PSU symphony

Portland State Symphony preview: Confounding context

Orchestra performs music that appears in different incarnations from its source material

Everything is out of context at this week’s pair of Portland State University Orchestra concerts. Instead of their usual venue, PSU’s lovely Lincoln Performance Hall, the orchestra will perform at the historic Mission Theatre in Northwest Portland. Instead of standard orchestral fare, the student orchestra, led by PSU Director of Orchestral Studies Ken Selden, will play music by David Bowie, George Bizet, and Astor Piazzolla.

Even these three pieces are out-of-context: the orchestra will perform Bowie’s pop instrumental Abdulmajid in its orchestral arrangement by contemporary American composer Philip Glass and Bizet’s incidental music for the ballet L’Arlesienne (The Girl from Arles) as a concert suite (sans dancers), and 20th century Argentine composer Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, itself a recontextualized homage to Vivaldi. The Piazzolla suite will feature PSU’s new violin professor, Tomas Cotik, performing Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov’s arrangement for orchestra and violin.

Ken Selden conducts the PSU Symphony Orchestra Wednesday and Thursday.

“I have always felt that a university orchestra doesn’t need to be in the concert hall all the time,” Dr. Selden told ArtsWatch. “It seems when we perform off campus, people come out of the woodwork to hear us. In addition to the music, people can relax with a beer or some food, and enjoy the company of their friends and family. Our audience is not there for the same reason that someone might go to hear a professional orchestra.”