orlando cela

Editor’s note: ArtsWatch deployed a small squadron of reviewers to most of the Spontaneous Combustion Festival’s seven programs of new music spread over 17 concerts in three cities. Here are some of the highlights of the first edition of this valuable new addition to Oregon’s music scene. Read part one here.

Iktus Duo

Tap tap tap on the small of my back.
Fingers scratch and thrum.
Across taut skin, invisible hairs tickle.
My ears drum.

Visceral and sensual, Iktus Duo ignited the Spontaneous Combustion concert at Portland’s Classic Pianos with Joseph Pereira’s oriental Echi Dromi for doumbek and flute. James Romig’s Pynes moved percussionist Christopher Graham to the piano to play slow tag with flutist Hristina Blagoeva. Chasing each other around pitches C, D, E-flat and F, they frequently caught and held each other on unison pitches, eventually adding A, C-sharp and ending on B. Conceptual and very flirty.

Enough foreplay! James Tenney’s Having Never Written a Note for Percussion banged a gong for ten minutes. Well, actually tickled it, coaxing an unrelenting crescendo toward a thundering climax. Forget about rolling over and going to sleep, Tenney and Graham milked ten more minutes of slow decrescendo shudders before allowing us to collapse into intermission.

Iktus Duo

After the sensuality and sexuality of the conceptual first half, Eric Moe’s cute Gong Tormented felt as cartoonish as 50 Shades of Grey following the Marquis de Sade’s acute Juliette. But the closer, Lou Harrison’s First Concerto for Flute and Percussion, redeemed itself to me. I heard the 21-year-old Portland-born composer’s 1939 piece live at last summer’s CeLOUbration and thought it was lame, not realizing it was a lame performance. Here, Iktus Duo, like everyone I saw and heard at all five Spontaneous Combustion concerts I attended, not only exuded confidence with solid performances, they also imbued them with tons of personality. — Maria Choban

Portland pianist Maria Choban, ArtsWatch’s Oregon ArtsBitch, blogs at CatScratch.

Orlando Cela

A whole concert featuring a single wind instrument might sound sparse. But in Orlando Cela’s able hands and imagination, a flute becomes a world orchestra. In his mesmerizing Indian-flavored 2016 composition Rag Lalit, which opened Cela’s solo recital at Portland’s Old Church, the Boston flutist used his right hand to tap out percussion patterns on the barrel while fingering the melody with his left; a shruti box provided a drone harmony. Kyle Rowan’s 2015 Komorebi used a shakuhachi sonority in a completely contemporary and American style, the spare flute phrases dappling the space like sunlight filtered through a leafy canopy. The Old Church acoustic provided the ideal sonic space between sparse notes.

Here and elsewhere, Cela displayed complete command of multi phonics, overblowing, overtones, and other extended techniques, but in each case, they served the music rather than, as is too often the case, the reverse. I’ve heard some fab flutists, but none with his subtle dynamic control and expressive range.

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MusicWatch Weekly: sizzlers and swashbucklers

A new new music festival erupts in Oregon, plus chamber music and live film scores enliven this week's concert scene

A hot new source of contemporary music has ignited in Oregon. Although, given the incendiary events of the summer and fall, its name might be a tad, er, heated for a West Coast music fest, Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival, which runs January 20-February 2 in Eugene, Portland and Seattle (with additional West Coast cities intended next year), includes major new music voices including daring New York cellist Ashley Bathgate, City of Tomorrow wind quintet, NYC’s Sandbox Percussion Quartet, and more. Saturday’s concert at Portland’s Old Church concert hall features Eugene’s own Delgani String Quartet, the state’s finest chamber ensemble, performing Portland native Lou Harrison’s majestic String Quartet Set, influenced by medieval Western European and Turkish music, among others; a quartet by the great 20th century avant garde composer György Ligeti; and a new composition by recent University of Oregon graduate Benjamin Krause, which you can read all about in Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch story. The busy Delganis also play Ligeti and Beethoven Sunday at Salem’s Prince of Peace Episcopal Church and next weekend in Eugene.

Delgani String Quartet performs in Portland and Salem.

On Monday at the Old Church and Tuesday at Eugene’s New Zone Gallery, Boston flutist Orlando Cela plays music by fellow flutist and contemporary American composer Robert Dick, the great Argentine nuevo tango composer Astor  Piazzolla, and more. Tuesday’s concert at the Old Church brings one of the most talked about younger contemporary classical ensembles, Boston’s Hub New Music, which plays music by Oregon-born, Wisconsin-based composer David Drexler, the premiere of a new half hour piece by Robert Honstein, and a composition by erstwhile Seattleite Laura Kaminsky, whose music we last encountered in Portland  a couple years back. We’ll tell you all about the remaining concerts in this exciting new series created by Cascadia Composer and new Portlander Scott Anthony Shell in upcoming MusicWatches.

Portland Mini Musical Festival returns to Fertile Ground this weekend.

Speaking of new artistic creations, as you’ve been reading all over ArtsWatch, one of Oregon’ most valuable artistic incubators, the annual Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, is back, and at least one of those, Mini Musicals 2018, running thrice at Portland’s Winningstad Theatre this weekend, is of special interest to music fans like all of you. We sure liked last year’s edition.

Last weekend, the Oregon Symphony gave a dazzling performance of Stravinsky’s immortal The Rite of Spring accompanied by newly created visuals tailored to the century old music. (Stay tuned for our review.) This weekend, it reverses the process. Although neither Keith Richards nor Johnny Depp is scheduled to appear, the Oregon Symphony and Pacific Youth Choir play Hans Zimmer’s score to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl to accompany a screening of the film.

Douglas Fairbanks swashes his buckles in “The Mark of Zorro,” accompanied by musicians from Vancouver Symphony.

More swashbuckling original music accompanies the Vancouver Symphony’s Chamber Music Series screening of Douglas Fairbanks’s spectacular adventure flick The Mark of Zorro Sunday at Vancouver’s Kiggins Theatre. The original score by Colorado based composer/conductor/silent film score specialist Rodney Sauer features members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Check MusicWatch next week for info about an even more exciting silent film score screening and live performance.

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