Riot of Spring
Eugene Symphony plays the piece that started a fight.
BY BRETT CAMPBELL
These days, it's hard to imagine a time when people cared enough about a new piece of music to throw a riot over it. Rock fans will recall the notorious 1965 Newport concert, where folkies booed at what they perceived as their erstwhile hero Bob Dylan's sellout to commercialism. The prototype for concert contretemps was the near-riot that accompanied the May 29, 1913 Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring. Some say that many in the opening night crowd staged a hissy fit (the next performance was warmly received) while others blame the choreography or dancing for the opening audience's vitriol. But there's no question that the Rite marked a musical revolution, unleashing the visceral, primordial power of folk tunes, unpredictable rhythms and other wonderfully disconcerting modernist devices upon an audience, and opening new vistas and possibilities in Western music. We've been lucky to hear it here a couple times in recent years, but this is one masterpiece so far ahead of its time that it never loses its power to startle and even shock; no matter how often you've experienced it, the Rite always sounds new.
On Thursday, Jan. 19, the Eugene Symphony will play Stravinsky's fiercely beautiful score — probably the most important work of Western music written in the 20th century — at the Hult Center's Silva Concert Hall. The program also includes haunting music by another controversial yet successful composer, Philip Glass, who composed "Facades" for the evocative score to the 1983 film Koyaanisiqatsi. It's great to see the ESO going back to the future with contemporary music again, and the golden oldie — Mozart's delightful Violin Concerto #5 (with the famous "Turkish rondo") — is a treat, too. This looks like one of the best classical music concerts of the year.
While Stravinsky's once-dangerous music is now safe for high culture concert halls, underground musicians are still experimenting with new sounds and textures. Five of them (Sebastian Roux from Paris, Portland's Janice McKeachern and Zachary Reno, and Chicago's Bird Show and Greg Davis) will convene at DIVA on Tuesday, Jan. 10 to construct atmospheric soundscapes out of guitar drones, electronic wizardry, computer samples, field recordings and of course the double mijwiz. Ranging from peaceful to edgy, this is postrock/experimental/ambient music that won't spark a riot but will inspire sensations, emotions and images.
One of my favorite live bands has taken the possibilities afforded by these sorts of computer and electronic soundscapes and infused them into rock-based groove music. Having evolved beyond their funk/jam roots, Sound Tribe Sector 9's members envision their compositions as "sound sculptures" and their live performances as conversations, with every member except the drummer wielding a Powerbook loaded with sound samples as well as their usual instruments onstage, the better to enrich the sound while still playing real live music. STS9 materializes at the McDonald Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 19. For more info, read Melissa Bearns' preview of their last show at www.eugeneweekly.com/2005/04/21/music.html#music5 and check out www.apple.com/pro/music/zsts9/
The UO's winter music season kicks off with Chicago's acclaimed Pacifica Quartet at Beall Concert Hall on Jan. 12. They're playing entries from two of the greatest sequences in chamber music: the string quartets of Joseph Haydn and Dmitri Shostakovich, as well as an early quartet by Felix Mendelssohn.
Three shows coming to Portland this month would be worth the ride. On Jan. 22, the world's finest early music vocal group, Britain's Hilliard Ensemble, sings medieval French music at Reed College's Kaul Auditorium. On Jan. 26 and 27 at the Old Church, Third Angle new music ensemble plays jazz/classical fusions by three Portland musicians: Dan Balmer, Rob Scheps and Gordon Lee, plus the considerable bonus wild card of "Cat O'Nine Tails," which composer John Zorn describes as "Tex Avery directs the Marquis de Sade." And on Feb. 3 at Wieden + Kennedy, another Portland new music group, Fear No Music, plays the 20th century chamber masterpiece "Quartet for the End of Time" by Olivier Messiaen, Osvaldo Golijov's breakthrough "Yiddishbbuk" and Luciano Berio's transformations of Sicilian folksongs, "Naturale" for viola, percussion, and tape.
Though Idit Shner just joined the faculty at UO this fall, her musical talents have already reverberated around the world, from the U.S. to Israel. Idit (pronounced "Eedeet") Shner's performances have taken to her to such distinguished stateside venues as Washington, D.C.'s The Kennedy Center (for Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead in April 2005) and New York's Lincoln Center. As a classically trained saxophonist, Shner's performances include new and commissioned music as well as solo recitals. Recently in Israel, Shner performed a solo recital, broadcast live on a national public radio station show, "Voice on Music."
Shner frequently returns to Israel, where she is now, to visit with family. She spent two days hiking in the desert there, with no phone and no e-mail, taking a break from her responsibilities as instructor of music at UO. If her performances and personal life have taken her around the world, her studies have taken her all over the U.S. Shner received her doctorate in music from University of North Texas.
Shner plays lead alto sax with the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, a group Down Beat Magazine recognized as "one of the world's best big bands."
Shner will simmer her big band essence into a quartet, to better fit on Luna's stage. Luna's club manager Andy LaViolette says Idit Shner's bebop jazz is "bebop saxophone at its finest." The Idit Shner Quartet plays at 9 pm Saturday, Jan. 7 at Luna. 21+ show. $6. —Vanessa Salvia
COWBOYS IN SPACE
From a long list of false starts, in an attempt to describe Mill Race's exceptional debut album Westerns:
1. First impressions first: The packaging for Mill Race's debut full-length Westerns is fantastic. A matchbook of heavy cardboard, the case is playfully descriptive, with a pixel drawing of a cowboy on one side and the band's name (in typewriter font) and album title (in a western font) on the other. The pull-out liner "notes" are poster-sized, as much art as text, and frankly I can't help but feel warmly toward a band that credits their proofreader.
2. Mill Race's press release describes the band's sound as "sci-fi country-western" music, which is about as accurate as any press release ever has been. Their album Westerns sounds like the unlikely offspring of those old-timey photo booths at the fair crossed with an original Nintendo — just, y'know, in CD form. Songs like "Sub-Ballad of the Chain-Link Halo" and "Asteroid" do such a lovely job of calling to mind broad expanses of country and sky, you might almost think the record was recorded in a deserted town square somewhere in Wyoming.
3. Mill Race singer Julian Snow's voice has a character like a dusty small town with one gas station: spacious and a little rough around the edges, it leads some songs and, in others, disappears in a spray of synthesized burbles or twang. On occasion, the fun-with-technology might test the patience of a more melodically inclined listener, but the guitar (regular or pedal steel) always swoops in just in time, bringing the band's more far-flung explorations back to earth.
Mill Race plays with Root Villa at 10 pm Saturday, Jan. 7 at Diablo's Downtown Lounge. 21+ show. $5. Don't miss it. — Molly Templeton
THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO ART COLLEGE
"This is devil music," my mother would say if I played either Secret Chiefs 3 or Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. But as Bart Simpson observed, "All the best bands are affiliated with Satan." While SC3 and SGM are among the best bands working, and they probably are affiliated with Satan, it seems cheap to lump either of them into the broad category (the one most often tagged "demonic") of heavy metal. Simply said, both bands have outsmarted the metal crowd.
SC3, led by former Mr. Bungle and Faith No More guitarist Trey Spruance, are some sort of fantastically well conceived art project. Their latest record, Book of Truth I: Book of Horizons, contains all the imagery of heaven and hell to sit nicely next to an aging copy of Reign in Blood, yet sounds more like a soundtrack to a spaghetti western as written by Dick Dale after a summer in the Asian subcontinent, though with a menacing guitar backing. However, when the songs dip into metal, they don't fuck around — they go straight for the deep end.
SGM, with their black and red stage cloaks and the frightening presence of Nils Frykdahl, seem more metal, yet even they can sidestep pigeonholing. They provide the only show in which I've ever name-dropped Björk, t he Gregorian Monks and Opeth all at once. Their sprawling masterpiece, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum of Natural History, is a Luddite reaction to society and a vivid description of an apocalypse of mankind's own creation.
Together, SC3 and SGM exhibit the allopatric speciation of heavy metal, separate from the stoner rock or rap metal of the early 21st century. Whether featuring instruments of their own design (SGM) or what just might be a collegiate drum corps (SC3), Frykdahl and Spruance's respective bands represent the blooming of creativity in American music. Secret Chiefs 3 and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum play the WOW Hall Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 9 pm. $10 adv/$12 dos. — Jef Stout