Discovering New Musical Worlds
The planet comes to Eugene
By Brett Campbell
With the explosion in world music of the past couple decades, a musical explorer sometimes feels like that original imperialist, Alexander, who supposedly wept when he realized there were no more lands to conquer. Of course, his seemingly vast empire constituted only a fraction of the terra incognita beyond the Greeks’ ken. So to anyone who worries we’re going to run out of undiscovered traditional sounds anytime soon, I say: khoomei, sygyt, kargyraa, ezenggileer, borbangnadyr, damyrak borbangy and chylandyk. And furthermore: doshpuluur, igil, byzaanchy, khomus and chadagan.
No, it’s not that my keyboard is malfunctioning. The first set of names signify various styles of Tuvan throat singing; the second refers to traditional Tuvan folk instruments — horse-head fiddle, mouth harp, hammered dulcimer, percussion and more. You can hear them all this Saturday, Jan. 24, at Beall Concert Hall on the UO campus when the school’s invaluable world music series brings Tyva Kyzy (“Daughters of Tuva”), a pioneering, all-female group of throat singers and musicians from the Russia-Mongolia border region. Led by Choduraa Tumat, the group performs ancient songs that range from plaintive to bouncily upbeat, inspires young women and girls in the region and shows that there’s more to Tuvan music than just the celebrated throat or overtone singing, where one vocalist sings two or three pitches simultaneously. They’re a reminder that just when you think you’ve heard it all, there are always more musical worlds to explore.
On Feb. 2, Portland filmmaker Kate Regan will show her new film, ¡Fiestaremos! Judy Frankel and the Sephardic Music Tradition, free at the Knight Library. The same year Spain “discovered” the New World in 1492, it also brutally expelled its Jewish community, dispersing its rich cultural traditions to Greece, Morocco and other Mediterranean and Balkan regions. Fortunately, thanks in part to the efforts of music lovers such as Frankel, much of this beautifully plangent Hispanic/Jewish music survives and can be heard today in Mexico, Cuba and elsewhere.
Trumpet whiz Brian McWhorter is one of three performers who’ll be performing solo sets at the Jazz Station on Jan. 30. McWhorter’s impressive interpretations of contemporary modernist sounds have lately overshadowed his considerable compositional and improvisatory talents, which were evident even during his UO student days a decade ago. The show also includes current UO jazz star Douglas Detrick and another UO alum, Sabrina Siegel, whose otherworldly improvised sounds (guitar, cello, voice) round out what should be a fascinating concert.
While next month’s Portland Jazz Festival showcases the music’s past and present, the fifth annual Oregon Jazz Festival focuses on its future. A joint effort of the UO and LCC jazz programs, the OJF draws two dozen Northwest high school ensembles for instruction and performances. On Friday, Jan. 23, at LCC Performance Hall, the Oregon and Lane Jazz Ensembles join OFG teachers in performance with guest artist Don Braden on tenor sax. On Jan. 24, Braden, who’s recorded a baker’s dozen of CDs and worked with Wynton Marsalis, Mingus Big Band and other major jazzers, is joined by a strong trio: Randy Porter on piano, Dave Captein on bass and Gary Hobbs on drums.
Back at the UO, on Feb. 3, veteran faculty musicians Fritz Gearhart and Victor Steinhardt will play original music for piano and violin (Steinhardt’s “Ein Heldentango” and Gearhart’s “Miniature”), and gorgeous sonatas by Beethoven and Gabriel Faure. On Jan. 25, the Chamber Music Series brings one of the great old-line ensembles, the Borodin String Quartet, to play music of their namesake, Beethoven, and Vissarion Shebalin. And on Jan. 26, Beall hosts the Eugene Symphonic Band, which plays a wide ranging program of music by Bach, Sousa, Ives, Mark Camphouse, Charles Rochester Young and more.