Oregon Sounds and Spanish Accents
Music from Spain, Mexico, Eugene and Portland on classical stages
BY BRETT CAMPBELL
In February, UO music professor Nancy Andrew stood on the stage at Beall Concert Hall and began to play a haunting tune on her flute. Soon, more melodies emerged — from the balcony, the hallway, the back of the hall — as more flutists joined in, the lyrical lines swirling through the auditorium. The "environmental soundscape" was Robert Kyr's "Pure Silver," influenced by the composer's abiding affection for majestic Western vistas — mountains in the Pacific Northwest, canyons in the Southwest.
Kyr, one of America's most prolific and accomplished composers, lives in Eugene and teaches at the UO. He composes at a New Mexico monastery and is often inspired by his concern for peace, extending the philosophy of nonviolence to protecting the environment. His music, which draws on influences from across the globe and through the centuries, is played around the world and recorded by some of the finest musicians. One recent performance was of work commissioned by the people of Nagasaki to commemorate the city's nuclear devastation at the end of World War II.
In May, Eugene gets two opportunities to hear our hometown composer's music at Beall. On May 25, the Yale Symphony Orchestra will play his "Fanfare for a New Dawn" along with American music by Charles Ives and Aaron Kernis, plus a Tchaikovsky symphony. And on Tuesday, May 2, fellow UO faculty members, the excellent vocal ensemble Sospiro, and Kyr himself will play "Pure Silver" along with another flute piece, "Echoes of Memory" (in memory of civilians killed during the U.S. attack on and occupation of Iraq), "Transfigured Lightning" for chamber orchestra, "Voices for Peace," (a setting of a prayer by St. Francis), and the cross-cultural "Elements of Time and Thunder" for percussion ensemble, Indonesian gamelan and chamber orchestra. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear music by one of our own, a fine composer whose social concerns reflect those of so many in Eugene and whose music is as accessible as it is wide-ranging.
Another composer with strong concerns for social justice was Silvestre Revueltas. The great Mexican composer's searingly dramatic score for Redes (Fishing Nets), a 1936 film about a battle between Mexican fishermen and the monopolists that control the industry, is ideal for the Eugene Symphony's near-May Day concert this Thursday, April 27. I wish the ESO would show the film, too — a nice opportunity to mix media. But the concert does feature Schubert's deservedly popular fifth symphony and music by Liszt and Beethoven.
Mexican and Spanish music has often been unfairly undervalued by the Central European classical music hegemony. But Manuel de Falla and Joaquin Rodrigo wrote some of the most listener-friendly and colorful sounds of the last century. On May 6 and 7, the Oregon Mozart Players have invited one of today's greatest classical guitarists, Sharon Isbin, to play Rodrigo's popular, Baroque-flavored 1954 Fantasy for a Courtier and 1940's Concierto de Aranjuez (jazzed up so memorably, to the composer's displeasure, by Miles Davis and Gil Evans). They'll also perform Falla's sweeping 1915 score to Love, the Magician, a dramatic song cycle and then ballet inspired by a Gypsy dancer and influenced by the French Impressionist music of Debussy and Ravel that Falla encountered while living in Paris before World War I.
Rodrigo was strongly influenced by Baroque music, and next week offers three chances to hear pre-Classical music at Eugene's Central Lutheran Church (18th and Potter). On May 4, Edwin Good will play music by J.S. and C.P.E. Bach, Handel, and others on a replica of one of the first fortepianos. On May 5, the Christofori Consort (Good with flutist Rachel Streeter, violinist Margret Gries, and cellist Gabrielle Arness, all on Baroque instruments) will play chamber music of C.P.E. Bach, whose fine music was unfortunately overshadowed by that of his famous father and his pupil, some kid named Mozart. On May 7, some of the same musicians and others in the ensemble Conspirito play chamber music by Telemann, Quantz and other 18th century composers.
Finally, music fans should be sure to check out the Eugene Ballet's May 6-7 concert, which features the Cuban-influenced sounds of Portland's bubbly Pink Martini. If you've heard the rumba-meets-cabaret-meets -Japanese-pop of these Euro-faves, you know to be there. If not, take my word for it and go anyway.
Go 'head, Get Down
New Monsoon wants to move your mind, not just your body.
BY ADRIENNE VAN DER VALK
|New Monsoon, Aphrodesia. 8:30 pm Thursday, 5/4. WOW Hall, $10 adv./$12 dos.|
I am a sucker for any song that begins with a guy following in his father's footsteps and ends with an empty bottle on a bedside table. When my preliminary listen to New Monsoon's 1995 release, The Sound, provided me with this tempting morsel of poetic grit (track five is a melancholy ballad called "Dark Perimeter"), I temporarily suspended my wariness of music that falls into the "fusion" category.
It stems from my college experience with mediocre bands that weren't good enough to hack it as straight-ahead rock until they added some exotic instrument, which inexplicably situated them beyond reproach. Luckily, New Monsoon doesn't need musical crutches to jam, and their audience won't need an excuse to like them.
Ben Bernstein, New Monsoon's "bass monster," told me the seven-man outfit combines elements of Southern and Latin rock and mixes in bluegrass and North Indian classical tabla drumming. The Sound showcases the talents of all the musicians as they meander through a couple of jammy, self-reflective inspirational ditties, darker songs, social commentary pieces and my favorite sad bastard ballad, "Dark Perimeter."
Neither Bernstein nor the band's website are afraid to reference other bands when describing elements of New Monsoon's sound (Allman Brothers, Santana, Hendrix, Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Shakti, Tito Puente), but oddly Widespread Panic wasn't one of them, which I imagine is deliberate. Whoever they sound like, you can count on quick tempo changes, soaring guitar supported by a distinctly present bass line and a highly danceable dose of not-your-typical-drum-set rhythm to keep the whole thing hopping.
And the shows are both a physical and cerebral experience. "You get the dance layer, you get the layer that hits you in the midsection and you get the layer that reaches your perceptions in your mind," Bernstein said. "You could sit there and listen and be happy, or you could boogie all night and be happy." Come on out and unleash your layers.
Hamming It Up
Paige Hamm bids Eugene farewell.
BY VANESSA SALVIA
|Paige Hamm & Friends. 8 pm, Saturday, 4/29. Luna, free.|
Eugene vocalist Paige Hamm is moving away, and she's throwing one heck of a party before she goes. Portland, Maine, will be Hamm's new home come May, and though she'll miss Eugene, Maine holds the promise of a new life with her "best friend of 15 years" who's now her boyfriend — an academic librarian who loves to surf and wanted to live on a coast.
Here in Eugene Hamm was known as part of the band Grasshopper. Before turning over the mic to the crowd, she'll play two sets with guitarist Tony Gilchrist and pianist/guitarist Scotty Pereyof the Sugarbeets. "It's like a good-bye show slash party," Hamm said. Hamm has invited some of her friends to join the performance, including comedian Ty Connor, Troy Krusenstjerna from Amish Love Child, jazz musician Eric Muiderman and two bellydancers. "And then there's a poet, so it should be an interesting mix in between!" she said.
Hamm performs mostly covers and is fond of the songs of "older 1920s, 1930s blues artists and some current day folk/blues," like Patty Griffin ("I'm in love with her!,"), Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams. Hamm admits that she tries to be true to their sound, but she says she doesn't always have their grittiness. "I went to college for opera, and I don't drink a lot and I don't smoke, so I don't have as rough a voice as these women I love," Hamm said, laughing. "It's more of a pure sound, I think, but I try to stay in the same vein that they do."
Neal Gladstone and Company
Will rock for food.
BY JOHN GINN
|Neal Gladstone and Company. 7:30 pm, Saturday, 4/29. Central Presbyterian Church, 555 E. 15th, $12 adv./$15 dos.|
Neal Gladstone is a capital "L" liberal, and he doesn't care who knows it. In fact, he's written a song, "I'm a Liberal," which was so popular at a Corvallis concert in February that Gladstone and his band are making their first music video. The song and a highly politicized version of Leslie Gore's "It's My Party" will be among the new material in Gladstone and Company's first Eugene concert in nearly two years. The performance will benefit FOOD for Lane County.
Gladstone's songs are frequently aired on KLCC's Saturday Café. Known primarily for his novelty parodies and humorous originals, the Corvallis musician is also capable of writing a drop-dead beautiful ballad and tossing it into the playlist. His band is tight and equally versatile. It's the constant shift of styles, songs and stage antics that keep Gladstone and Company's concerts so fresh and engaging.
"I'm an 'ordinary life' kind of guy," Gladstone says. "It's just that when I write a love song, it tends to be about grapefruit or losing my hair." – John Ginn
Forecast: Visibility At All-Time High
The Visible Men add a guitarist and tweak the sound.
BY TIM O'ROURKE
Common sense and grammatical conventions tell us that someone or something can't become more visible. It's either visible or it isn't; either you see it or you don't. But, here at Eugene Weekly, we don't let little things like common sense or the rules of our language dictate how we cover our local music scene. That's just not how we roll, yo.
That said, Eugene's The Visible Men, the emo-tinged pop-rock group founded by former members of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, have, indeed, become more visible. It's not that they're playing more shows or have a myspace friends' list exceeding 30 trillion, it's that they've added a member, guitarist Jimi Russell, to the mix. And aren't four human beings more visible than three?
The answer is yes. A scientist with glasses told us so.
"We'd been playing as a trio, but we thought there were some sounds we could explore," said Dustin Lanker, vocalist, keyboardist and owner of size-13 feet. "The new material sounded like it needed some guitar in it."
Enter Russell, whom Lanker refers to as "the little brother" of the group. He is younger, but it's his "youthful exuberance," according to Lanker, that makes him a pleasure to play with. By "youthful exuberance," Lanker means Russell will play the occasional game of grab-ass when in the studio — a game enjoyed by young and old alike.
Besides touching each other's butts, The Visible Men have been exploring sounds that turn their previous records, In Socks Mode and Love: 30, on their respective sides. Whereas Socks was a minimalist, acoustic album and Love had a psychedelic feel, the new material is unabashedly more rock 'n' roll.
"The new album we're working on has a significant amount of guitar in it," said Lanker. "It's influenced by '70s and '80s rock, but also has the same pop influence. It comes from trying to be more fun and engaging. We're trying to grab the audience."
With a new "little brother," the Visible sound has changed, but Lanker, the self-professed "mother" of the group, believes this visibility upgrade can only be a good thing. "In a little bit of a way we're starting anew," Lanker said. "You can make an album of short pop-rock songs without losing integrity or originality."
The Visible Men w/ True Margrit and Touchforce. 9 pm, Friday, 4/28. Sam Bond's Garage, $5.
Universal Language Is Sound
Switchfoot is a voice of hope in a troubled world.
BY DAN HOYT
|Switchfoot, Lovedrug. 8 pm, Monday, 5/1. McDonald Theatre, $20 adv./$23 dos.|
Can you rock out loud and sell a million records without being a depressed, whiny 20-something who can carry a tune? Ask Switchfoot, the band with an ideology different than most alternative rockers out there. Based out of San Diego, the quintet doesn't succumb to the dark, depressing themes of their genre of music and the rest of the world around them, and instead pursues the true meaning of happiness within the songs they write.
The band has been around for nearly 10 years, but didn't hit it big until a little album called The Beautiful Letdown, cranked out in just two weeks of studio time, exploded in 2003. Songs like "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move" played in every single high school graduation ceremony and prom all over the country and allowed the band to channel their faith-driven sound into the mainstream. So where does a band go from there when they get back in the studio and try to follow up such an overnight success?
"A-ha!" exclaims drummer Chad Butler. "The answer is: We didn't go into the studio. For our most recent record, Nothing Is Sound, it was put together in bits and pieces while on tour over about a year and a half. Since we never stopped touring between albums, we figured the only way we were going to get the songs done was to bring microphones and recording equipment on the road and lay it down in the dressing rooms."
Nothing is Sound is a journey, much like the non-stop touring, into the band's depths of their consciousness of the real world and the relationships people form in life. Songs like "Lonely Nation" paint a dark picture of alienation, but then the tone completely changes in "We Are One Tonight," where lead singer Jon Foreman wails "though the world is flawed, these scars will heal."
The band is extending their reach to countries in need through DATA and the ONE Campaign, and have also put out a magazine called lowercase people, which is described as a publication for "music, arts and social justice." The magazine has put a recording of a South African children's choir on the site, a recording performed during the band's recent visit there.
"Most of these kids are orphans," says Butler, "and their story and the CD of their music goes towards putting them through school. We've been around the world a lot the past couple years and seen some beautiful people creating some amazing art."