Sphinx Virtuosi review: Glimpsing classical music’s future

Young chamber orchestra busts classical concert stereotypes.

Before they’d even played a note at Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall, Detroit’s Sphinx Virtuosi had already blasted through three of the barriers separating classical music from contemporary relevance. First, they dared to play an entire program of music by American composers (including a world premiere), all but one of them (Aaron Copland) still living, breathing, and writing music. Exclusively presenting creations from our own time and place would be unremarkable in any other art form, of course, but in the not-coincidentally shriveling classical music establishment, it’s still too rare.

Second, the musicians arrayed on stage were neither old nor white. Sphinx consists of 18 young African- and Latino-American classical musicians — communities terribly underrepresented at Oregon classical music concerts.

Bassist Xavier Foley starred in Sphinx Virtuosi's performance of  John B Hedges's "Raise Hymn, Praise Shout" at Portland State University.

Bassist Xavier Foley starred in Sphinx Virtuosi’s performance of John B. Hedges’s “Raise Hymn, Praise Shout” at Portland State University.

Third, the musicians actually respected their audience, moving briskly and purposefully to their music stands and rather than shuffling score pages around were playing music within a few seconds of hitting the stage. Later, two members spoke engagingly to the audience in an easygoing way that suggested both serious preparation yet natural spontaneity.

The only question that remained as the downbeat approached: could they deliver a performance as musically compelling as their concept was politically correct?

Celebrating the first decade anniversary of its Carnegie Hall debut (the first of 11), the chamber orchestra comprises young classical performers who’ve studied at the country’s top music schools and played with its finest orchestras. They opened with music of another virtuoso classical music outsider, fiddle phenom Mark O’Connor, whose 2011 “Elevations” (written for recent Portland visitor Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg’s New Century Chamber Orchestra) launched the show to a flying start, until the Appalachian-inflected suite spiraled down after its musical ideas ran out of gas just short of its destination a dozen minutes later.

The group followed with another piece meant to evoke a picturesque journey, “Voyage,” one of the most popular works of one of America’s greatest living composers, John Corigliano. Though played (like the O’Connor) with real commitment and skill, the music itself seemed content to portray a relatively uneventful excursion. I’d have much preferred to start (or end) this journey with the next piece, the bustling “Coquetteos,” from Peruvian American composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s more colorful 2001 trip, Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout, where the group’s mastery of rhythmic propulsion finally got a chance to cut loose.

The excitement generated there proved only a prelude to the first-half closer, “Raise Hymn, Praise Shout,” a Sphinx commission from Philadelphia-based composer John B. Hedges that draws on the African American church music tradition. The leisurely first movement casts the bass soloist (here, the prize-winning Xavier Foley) as a preacher engaged in a dialogue with the “congregation” of improvising strings, while the prayerful second section uses material from the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” swaddled in a sort of humming chorus. The third movement raved up the classic call-and-response gospel shout chorus between preacher and congregation. The electrifying Foley’s blistering performance propelled the band through the piece’s occasional languors, ending the first half on a joyous note.

The Catalyst Quartet (Sphinx’s four principals) opened the second half with superlative performance of Vancouver B.C. composer Marcus Goddard’s rousing “Allaqi” (the Inuit term for a clearing in the sky), whose complex meters and unusual textures only enhanced the richness of an award winning work composed for the St. Lawrence String Quartet. The full orchestra returned for a lovely performance of Copland’s early (1926) “Two Pieces for String Orchestra”: The jazzy rhythms and forward-looking harmonies and colors combined to create potent brew that reaffirms just how much glorious music America’s greatest composer made before his “Americana” phase.

Violinist Jessie Montgomery (center, black dress) led Sphinx's performance of her new "Banner."

Violinist Jessie Montgomery (fourth from left, black dress) led Sphinx’s performance of her new “Banner.”

Copland, a strong advocate of new music by American composers who fiercely criticized the already creeping conservatism that began suffocating classical music in the first half of the last century, would have heartily approved of the inclusion of Sphinx composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery’s 2014 world premiere, “Banner,” a rhapsody on the theme of “The Star Spangled Banner” (whose 200th anniversary it celebrates) that put the Catalyst Quartet front and center. Inventively weaving themes from the American anthem with those from seven other “nations” (some unofficial, like James Weldon Johnson’s “black national anthem,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing”), even including a mariachi moment, Montgomery’s composition (which employed some surprising string extended effects and other modern devices) cleverly cast an early 19th-century anthem (and even older tune) in a 21st century multicultural context, avoiding simple sentimentality while somehow capturing its original exultation. It actually would have made a splendid opener (as national anthems so often are) but thanks to Sphinx’s committed, clearly thoroughly rehearsed performance, it worked just fine as a capper on one of the most enjoyable, well-played and involving concerts I’ve attended all year. It toppled another common barrier to classical music enjoyment: dull, insufficiently rehearsed performances.

It’s a shame so few Portlanders heard it; Lincoln Performance Hall was only about half full, and while the sponsor, Portland State University’s College of the Arts and its dean, Robert Bucker, deserves high praise for bringing the group to Oregon, I bet the turnout would have been higher had it been co-sponsored by one of the city’s classical music presenting organizations. Now that Sphinx has proven that new music, what we delicately call “non-traditional” performers, and first-rate, listener-pleasing performances can inhabit the same stage so successfully, I hope more Oregonians will get a chance to experience the future of classical music soon.

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33 Responses.

  1. Greg Ewer says:

    1. Hopefully most artists are actively engaged with art of their own time. That said, consider this: According to The New Yorker, “Between thirty million and a hundred million children (in China alone)are said to be learning piano, violin, or both.” Are these kids only studying contemporary music? Probably not. I’m not certain that the lack of focus on music from one’s own time and place is the barrier to contemporary relevance you make it out to be. It may be frustrating to local composers, but it’s not preventing hoards of kids from studying music or attending concerts.

    2. While I appreciate your point about underrepresented communities in Oregon classical music, I don’t see how including white performers (of any age)in your list of “barriers to contemporary relevance” is in the spirit of inclusion you seem to be applauding here… or for that matter, in the spirit of Sphinx’s mission to “transform lives through the power of diversity in the arts.” This is a careless way to make your point.

  2. I don’t know where you got the idea that the presence of a white musician is a barrier to contemporary relevance. That straw man is certainly nowhere in this story nor in Sphinx’s philosophy.

    I don’t know where you got the idea that kids should “only study contemporary music.” That straw man is nowhere in the story.

    The only, er, black and white absolutist thinking is in these straw men, not in this story nor in Sphinx’s philosophy, which is all about making classical music more relevant to contemporary America by reflecting the mix of races and ages that is 21st century America.

    What the story does say is that a Sphinx concert doesn’t look like a typical classical music concert. Those stages and audiences are overwhelmingly white and old, as is the music. In contrast, Sphinx’s featured mixed-race audience, performers, and composers.

    What the story does say is that this Sphinx concert didn’t sound like a typical classical music concert. Those stages are overwhelmingly filled with old musi by Europeans. In contrast, Sphinx’s featured mostly new music by Americans. It also included some old music, and Sphinx also plays old European music, though not in this particular program. No absolutes.

    What the story does say is that concerts that look like the typical classical music concert are barriers to contemporary relevance, because they overwhelmingly exclude people who aren’t white and old. That’s not 21st century America. It makes many people who aren’t white and old feel excluded.

    What Sphinx believes, and its experience shows, is that if people, especially young ones, see other people like themselves playing classical music, they’re more likely to listen to and play that music too. And if they hear music made in their own time by people from their own place, that too will make the concerts more relevant to them. Seems like a logical proposition. Do you have evidence that Sphinx’s beliefs are not true?

    What Sphinx shows is that a mix of old and new, white and non, will be more relevant to 21st century audiences than will shows whose performers and music are entirely or mostly old and white. As the website shows, the existence of an ensemble of African- and Latino-American musicians isn’t an end in itself but the means to an end: incubating minority musicians who then ‘graduate’ to perform in other orchestras, making them more relevant to broader audiences. Sphinx’s alumni have done that and are continuing to do so. Perhaps some beneficiaries of white privilege imagine that a group that creates opportunities for non-white musicians somehow poses a threat to white musicians, but I’ve seen no evidence of that in my research.

    But it’s fascinating to learn that Sphinx’s attempts to make classical music look more like 21st century America are unnecessary, because parents and schools make “hordes” of kids in China study classical music, which therefore means that classical music concerts in the US are in great shape, and don’t suffer from dwindling, demographically narrow audiences. And that NOT playing contemporary music makes classical music concerts MORE relevant to broad contemporary audiences, especially those (Chinese or otherwise) not already acquainted with music of past centuries.

    So who needs Sphinx, minority musicians, and contemporary American music sullying classical concert programs? The salvation of classical music is already at hand: classical music concerts should continue to play almost exclusively old music performed by overwhelmingly white musicians — and make sure to invite lots of Chinese people to come over and buy tickets. What a relief!

    • jeff Winslow says:

      Not to attempt to command the rising tide here, but I do want to point out one overreach – thanks to the ongoing industrious production, perhaps overproduction, of highly skilled classical musicians by universities and conservatories, the stages at classical music concerts are NOT actually old on the average. I’m guessing, not even older than most any other kind of music – pop stars can just afford better cosmetics. 🙂

      • bob priest says:

        hahaha, just so, have you seen Mick & Keef recently?

        now, imagine seeing them WITHOUT the industrial light & magic!

        • Jeff Winslow says:

          I’m afraid no amount of cosmetic wizardry can help Mick, god bless ‘im.

          But he’s well past US retirement age. He’d fit right into many traditional classical music audiences, but he’s much older than most of the players, which was the crucial distinction.

      • Greg Ewer says:

        Exactly Jeff.

  3. Greg Ewer says:

    Please reread my remarks (and your own). I think your straw men have mine outnumbered.

    I spoke with a Sphinx alumna yesterday who was also not thrilled with the way the first two paragraphs read. No one is suggesting the things you discuss in your rebuttal, so I’ll just have to assume I touched a nerve.

  4. Greg Ewer says:

    After reflecting further on your comments, I feel the need to answer with a bit more detail.

    You set the article up by talking about 3 “barriers separating classical music from contemporary relevance.” The first is a reluctance of classical music organizations to program music of “our own time and place.” Exactly which organizations are you referring to? A quartet of Oregon Symphony members (myself and a Sphinx alumna included) is performing an entire concert of living American composers here in town tomorrow night (just to mention the first exception that comes to mind.) I’m sorry but this ubiquitous ArtsWatch gripe is way overblown. This kind of programming happens ALL THE TIME. And guess what? It doesn’t magically bring people out of the woodwork to bask in the glow of its relevance.

    The second barrier is a lack of diversity in classical music. Here’s how you set this up: “Before they’d even played a note at Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall, Detroit’s Sphinx Virtuosi had already blasted through three of the barriers separating classical music from contemporary relevance…the musicians arrayed on stage were neither old nor white.” Really? You don’t understand why someone might take issue with that wording? In your rebuttal you seemed to insinuate that I suggested Sphinx was somehow unnecessary or even threatening to white musicians. I expect this kind of behavior from Fox News, not Oregon ArtsWatch. Surely you didn’t mean to insinuate this. Surely. If you did, how dare you!

    The third barrier (although I didn’t mention it before) is a perceived lack of respect by performers for their audience. While it is true that organizations can and do miss the mark on execution for all kinds of reasons, I have never met a classical musician who does not respect his or her audience. I think you may be misdiagnosing this symptom.

    • bob priest says:

      hey greg,

      thanx for bringing up the concert you are playing tonight & tomorrow night.

      if you get a chance, take a look at the comments following the article on third angle on OAW.

      i would be very curious to read any thoughts you might have on what strikes some of us as exorbitant ticket pricing.


    • I’m really glad Third Angle, FearNoMusic and others play music of our own time. I read every press release sent by almost every classical music organization in Portland, and many others in Oregon, and I can tell you, programs like those are vastly outnumbered by the number that contain little or no 21st century music. I’d estimate the percentage at well below five. It may seem like more here on ArtsWatch because we tend to write about those more. If you have a definitive figure from all the orchestras, choirs, and chamber ensembles that perform in the city or state, please cite it.

      I really don’t see why anyone would take offense at that statement about the musicians being young and nonwhite, and so far, no one but you has done so — oh, except for the alleged, conveniently anonymous Sphinx alumna. Sphinx’s entire mission is predicated on overcoming the barrier of non inclusiveness that arises when people of some races can’t see anyone like themselves on stage. If you have some evidence that what Sphinx believes isn’t true, that African and Latino American musicians are discouraged from trying classical music because they don’t see people like themselves on stage (where they were until recently overtly or covertly prohibited in some places), please cite it.

      I suppose reasonable minds can differ on the third point. When I see musicians failing to consider the audience’s experience in watching them slowly set up scores that could have been laid out before, or not bothering to prepare concise remarks to the audience, or failing to acknowledge the audience in any but the most cursory way, I consider that disrespectful. There are happy exceptions: Sphinx did a marvelous job of it, and so do others, including just this week Ron Blessinger of Third Angle and Ethan Sperry of Portland State University Chamber Choirs, both of whom I’ll be writing about soon. However, I will agree that this attitude probably arises more out of ignorance than actual contempt, and that most classical musicians really would love to connect better with audiences if they knew how.

      • bob priest says:

        ok (slight return), one more loooong-running question re. what is/isn’t “contemporary” for the moment:

        how ’bout music written by a living composer that is solidly voiced in a musical language of the past? after all, some dismiss work like this as aesthetic/stylistic grave-robbing(*) & claim that suchnesses there-like are incapable of adequately serving the “honest” artistic needs of our time.

        (*)sound-note: George Rochberg’s 3rd String Quartet. even though this highly controversial work first appeared in 1971, much of the way GR cannibalizes pre-existing musical materials continues to pad the compositional toolbox of some composers today.

  5. Jack Gabel says:

    Gentlemen, please… thickets of political correctitude are rife with booby traps – let’s look for a learning opportunity here – most important, remember: we all want to “do the right thing” and we all love fine art – some may not like that term and may think what we need be doing is something more like pop art, but that’s another issue

    clearly Sphinx are first and foremost accomplished artists – I have little difficulty imagining they probably long ago tired of being held up as poster people for “diversity”, but would really need their opinion to confirm that, so will leave off speculating here

    from experience, when previously hiring, on two occasions, The Dixon String Quartet for Cascadia Composers and Agnieszka Laska Dancers performances, I pointedly avoided mentioning in any publicity their ethnicity – to me it was irrelevant and in working with them, I concluded they felt the same – DSQ were hired because, as an established string quartet, just emerging onto the professional stage, they were keen, focussed, well-rehearsed, professional and affordable – we shared memorable performances, rewarding to all involved – thank you, Brett, for focussing only on the art and artistry in your reviews of those performances – as for here and now, again, let’s look for a learning opportunity

    • Greg Ewer says:

      In my opinion, this writer sabotages many worthy discussions with exaggerations, incorrect assumptions and condescending hyperbole that borders on mockery. This may come across to some as “hip” or “fresh” but an overwhelming majority of musicians in this town are disinclined to engage in any potentially enlightening conversation because of it. I know…I often try to tempt them, and they refuse. And who can blame them? No one wants to get thrown under the bus at every turn. Perhaps the negativity is good for readership. Who knows?

      • Barry Johnson says:

        Wow. That last crack was exactly what you claimed to be against.

      • bob priest says:

        Having been somewhat under-the-bus trodden by “Brettoric” during a past blog discussion (see an Arnica Quartet discussion re. audience disruptions a few months ago), I believe there is some truth in your assessment here, Greg.

        Perhaps we can all get-together on this & other topics sometime soon via an in-person “town hall” sort of gathering? Would you be game for such an occasion? Personally, I believe we might make better progress while gazing into the whites &/or bloodshot eyes of one & all as we bandy these worthy topics about!


        • Greg Ewer says:

          Of course I would Bob. And btw, comment #6 was directed toward Barry. Sorry for that insensitive quip Barry. It seems I may have inadvertently proven my point more effectively than with my purposeful attempts.

      • The ArtsWatch battle bus is specifically programmed to attack only instances of factual error and misrepresentation. We encourage robust respectful conversation about the arts, especially from from the experienced folks in these comments, and of course sometimes we’re going to disagree, as Bob and I did in the instance he cites. Even though I disagreed with his position, I could easily sympathize, understand why he held it and attribute it to reasonable minds legitimately differing.

        What Bob didn’t do was willfully misrepresent the content of an ArtsWatch story by claiming that it said two things it manifestly did not say — and then attacking those straw men, Fox “News” style, a common tactic when someone knows they can’t refute what’s actually written. As soon as I challenged your misrepresentation, you immediately backed off in the next comment and claimed you didn’t write what you did — then attributed your original criticism to a mysterious, conveniently anonymous source. It’s a shame that you had to hijack a positive review of a positive effort like Sphinx’s into a vehicle for misrepresentation.

        However I’m always willing to listen and learn from fair criticism. So instead of vague, unsupported assertions about things I didn’t write, allegedly agreed with by the “overwhelming majority of musicians,” again conveniently unnamed, I invite you to point to specific sentences in my positive review of Sphinx Virtuosi that you believe to be hyperbolic, exaggerated, condescending, or counterfactual (as you tried to do in one comment above). And then we can all see exactly what you’re talking about and debate them respectfully, as I did in my reply to that one specific comment, and I will endeavor to understand the error of my ways.

        Disagree with us, by all means, or even agree if you dare! We love and learn from respectful conversation. But if you or anyone else tries to misrepresent our stories (and not for the first time), well, that’s when we call Otto!(http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Otto_Mann)

        Meanwhile, we’ll continue pointing out practices that tend to drive audiences away, and to highlight the happily increasing number of worthy efforts — like Sphinx’s — that bring more people to this music we treasure.

        • bob priest says:

          great to see you keeping the dialogue going here, brett, thanx!

          now, let’s also take it to dat dare town meeting with in-person eyeballs a-gazin’, a-glazin’, a-rollin’, etc . . .

    • bob priest says:

      ah, this is sometimes a very tricky terrain to navigate.

      lemme try a specific example & see what y’all think, ok?

      so, you’re putting on a performance & marketing:
      Anthony Davis – “Amistad”
      a recent opera of some distinction

      now, Mr. Davis happens to be an African-American composer. should this be mentioned fairly prominently in the PR or not? oh, please feel free to furnish some details as to why/how you’ve arrived at your answer.

      thanx very much.

      • That’s a great question, Bob. I think the first place I’d turn for counsel would be to African American musicians, including Mr. Davis (who happens, fortunately, to still walk the earth). I do know that Sphinx does outreach in its hometown of Detroit so as to alert audiences in minority communities to its programs. If a group is trying to build an audience beyond the usual suspects, I guess I’d consider mentioning the race of the composer (in marketing to those groups at least) a valid way to do that, especially when historical discrimination may have made those communities unaware that composers of their race even wrote operas. But again, I’d feel a lot better involving people of those communities in figuring out this important question.

        • bob priest says:

          thanx for weighing in on this, brett.

          anyone else?

          • By coincidence, I just received an email from Portland Piano International: “Women on the Edge: In 2014 / 2015, we present three dynamic artists who just happen to be women and who just happen to be playing the most cutting edge repertoire this season. Commit now! to contemporary piano.”
            Clearly PPI is playing up the all-female angle. Is this just a convenient theme to tie together disparate programs? A way to target market female audiences? If it said “just happen to be African American,” would that be any different? It’s an interesting question….
            We can also quibble with the notion that “commit[ting] to contemporary music” means listening to 18 dead composers and 3 live ones (not to say the music isn’t worthwhile, of course), but that’s another issue….

          • bob priest says:

            re. your post below, would you consider the Ligeti piano etudes to be an example of “contemporary music” even though Ligeti is no longer living?

            i ask this quibble of a question because i sometimes get asked what i mean when i refer to “contemporary music” & find myself giving out slightly different answers depending on how young, old or semi-dead i might feel on a given day!

          • Uh oh, looks like we’ve reached the limit of this comment thread. Sorry about that — it’s happened before with WordPress. Anyway, this is a reply to Bob’s question about whether Ligeti is “contemporary.” Of course he is! Lukas is still alive and percussing! Oh, you meant his dad… Like Bach, Beethoven, Bartok and the rest, his music will always be worth hearing, even when no longer “contemporary” — whenever that is. But inevitably it grows increasingly less contemporary by the day.
            It’s actually not a quibble, but it sorta comes down to semantics, really. Where do you draw the line? 21st century? Living composer?
            I guess the question is, would the presence of that music on a program attract listeners who want to hear today’s sounds? And I guess that might depend on how old the listener is. I remember on one of you March Music Moderne panels, Bob, the under-30 Classical Revolutionary Mattie Kaiser saying something to the effect that no one in her generation regards John Cage’s music as contemporary; to them, he’s just another great dead composer like Bach and the rest. So maybe it’s not a hard line but more of a spectrum with a few decades of leeway?
            What’s important is to not lose sight of the goal — playing today’s sounds to attract more of today’s listeners — in definitional dilemmas. There’s also the separate but important issue of keeping the art form alive and thriving by supporting living, creative artists by playing their music and bringing it to listeners who might be able to encourage the creation of more of it, something alas no longer possible with the great Gyorgy.

          • bob priest says:

            ok, i’m continuing the “contemporary music” thread here.

            i agree that there is no hard line & some leeway exists as to where the invisible line of cutoff might actually reside.

            actually, towards the end of the 20th century, Irvine Arditti said he believed 20th century music began with Beethoven’s “Grosse Fuge.” heck, given the forever modern sound of the GF (Stravinsky also felt this way), perhaps it is at this point that 21st century music begins, as well?

            as far as “today’s sounds” are concerned, parts of Biber’s “Battaglia” register astoundingly chez-now alongside Zorn, Merzbow & others of the still living & breathing, pravda?

            in other words, vut duh L are we gonna do with the plethora of moving target labels we keep reductively slinging ‘n’ zinging hither & yon?

          • Sounding contemporary is different from being contemporary. After seeing what happened to “modern,” I think maybe we should use “contemporary” generally to mean “written by a living composer,” and certainly no earlier than “composed or in the lifetime of someone likely to be at the show” and at the latest “last week.” That’s why I’m starting to use “21st century” more and more because, this far into it, it’s likely to be somewhere near the line that would attract people who really want to hear what’s being created today and at least it has the virtue of a time certain!

  6. Greg Ewer says:

    Yup. Kinda off putting isn’t it? Ok I’ll call off the hounds and try to stick to music. Hopefully my point has registered somewhere.

  7. Greg Ewer says:

    Let’s start with what I did say in my initial comments.

    The main thrust (verbatim) of my first comment was: “I’m not certain that the lack of focus on music from one’s own time and place is the barrier to contemporary relevance you make it out to be.” I used China as an example of a country where Western classical music is becoming fairly prominent in the culture, because I was thinking about the issue in a global sense. One could use Japan, Korea, Argentina, Russia, or Western Europe as other examples of countries outside the U.S where Western (and increasingly Eastern) classical music is regarded as an evolving treasure of collective human experience. Of course parents and schools in all of these places are involved in encouraging (and yes, unfortunately sometimes forcing) their children’s involvement. That’s usually how education works. In my comment, I asked the question “Are these kids studying only contemporary music?” I did so rhetorically to imply that older music from foreign countries was likely part of their curriculum, and probably not a barrier to their involvement. You replied to this by asking, “I don’t know where you got the idea that kids should only study contemporary music.” This is where things get a bit puzzling for me, as I did not put forth this idea, nor can I understand how a master of the written word such as yourself would think I did. That straw man is nowhere in my remarks. I did not back off in my subsequent response as you allege. That is simply the point at which I began to lose confidence that I could expect a fair exchange.

    The main thrust (verbatim) of my second comment was: “I don’t see how including white performers in your list of ‘barriers to contemporary relevance’ is in the spirit of inclusion you seem to be applauding…This is a careless way to make your point.” I prefaced that remark with a validation of the larger point you were making. Was it terribly difficult to discern that my criticism was about your choice of words, not of your glowing review or of Sphinx’s efforts or anything else? Those straw men were nowhere in my remarks. You subsequently spent four paragraphs ostensibly trying to school me about Sphinx, asking (more than once) whether I have evidence that Sphinx’s beliefs are untrue, and topping it all off with two paragraphs of sarcastic remarks about learning that Sphinx’s efforts were not necessary, etc. Is there a journalistic term for this that you’d like to share with me? I currently refer to it as “changing the subject.” If you’re still with me here, it will probably come as no surprise that my confidence in a fair exchange was further eroded by this.

    Your point about press releases is well taken. You are definitely in a better position than I to know all of what is happening with programming around the state. I was only considering that of prominent local organizations such as Third Angle, Fear No Music, Resonance, The Julians, 45th Parallel, The Ensemble, Cascadia Composers, Northwest New Music, occasionally the Oregon Symphony, and other organizations that appear regularly in ArtsWatch’s coverage. I just don’t quite know how to reconcile that with quotes like the following from September 20, 2014:
    “Even when it’s written in the 21st century, classical music is often stereotyped as music by dead people for old people. That’s hardly a recipe for growth or even survival, but Oregon’s major classical institutions contribute to this self defeating notion by relentlessly devoting the vast majority of their programs to music by long-dead people, attended by mostly people who won’t be around too much longer.” (By the way, I realize I haven’t substantiated my assertions about “exaggerations, incorrect assumptions and condescending hyperbole that borders on mockery” yet. Those assertions were more general in nature, not specifically about the Sphinx review.)

    No one has willfully misrepresented you or hijacked your review. I cannot say the same about my own comments. If you’re going to word your remarks in a potentially controversial way, then be brave enough to engage honestly (sans projection, straw men, etc.)with your readers when someone dislikes them. It is my hope that our mysterious Sphinx alumna will be conveniently known soon enough. If so, good luck with that. As for the “conveniently unnamed”, consider that there are just shy of 80 tenured members in the Oregon Symphony who are passionate about the art form we are discussing. How many of them regularly engage with you here on ArtsWatch? Their absence speaks louder than any list I could provide.

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