Fin de Cinema

Oregon Music 2018: looking outward

Socially engaged sounds, multimedia productions, and other trends in 2018 Oregon music

Last year’s music roundup first looked homeward. ArtsWatch’s 2017 music coverage focused, as we have from the outset, on our state’s creative culture: music conceived and composed in Oregon. We touched a lot of other bases, too of course, and homegrown music remained a touchstone our 2018 coverage and this recap.

But as with other Oregon artists this year, Oregon music increasingly gazed outward — and often askance — at our nation’s continuing descent into turmoil, division, lies, and political corruption, starting right at the top and oozing down. Therefore, so did much of our music coverage. So we’ll start with what ArtsWatch’s David Bates called…

“Socially Engaged” sounds

Portland new music ensemble FearNoMusic and choir Resonance Ensemble devoted entire seasons to contemporary classical music that responds to today’s social issues.

Resonance Ensemble preview: questions of faith
Choral organization’s ‘Souls’ concert is part of a season-long musical exploration of timely social concerns
Brett Campbell, February 23

‘Bodies’ review: Pride is a verb
Resonance Ensemble’s Pride Week concert commemorates LGBTQIA community’s struggles and celebrates its creativity.
Matthew Andrews, August 14

Resonance Ensemble

Resonance Ensemble: amplifying ‘Hidden Voices’
Vocal ensemble’s collaborative concert features musical responses to experiences marked by racism and resistance.
Matthew Andrews, November 17

Fear No Music: music of migration and more
New music ensemble demonstrates dedication to diversity and development.
Matthew Andrews, December 10

New music ensemble Fear No Music

Other classical music organizations also presented issue-oriented new music.

Oregon Symphony reviews: immigrant songs
Fall concerts include a world premiere theatrical commission and 20th century works by immigrant American composers
Matthew Andrews, January 9

Lawrence Brownlee preview: a journey
In a Friends of Chamber Music recital, the celebrated tenor sings a Romantic classic and a new, timely composition about America’s most pressing crisis
Damien Geter, April 2

Shredding it at “Pass the Mic” camp.

Portland Meets Portland
The innovative “Pass the Mic” summer music camp pairing music pros and young refugees and immigrants will give a free concert Friday.
Friderike Heuer, July 14

David Ludwig: telling the earth’s story through music
Composer’s Chamber Music Northwest commission inspired by ancient Earth, threat of extinction from human-caused climate change.
Matthew Andrews, July 27

Gabriel Kahane’s new oratorio confronts America’s empathy deficit
Commissioned, performed and recorded this week by the Oregon Symphony, ’emergency shelter intake form’ humanizes homelessness.
Interview by Matthew Andrews, August 28

Multimedia

Besides addressing today’s social issues, another trend among some classical music organizations in 2018 was updating their presentations by augmenting music with other art forms such as theater, literature, visual arts, and more. At ArtsWatch, we try to provide constructive feedback on how these often experimental productions worked, so we can help risk-taking artists move forward into unexplored territories — without leaving the audience behind.

Fin de Cinema’s “Beauty and the Beast”: spirit of discovery
Latest mix of classic film and Portland contemporary music captures Cocteau creation’s mix of beauty and grit.
Douglas Detrick, January 23

Portland Youth Philharmonic’s Cappella PYP, Portland State choirs, and In Mulieribus perform Richard Einhorn’s ‘Voices of Light’ during a screening of Dreyer’s film Friday.

‘Voices of Light’ preview: trial by fire
Camerata PYP, In Mulieribus, Portland State University choirs perform Richard Einhorn’s popular oratorio ‘Voices of Light’ with Carl Dreyer’s 1928 film ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc.’
Brett Campbell, January 25

“Tesla” lab report
Harmonic Laboratory’s ambitious experimental multimedia performance produces mixed results.
Brett Campbell, February 6

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VizArts Monthly: The past lingers, the future beckons

A month's worth of possibilities at local galleries and museums

September is upon us, with programs for TBA descending like early, unusually chunky autumn leaves. This year’s lineup looks as exciting as ever, but don’t forget the visual arts, whether they’ve snuck into TBA or not. Of note this month, new independent gallery Carnation Contemporary opens its inaugural exhibition in one of the small street-facing spaces in Disjecta. Besides these new events, the last days of a few good shows linger on like the occasional remaining warm days. Ann Hamilton’s Habitus will be open through September 16, as the final part of Converge 45. Amy Bay’s lovely painting show will be hanging at Melanie Flood Projects until September 8, and while you’re downtown you can still catch or Richard Diebenkorn at PAM until the 23rd and R.B. Kitaj at the Oregon Jewish Museum until the 30th.

 

Joe Feddersen, Aggressive Attitude, 2018. Image Courtesy of Froelick Gallery; Photo by Rebekah Johnson

 

CCNA: Not Fragile

September 1-June 9, 2019
Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Avenue

Presented by the Center for Contemporary Native Art at the Portland Art Museum, a fantastic range of glass work by contemporary Native artists. The Northwest is lucky to have such a thriving scene of glass art. Artists such as Joe Feddersen and Dan Friday are distinctive employ innovative techniques and Native imagery in their glass objects that, far from the fragile associations most of us have with glass, radiate strength, resilience and resistance.

 

Unwalking the West

September 6-October 20
Pacific Northwest College of Art, Center for Contemporary Art & Culture, 511 NW Broadway

Curated by Signal Fire co-director Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, this annual project is based on “the symbolic act of retracing segments of European settler exploration and conquest in the reverse direction, as a way of interrogating assumed histories and connecting the legacy of colonialism to the present day challenges in the American West,” including climate Change. Signal Fire is a non-profit organization that connects artists with wildlands through programs like expeditions and residencies, which this exhibition draws from. Artists include Sarah Farahat, Tanja Geis, Joe Hedges, Garrick Imatani, Emmy Lingscheit, Rachelle Reichert, Rick Silva, and Ilvs Strauss.

 

Render capture from 3D environment

Utopia Without You – Tabitha Nikolai

September 6 – October 13
Williamson Knight, 916 NW Flanders St

This solo show by local artist and curator Tabitha Nikolai promises futuristic visions as disquieting as they are beguiling. Nikolai, who describes herself as a “trashgender gutter elf and low-level cybermage” will show a variety of new sculptural works including a custom gaming PC with a custom controller made in collaboration with Matt Leavitt, a wargaming diorama borrowing materials from the show at Killjoy that Nikolai curated earlier this year, and digital 3d environments with original score by Rook. Nikolai will also lead a conversation about the exhibition at the closing on October 13 at 1:00 pm.

 

RiverRouge, Christian Mickovic

Summer forever

Through October 7, 2018
Dust to Dust, 3636 N Mississippi Ave

A colorfully-intense group show that takes a close look at the complexity of that thing we love so much in Portland, summer. The show combines love, escapism, dread, freedom, and malaise “in a celebration of summer’s excess and the collective fear of a future, smoke-filled, everlasting summer,” according to the press release. Local painter Bruce Conkle’s painting of skeletons on a boat hangs in counterpoint to the 3D renderings of LA artist Paul Rosas and the sculptural recreations of party drugs by Beverly Fishman (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan). Also from Bloomfield Hills, Christian Mickovic’s optically-dizzying paintings are the stars of the show, rewarding however much time you can spend staring into them.

Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well
Through October 21
Reed College, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, 3203 SE Woodstock Boulevard

This exhibition marks the first retrospective of American artist, activist, writer, and educator Gregg Bordowitz. An early survivor of the HIV virus, Bordowitz created important films in the early days of AIDS activism, working with the direct action group ACT UP and the video collective, Testing the Limits. These films will join rarely-seen sculptures and drawings in this retrospective, as well a books, essays, poetry, personal ephemera, and films of recent performances by Bordowitz.

TBA Picks

Film still from Cocteau’s Beauty and the Best

Fin de Cinema—Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast

Mon Sept 10, 10 pm
The Works, 15 NE Hancock, $5–15

Returning for a second year after its popular TBA debut in 2017, this ongoing series curated by Holocene’s Gina Altamura hand-picks local musicians to compose and perform a newly imagined score to a classic movie. If TBA feels a little overwhelming to you, Fin de Cinema is guaranteed to be a satisfying, soothing break in all the intensity. Cinephiles and experimental music lovers alike can relax and enjoy the combination of an old, subtitled film and live performance of new compositions by local musicians. Well-known improvisors Like a Villain, John Niekrasz, Jonathan Sielaff (the bass clarinet in Golden Retriever), Patricia Wolf (of Soft Metals), Amenta Abioto, and Noah Bernstein perform a new score to Cocteau’s classic, highly-influential masterpiece.

Utopian Visions Art Fair

Friday, September 14 2018, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Saturday and Sunday September 15 2018, from 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Initiated by Srijon Chowdhury, alternative art fair that provides a platform for artists, gallerists, and curators to present projects that work towards possible, alternative futures. Dozens of artists collaborate in an intimate setting, with visual art, performance, installation, and facilitated conversations around the themes of accessibility, community, and the art world’s reliance on capitalist systems. Collaborators include Institute for Interspecies Art and Relations, Chicken Coop Contemporary, Shawn Creeden, Lisa Schonberg, Institute for Queer Ecology, Lila de Magalhaes and Harley Hollenstein, Williamson + Knight, Midori Hirose & Mia Ferm, and many more.

Fin de Cinema’s “Beauty and the Beast”: spirit of discovery

Latest mix of classic film and Portland contemporary music captures Cocteau creation's mix of beauty and grit

by DOUGLAS DETRICK

Seeing a film with a new score played by live musicians — who, just like the audience, have their eyes on the screen as they play — is a treat for the eyes as well as the ears. A musician working in service of a film changes the currency being traded — the artist gives up some creative freedom, and in exchange the film offers a narrative that the audience would normally need to imagine on its own. In some ways the job for both is harder, since the audience must take in a film and new music at the same time, but the rewards can be great when both parties take the deal in the spirit of discovery.

That’s what happened at the January 11 screening of the film in the ongoing Fin de Cinema series curated by Gina Altamura at Portland club Holocene. Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film Beauty and the Beast floats like a cotton candy cloud through a dream world that is both strikingly gorgeous and alarmingly fragile. But for all the astounding visuals and innocent love between the two title characters, the film is driven by the greed and jealousy of the rest of the colorful cast of characters.

Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast.”

This screening divided the film into three parts, with different musicians scoring each section in live performance: EDM-inspired loops and beats by Patricia Wolf, Like a Villain’s voice and effects pedals, and an ad hoc grouping of John Niekrasz on drums, Amenta Abioto on voice and mbira, Jonathan Sielaff on bass clarinet, and Noah Bernstein on alto saxophone. Each soloist and group captured both the film’s beauty and its underlying grit, without overplaying either element. Though the music had a sharp contemporary edge, the film still landed softly, like snowflakes on the eyelashes of its charmed audience like the filmmaker might have intended, more than half a century after it was made.

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TBA: Pop goes the foreign film

Interview with curator Gina Altamura: Holocene's Fin de Cinema comes to TBA, matching live music with Tarkovsky's "The Mirror"

At PICA’s TBA Festival on Monday night, Fin de Cinema drew the largest crowd in its eight years of pairing local pop and experimental musicians with influential foreign cinema. Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror projected on three walls of The Works while four sets of Portland-based musicians took turns performing original work as a soundtrack. Palm Dat and Noah Bernstein of Shy Girls started the show, followed by Brown Calculus (Members of Tribe Mars), and then Dylan Stark. Golden Retriever closed the night, their keening, ambient music filling the spacious hall as Tarkovksy’s dreamy meditation on war and memory faded out.

The series has been running at Holocene since 2009, serving a wide selection of films as creative and collaborative prompts for a healthy cross-section of Portland’s avant garde and pop music scene. The film listing includes Holy Mountain, Hausu, Svankmajer’s Alice, Blow-Up, Daisies, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, The Cassandra Cat, Mala Morska Vila (The Little Mermaid), Stalker, The Mirror, Fantastic Planet, The Color of Pomegranates, and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. These were re-scored by artists including Typhoon, Tu Fawning, Brainstorm, Nurses, AU, Why I Must Be Careful, Grouper, Visible Cloaks, WL, Valet, Wampire, Soft Metals, Wooden Indian Burial Ground, and many more. Gina Altamura, who has been booking acts and curating shows for Holocene for nearly a decade, is the creator and curator of the series. I sat down with Ms. Altamura to discuss the genesis and history of this mainstay of the Portland film and music scenes now that it’s made it into the billing at TBA.

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s “The Mirror.”

Oregon ArtsWatch: So when did Fin de Cinema start?

Altamura: It started in ’09 with [Alejandro Jodorowsky’s] Holy Mountain, which is like the quintessential one to choose. That was an epic one. It was in the days of (the group) Why I Must be Careful. Jon Niekrasz actually composed a bunch of poetry for it. So that was our first one. We initially had the audience sitting on stage, with the live performers behind the audience.

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