, and Trouble in Tahiti. And check out this blog post by one of QO’s singers Jena Viemeister, who heads up Eve Song Project PDX, teaches voice and has performed with Portland Opera, Opera Theater Oregon, Opera on Tap and more.

Sarah Hennies – “Contralto” (preview) from Sarah Hennies on Vimeo.

• Cascadia Composers celebrates its tenth anniversary season with ten concerts this year, and Caldera, Saturday afternoon’s free, family friendly outdoor show at Portland’s Mt. Tabor Park Amphitheater, features some of the organization’s — and the city’s — finest composers. Leave it to Cascadia to make rock music — with actual rocks! Susan Alexjander’s electronic Rock Piece offers audience members the chance to participate, while her Ananda Sama stars violist Christina Ebersohl. Song of the Stars features a visual display that audience members can view on their own devices while with composer Alexander Schwarzkopf controls the music via laptop. Jennifer Wright’s No Disrespect employs an abandoned piano, alien sounds, and spray paint to explore the cultural pressures of urban life. Daniel Brugh’s nature-inspired Listen to the Earth features synthesizers, digital media and gongs. Mei-ling Lee’s La’ah and girl-power The Feather pair a solo dancer with an electronic score. Stay tuned for my ArtsWatch Cascadia Composers feature Friday.

• On Friday at Eugene’s Tsunami Books, one of Cascadia’s finest and most broadly appealing composers, Paul Safar, joins fellow pianist Ben Farrell, sublime singer Nancy Wood and superb saxophonist Tom Bergeron in pop songs, jazz and some of Safar’s latest originals.

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra, here performing in Germany, comes home to Portland. Photo: Barbara Whitman.

• The Oregon Mandolin Orchestra, like Third Angle now under new artistic direction, shows the diversity of repertoire for the little stringed instrument in Sunday’s A Mandolin Family Road Trip at Portland’s Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave., featuring composers from France, Brazil, Greece and the United States. One is the American premiere of a new composition by OMO co-founder and former music director, Brian Oberlin, which the ensemble performed when it represented the US in a major German festival last summer.

• Jazzy Women. On Wednesday, Bria Skonberg plays and sings hot jazz standards, originals and more at the Old Church. On Saturday, LaRhonda Steele belts her blues, jazz, and R&B at Eugene’s Jazz Station. And Sunday, Madeleine Peyroux, who came to prominence as a Billie Holiday imitator but has since broadened her range, comes to Portland’s Revolution Hall.

• The Shedd’s production of The Wizard of Oz, running through the end of September in Eugene, uses the Royal Shakespeare Festival’s extremely faithful 1987 stage adaptation — not of L. Frank Baum’s beloved 1900 book, but of the even more widely beloved 1939 film. Which means you get Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen’s immortal Oscar-winning songs, including the one voted by wise people as the greatest ever, “Over the Rainbow,” with its restored final verse. There’s even a bonus track, “The Jitterbug,” a dance number cut from the film.

• Sunday at downtown Eugene’s Atrium building, the early music specialists in Música Eugenia sing and play Renaissance music from England, including works by the William Byrd and the Bard of Bummerdom, John Dowland, who was emo centuries before Weezer.

• She may be a Brooklyn resident and a Harvard prof now, but Oregon still claims Portland native Esperanza Spalding as our own, and this week, the great composer/bassist/singer/star is recording her next album live and streaming the 77-hour process on her Facebook page for all her fans to tune into.

All Classical radio staffers helping feed hungry Oregonians.

• Finally, when All Classical Portland this week starts substituting fundraising appeals for some of its usual sterling classical music broadcasting, remember that your contribution can also feed hungry Oregonians as well as keeping classical music on airwaves and internet. As part of Hunger Action Month, every time someone makes a September donation to the station, Olson & Jones Construction turns around and makes a donation directly to the Oregon Food Bank to help provide 30,000 meals to those in need. To participate, call 1-888-899-5722, contribute online, or stop by the station, 211 SE Caruthers Street in Portland, during business hours.

What other musical recommendations would you like to pass on to ArtsWatch readers? Pop ’em in the comments section below.

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Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

About the author
Senior Editor | Website

Brett Campbell has been classical music editor at Willamette Week since 2008, music columnist for Eugene Weekly since 1996, and West Coast performing arts contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal since 2000. He is a frequent contributor to San Francisco Classical Voice, Oregon Quarterly, and Oregon Humanities and has also written for The Oregonian, Portland Monthly, West: The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Salon, Musical America and many other publications. He is a former editor of Oregon Quarterly and The Texas Observer. He is co-author of the biography Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick (Indiana University Press, 2017) and has taught news and feature writing, editing and magazine publishing at the University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication and Portland State University.

2 Responses.

  1. Jane Jarrett says:

    Thanks, as always, for the great arts coverage. FYI, though, this is at least the third time that Third Angle has been part of PICA’s TBA Festival, following 2008’s City Dance of Lawrence and Anna Halprin, and the more recent In The Dark at OMSI.

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