MYS Oregon to Iberia

Oregon’s finest in full bloom: The 1905 re-opens, the Young Composer’s Project hears the future, and Cascadia Composers use The Force

Also: Freddie Vilches Meneses with Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Nancy Ives and Giancarlo Castro D'Addona and Sylvan Talavera with Portland Youth Philharmonic. Also also: bands, bands, bands, and more bands.

|

Composer-cellist Nancy Ives. Photo by Joe Cantrell.
Composer-cellist Nancy Ives. Photo by Joe Cantrell.

Here in the music section of Oregon ArtsWatch, there’s a very clear order of priorities. We have a mandate to write about Oregon music, because we are funded and patronized primarily by Oregon musicians and Oregon organizations, and have a readership which is mostly Oregonian.

So there’s an order to who we pay attention to and write about. It goes like this:

  1. Living Oregonian composers and performers;
  2. Musicians, living or otherwise, working in or otherwise associated with Oregon or the broader Pacific Northwest;
  3. American musicians in general;
  4. Everybody else.

We spent a fair amount of energy last time on “everybody else,” and partly that was because we wanted to spend today’s column on the top priority: Oregon composers. We’ll get to the “classical” stuff soon enough, and the “band” stuff even sooner, but we’d like to start with the latest in a story we’ve been following with some interest, namely the closure and re-opening of Portland jazz club The 1905.

Open sesame

That’s right, dear reader, they’re back! Back in February, The 1905’s new owners announced plans to re-open “within the next four to six weeks barring any complications.” Nine weeks later (close enough, close enough!) they’ve set a date: April 19, aka “this weekend,” if you’re reading this on or around “today,” aka Wednesday, April 17. From this morning’s press release:

The 1905 has announced it will reopen the popular North Portland jazz club just 154 days after it abruptly closed in mid-November. The 2024 season will commence with performances by Portland’s Christopher Brown on Friday, April 19 and Farnell Newton the following night, April 20.

Several other performances have also been announced including a full week of shows starting with Portland Jazz Legend, Mel Brown and his B3 group on Wednesday, April 24 and its first ‘Jazz Night in Portland’ spotlight show with Portland/NY/LA saxophonist, Hailey Niswanger on May 2.

Yowza! That’s a whole lot of Oregon talent, which of course has always been The 1905’s strong suit. Other acts in this re-opening season include vibraphonist Michael Raynor; drummers Cory Limuaco and Micah Hummel and Machado Mijiga, Portland’s First Couple of Jazz, Kelly Politzer and George Colligan; Noah Simpson and Joe Manis; Trio Subtonic; etc. etc. etc. Really you could just make a list of “Oregon Jazz Musicians” and assume each one is playing The 1905 in the next month or so. Check out the calendar and get your advance tickets at the1905.com before they all sell out.

Sponsor

WESTAF Shoebox Arts

Banding together

We don’t intend to rehash the whole “there are literally one million bands in Oregon” routine here, having done that back in January. Instead, let’s take a look at a handful of shows happening over the next few weeks, featuring a handful of Oregon’s finest, starting with two concerts on April 19.

First up is Gaytheist, a more-or-less indefinable power trio that’s been haunting Portland bars and basements for over a decade with their sassy, intense, not-exactly-proggy, not-exactly-punky, not-exacty-not-proggy-or-punky routine. They’re playing the McMenamins Mission Theater in Northwest Portland, the show starts at 8, and the lineup is classic New Oregon Scene (meet the new scene, same as the old scene): “DIY electronic” duo Sea Moss, Eugene “drag punk” quartet DR/UNK, and the “future music” of Ominyx. The latter doesn’t have any releases up on Bandcamp yet, but here they are playing at Portland’s Clown Fest last month:

As for Gaytheist, Sea Moss, and DR/UNK, you can hear them on Bandcamp:

Get your tickets to all that madness right here.

Sponsor

MYS Oregon to Iberia

***

Also on the 19th, up at Polaris Hall on North Killingsworth and Albina, right by the beautiful PCC campus, it’s the 10th anniversary party of XRAY.FM. If you’ve been in Portland longer than a decade, you probably remember when XRAY first hit the airwaves–yes, the actual airwaves. You’d be in the car listening to KBOO or KMHD or All Classical or whatever and flip the dial over to 91.1 and suddenly you’d be hearing some live version of Brian Eno’s “Third Uncle” and arguing over whether or not it was Bauhaus (it was). They were the best thing to happen to Oregon radio since KPSU got kicked off the air.

Anyways, for their birthday party they chose one of our favorite relatively new Oregon bands–Abronia–and a group that modestly describes itself as “Scott and Peter.” Yes, that’s Scott McCaughey from The Young Fresh Fellows and Peter Buck from R.E.M. Yes, we’re talking about The Minus 5. Here they are celebrating Neil Young’s birthday at Mississippi Studios last November:

As for what the guitar-sax-and-giant-drum sextet Abronia has been up to lately, The High Desert Sessions is “two side-long suites” of “improvisation, instrument swapping and musical hijinkery” recorded last year out in the Central Oregon desert on a 8 track cassette recorder. You can hear that right here:

Abronia’s currently working on their fourth album, so presumably this one will eventually stand as a transitional something-or-other, like Station To Station or Obscured By Clouds or Menomena’s weird modern dance soundtrack Under An Hour.

This concert also starts at 8 (get your tickets right here), so you’re going to have to choose between this and the Gaytheist fracas at Mission. Lucky you, though–Christopher Brown’s show at The 1905 that night is already sold out.

Sponsor

WESTAF Shoebox Arts

***

The next night, April 20 at Old Town Portland’s Shanghai Tunnel Bar, is the newest of the Oregon bands we’re listening to today: Doombia. That sounds like exactly what it sounds like it sounds like, a cross-pollination of doom metal and cumbia. The trio was formed last year by Brendan Deiz, a guitarist and singer who’s coming more from the cumbia side: they’ve made cumbia-influenced music with Cilantro and Fake News, their hardcore band Los Mal Hablados has a sassy horn section straight out of ‘80s Los Angeles, and their other current band Oleada is a more-or-less straightforward psychedelic-cumbia-jazz crew that mostly writes songs about animals. Portland zine The Scrape has the story of how Deiz got doom into this ever-evolving mix:

An accident with his hand compelled him to change his guitar technique. The injury prevented him from playing guitar for part of 2020, and by the time he returned to the instrument the riffs came out heavy, with a new character that lent itself to a darker sound. Some time later, while he was teaching during the pandemic, a student wanting to learn to play doom music sparked within him the idea for a new project.

“When I started teaching her I realized that I wanted to compose my own heavy music… almost as a personal joke I told myself that I had just invented Doombia”.  -Brendan

You can hear the results on the new trio’s Doombia, Vol. 1 right here:

Also on the bill at Shanghai Tunnel is Strgyza, another newish band that took its name from a demon and half its members from Roselit Bone. They sound, to these ears, about halfway between Bauhaus and the Damned:

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

***

Competing for your attention on the 20th, it’s !mindparade at Beacon Sound’s newish Megalith venue on MLK. The band normally operates as a septet, which is how we first experienced them, but mastermind Alex Arnold informs us that for this show they’re appearing in their “stripped down trio” configuration. Septet, trio, whatever, you can get a good sense of !mindparade’s lush neopsychedlia on last year’s ambient-but-not-in-a-boring-way 24-minute epic, Skyscapia:

Also on the bill at this Record Store Day gig at Beacon/Megalith: Portland filmmaker and multi-instrumentalist David Dybvig, performing under his Brass Clouds moniker, and Negative Concord, a duo comprised of saxophonist Patrick McCulley and ondes martenot player Richard Moore.

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

***

We end this bandy segment with another of our favorite Oregon bands: Nasalrod, celebrating the release of In The Modern Meatspace, their split record with Victims Family. That’s May 4th, also at Polaris Hall, with Nadine Records labelmates The Mistons. Get your tickets right here.

Hearing the future

Every year, Fear No Music presents the results of its Young Composers Project at a pair of afternoon concerts with the perfect title “Hearing the Future.” This year’s concerts are at 1:30 and 4 pm on April 21 in Portland State University’s Lincoln Recital Hall (the one in the basement), and there are a few familiar names on the list of 26 young composers featured this Sunday:

  • C.A. Martin (recently featured on a Metropolitan Youth Symphony concert, which you can read about here);
  • Skye Neal (recently featured on Fear No Music’s Locally Sourced Sounds IX concert, which you can read about here);
  • Elaina Stuppler, recently featured on Sarah Tiedemann’s solo concert for Third Angle New Music (read about that here and here) and even more recently chosen to be All Classical Radio’s 2024 Young Artist in Residence (read about that here).

Phew! We’re betting that all three names–and probably a few more of those 26–will become even more familiar in years to come. And YCP as a whole has recently been in the news. Last month, they were honored with Oregon Symphony’s 2024 Schnitzer Wonder Award, which comes with massive bragging rights and a cash prize of $10,000 (read more about that right here).

You can get a taste of what the future sounds like right here, with YCP’s concerts from 2021:

Sponsor

WESTAF Shoebox Arts

***

Where FNM’s YCP is for young composers, Cascadia Composers nicely fills the next niche up–it exists primarily for older composers (like the present author, who served two years on their board). It’s a niche that needs to be filled, partly for the sake of generational balance and partly because so many composers have to get a bit of life behind them first: having a family, or a teaching career, or a performing career, or just trying to make a living as an office drone or a dishwasher or a truck driver or whatever. One of my composition teachers once told me that “the tenure track, the motherhood track, and the composing track–they run parallel.”

Anyways, that’s what Cascadia is for, and we love them for it. They have four events–four different types of events–on the calendar in the coming weeks, and we’d like to tell you about all four.

One of these is not exactly a Cascadia event: it’s actually a Choral Arts Ensemble concert. On their “Northwest Voices” concerts April 27 & 28, CAE will sing music of Sydney Guillaume (one of Oregon’s more recent adoptees) alongside Pacific Northwesterner Morten Lauridsen; Tomáš Svoboda, the Godfather of the Oregon School of Composition; and a trio of Cascadians. Daryl Browne discussed this one in her choral column yesterday, so let’s turn the mic over to her:

New compositions and works by local and regional composers complete Choral Arts Ensemble’s program. Included are The Road Not Taken by Dawn Sonntag, Pacific University Professor, which receives its NW premiere; Ay’bobo Pou Yo by Sydney Guillaume (read Brett Campbell’s 2022 profile here); and a neglected choral delight, Czernogorsk Fugue, by the late Portland State University professor Tomáš Svoboda.

You will also hear two NW premieres of works by Cascadia Composer members Brian Holmes and Patrick Vu, including Wu’s On the Hillside, which was named the winner of the American Choral Directors Association’s 2023 Raymond W. Brock Prize for Student Composers.

On the 21st–this Sunday, if you’re reading on the 17th–Cascadia is having a “Deep Listening Gathering” at HoofnHorn Music Therapy Studio in the deep southwest part of Portland out near Highway 217. Here’s what Cascadia has to say about it:

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

All members and the public are invited to our first session of Deep Listening. We will start with a sonic meditation on the sounds of the environment, followed by a series of text-scores which we will perform together. The gathering will last approximately 90 minutes. To find out more about Deep Listening check out https://www.deeplistening.rpi.edu/deep-listening/.

When they say “text-scores” they’re talking about the stuff that accordionist and composer-provocateur Pauline Oliveros cooked up to free the musical spirit from its mind-forged manacles. One popular sonic meditation, “Teach Yourself to Fly,” goes like this:

Any number of persons sit in a circle facing the center. Illuminate the space with dim blue light. Begin by simply observing your own breathing. Always be an observer. Gradually allow your breathing to become audible. Then gradually introduce your voice. Allow your vocal cords to vibrate in any mode which occurs naturally. Allow the intensity to increase very slowly. Continue as long as possible naturally, and until all others are quiet, always observing your own breath cycle.

Another one, “Tuning Meditation,” goes like this:

Begin by taking a deep breath and letting it all the way out with air sound. Listen with your mind’s ear for a tone. On the next breath using any vowel sound, sing the tone that you have silently perceived on one comfortable breath. Listen to the whole field of sound the group is making. Select a voice distant from you and tune as exactly as possible to the tone you are hearing from that voice. Listen again to the whole field of sound the group is making. Contribute by singing a new tone that no one else is singing. Continue by listening then singing a tone of your own or tuning to the tone of another voice alternately. Commentary: Always keep the same tone for any single breath. Change to a new tone on another breath. Listen for distant partners for tuning. Sound your new tone so that it may be heard distantly. Communicate with as many different voices as possible. End when everyone else does. It happens. Sing warmly!

Yet another, “XVI,” goes like this:

Begin simultaneously with the others. Sing any pitch. The maximum length of the pitch is determined by the breath. Listen to the group. Locate the center of the group sound spectrum. Sing your pitch again and make a tiny adjustment upward or downward, but tuning toward the center of the sound spectrum. Each time sing a long tone with a complete breath until the whole group is singing the same pitch. Continue to drone on that central pitch for about the same length of time it took to reach the unison. Then begin adjusting or tuning away from the center pitch as the original beginning pitch was.

Sponsor

WESTAF Shoebox Arts

When a group like Resonance Ensemble does that, it sounds like this:

More information on the Deep Listening Gathering is available here.

On May 4th, in PSU’s Lincoln Recital Hall, Cascadia presents the latest in a long line of punnily-titled concerts. “May the Fourth Be With You!” features music by Cascadians Greg Bartholomew, Sy Brandon, Kevin Bryant Lay, Alex Shapira, Greg A Steinke, William Toutant, Martin J. Van Klompenberg, and Mark Vigil. Performing all this: the Chameleon Winds and a trio of pianists (Ben Gimm, Susan McDaniel, and Luna Thompson-Aue). Here’s Chameleon Winds performing at the finest obscure little venue in Oregon, Abbie Weisenbloom House, at the very start of the pandemic:

More information on this concert is available here.

Finally, on May 14 it’s the fourth of these upcoming Cascadia events: Eugene composer, flutist, and educator Sarah Jordan delivering her Phd composition dissertation. Here’s how Jordan describes what she does:

Sarah has always thought of music as her voice to express the thoughts and emotions she wishes to convey and inspire within listeners. Though this is her personal way of communication, she also hopes to lend a platform in which other’s texts, emotions, and ideas can live. For every composition and performance she aims to understand, engage, and collaborate with the performers and audience in a way that all can feel confident and passionate about a work.

Cascadia does these composer presentations every month, or nearly so. This one’s on Zoom, and it starts at 7:30 (with “social time” at “~7:15”). More information is available here, and you can get a sense of what Jordan’s music sounds like on her Soundcloud page:

Sponsor

WESTAF Shoebox Arts

¡Adelante!

We leave you with two orchestral concerts in May, both featuring Oregon composers.

On May 4 & 5, Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra continues its fine tradition of performing Oregon composers with its program ¡Adelante! Voices of Tomorrow. The centerpiece of this one is the Suite Latinoamericana of Freddie Vilches Meneses, a Chilean composer who’s been teaching at Lewis & Clark College for nearly two decades. You may remember his Abya Yala Choral Suite, which Resonance Ensemble commissioned and premiered two years ago:

The Suite is inspired by music all over Latin America, and Vilches himself will solo on a variety of Indigenous instruments–antara and zampoña flutes, the stringed charango and cuatro, maybe even some maracas. PCSO will be joined by the BRAVO Youth Orchestra, and flutist Adam Eccleston will solo on Alberto Ginastera’s Impresiones de la Puna for Flute and Strings. More information and tickets are available here.

***

Reigning champion Portland Youth Philharmonic has no less than three Oregon composers on its spring concert May 5. That’s not as big a deal on a chamber music concert (though it’s still a big deal), but when an entire orchestra performs this many composers living and working in the same region–well, it shouldn’t be unheard of but it is. What’s more, they’re all world premieres. Way to go, PYP!

Two of the three Oregonians are names you probably already know. Nancy Ives is one of the Four Big Names in the Oregon School of Composition, and as such really needs no introduction. PYP will premiere her The Spirit of the Columbia, which will also feature the Native American group Four Directions (last heard with Resonance Ensemble last summer).

If you’re not familiar with Ives’ elegant compositional voice, you can get a pretty good sense of it in this performance of her “N’Chewana” at the 2021 Siletz Bay Music Festival. And you’ll get to hear this one again a little over a year from now–it’s the opening movement of her Celilo Falls: We Were There, which Oregon Symphony will perform next June.

Sponsor

PCS Clyde’s

The other name you’ve surely already heard is Giancarlo Castro D’Addona, though you may not have known that he’s a composer as well as a conductor–he leads PYP’s wind ensemble, the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Concert Orchestra, and the Reed College orchestra. D’Addona originally hails from Venezuela, where he was trained in El Sistema, a pedagogical method used by BRAVO Youth Orchestra. Small world!

The Oregon composer you may have heard of but probably haven’t is a Young Composers Project alum: Sylvan Talavera. He was part of a group interview conducted by Charles Rose back in 2019, which you can read here, and has been on a few Fear No Music concerts. I was especially impressed by Talavera’s piece The Peaceful and Mask of Sanity, performed by FNM on their fourth “Locally Sourced Sounds” concert in 2018. Thanks to the Magick of Internet, you can hear this one for yourself, as performed by FNM at their 2017 YCP concert:

Here’s what we had to say about it at the time:

It’s not that I didn’t know that “the kids these days” were familiar with the post-1950 classical idiom of Messiaen, et al; the kids these days are familiar with everything. But I wasn’t expecting to hear a high school junior respond to the 2016 election with an exquisitely crafted and vehement slice of post-modern chromaticism straight out of the Boulez playbook. The quintet—Hébert and Ives on violin and cello, Payne on the piano, Kirt Peterson on saxophone, and percussionist Michael Roberts on a vibraphone-centric array—was up to the challenge, giving Talavera’s difficult music the careful excessiveness it deserved.

There was a deep emotional layer running through Talavera’s dense dissonances, a human factor missing from so much modernistic stuff, subduing the noisy and inchoate elements and bending them to its humanizing will. In fact, it was a lot more like that next generation of modernists, ‘70s composers like George Crumb and especially Joan Tower, composers who made complicated music that nevertheless sounded good and meant something, and was thus capable of connecting to an audience. We’ll be listening for Talavera’s next moves, too.

And what has Talavera been up to since then, you ask? Why, graduating from University of Michigan and sonifying scrying, of course. What do you think, Oregon, can we lure him back?

Be part of our
growing success

Join our Stronger Together Campaign and help ensure a thriving creative community. Your support powers our mission to enhance accessibility, expand content, and unify arts groups across the region.

Together we can make a difference. Give today, knowing a donation that supports our work also benefits countless other organizations. When we are stronger, our entire cultural community is stronger.

Donate Today

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.

SHARE:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

PCS Clyde’s
MYS Oregon to Iberia
Profile Theatre Orange Sky
Mt Tabor Art Walk
OCCA Monthly
PNCA MFA Exhibition
Kalakendra May 18
NW Dance Project
Bonnie Bronson Fellow Wendy Red Star
Maryhill Museum of Art
PAM 12 Month
Pacific Maritime HC Prosperity
PSU College of the Arts
Oregon Cultural Trust
We do this work for you.

Give to our GROW FUND.