mc hammered klavier

Pianos — including this "skeleton piano"  — took center stage at two March Music Moderne concerts last week.

Pianos — including this “skeleton piano” — took center stage at two March Music Moderne concerts last week.


“What I care about is telling a story,” said pianist Jennifer Wright after last week’s Piano Bizarro concert. “I was getting bored of becoming a technical machine. How interesting is that to me or anyone else? In my concerts I want to present the story of the music in some sort of context that makes it meaningful so that people learn something, have fun, and go home wanting to share how the experience changed them. These little ripples make a huge difference cumulatively.”

Presented by Cascadia Composers at Portland’s Michelle’s Piano Company as part of March Music Moderne, Piano Bizarro was a tidal wave of, yes, bizarre sounds created by toy pianos, amplified harpsichord, prepared piano, percussion, music boxes, electronic delay effects, four people on one piano, and four pianos played all at once.


Tomas Svoboda

Tomas Svoboda


Hey, Tarantino! use THIS for your next medieval ass-kicking!

Oregon’s greatest living composer, Tomas Svoboda wrote the Suite, op. 124 for his daughter and himself to play. Inspired by his anger at losing his favorite duet partner when his daughter made the choice to pursue activities away from the piano, Svoboda poured that tantrum into this third movement, which explodes into a fireworks catharsis after the restrained machine of the first part and the storm-calm of the second, both written six years earlier.

Svoboda writes the way a great movie director like Quentin Tarantino directs—with the audience in mind. The second movement of his second piano sonata weaves polyphonic, polyrhythmic, polydynamic, polyarticulated and polytextured counterpoint—not just between the hands but also within each hand—to increase tension in a movement that processes suicide, asking and finally screaming the question “To be, or Not?” The music drives obsessively toward the latter, the opposite of self-indulgent German romantic outpouring, “weltschmerz.”

I have been in love with Svoboda’s music ever since I first heard him play his two-piano sonata with Lawrence Smiththe then-conductor of the Oregon Symphony, way back when I was nine years old. That’s why Kenn Willson and I put on a whole concert of his piano duet music in a 1994 concert called The Svoboda Project, and it’s why I’ve teamed up with gifted musicians with the work ethic to rehearse, collectively, for hundreds of hours for Saturday’s free March Music Moderne concert, the Svoboda Project II, at the Community Music Center. Other composers come and go, but Svoboda stays with me.

Why? Is it the sex and drugs and rock & roll?


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