david del tredici

Fear No Music: music of migration and more

New music ensemble demonstrates dedication to diversity and development


Portland contemporary classical music organization Fear No Music is a civic treasure. It cultivates audiences, artists, and composers through outreach and education programs. It keeps the classical tradition alive, performing select works from the contemporary classical canon while spending most of their energy on the next generation of composers. FNM’s ongoing efforts to diversify the repertoire have done more than just make the group socially relevant in a town that doesn’t always live up to its progressive values — it’s also commissioned and performed more living and contemporary composers than probably any other classical group in Portland (except, of course, for Cascadia Composers). And, with a stable of Oregon Symphony players in their ranks and Portland’s most popular composer at the helm, FNM generally puts on one hell of concert.

FNM opened its 2018-19 season with a pair of September shows collectively titled Shared Paths: The Music of Migration. The first was something of a teaser, a solo piano recital at Steel Gallery in Northwest Portland, the second a full concert the next day at their familiar haunt, The Old Church down by Portland State University, featuring the usual FNM crew.


This season’s title, Worldwide Welcome, a quote from the oh-so-right-now Lazarus poem (“From her beacon-hand / Glows world-wide welcome”) makes it clear that FNM intends to continue developing the themes they’d already explored so thoroughly in last season’s dozen-odd Hope in the Dark concert. It shows dedication, for one thing, a hot commodity in an age of distraction and disintegration.


Chamber Music Northwest preview: David Del Tredici’s “Bullycide”

American composer creates a tribute to victims of hatred and ignorance.

Although he’s one of the most acclaimed composers of his generation, David Del Tredici was worried when his new composition for piano and string quintet was about to premiere last August at California’s La Jolla SummerFest.

“I felt like a bull in a china shop,” the 77-year-old California-born, longtime New Yorker remembers. Even though his new Bullycide’s passionate music would appeal to fans of Brahms and other Romantic composers as well as contemporary music aficionados, he also knew that “classical music is the most conservative area of the arts, socially and textually speaking,” he told Oregon ArtsWatch. “The other pieces on the program were so well mannered, and a big piece on a gay-related social topic is unusual.”

David Del Tredici helped re-open the door to tonal composing.

David Del Tredici helped re-open the door to tonal composing.

That topic was a tough one. The inspiration for Bullycide, which receives its Northwest premiere at Chamber Music Northwest (which co-commissioned it) Monday and Tuesday, came from the well-publicized 2010 suicide of the young college student Tyler Clementi, who killed himself after his roommate posted surreptitious video footage of Clementi’s fling with another male student. Del Tredici, who has written several other works dealing with aspects of gay life, soon learned that Clementi’s was only the latest in a long string of bullying-induced suicides of young gay Americans, which stirred memories of the composer’s own childhood. “I was also bullied a lot in school,” he recalls. “I was flooded with painful memories… that awful feeling of being treated as a ‘defective’ person,” he wrote in the program notes for Bullycide.