university of oregon

Bach Fest: the $90,000 solution

After the University of Oregon fires Matthew Halls, it pays him $90,000 – but only if he keeps his mouth shut. And the crisis remains.

And then the lawyers swept in.

The first clue arrived on Tuesday in the form of a statement from the University of Oregon, signed by provost and senior vice president Jayanth Banavar, that the university was “disappointed and saddened that Matthew Halls’ relationship with the Oregon Bach Festival … has drawn to a close.”

Matthew Halls. Photo: Jon Christopher Meyers/OBF

The wording was smooth and soothing and just a little sorrowful – “We appreciate Mr. Hall’s (sic) many positive contributions to the festival … Everyone at the University and OBF sincerely wish nothing but continued success for Mr. Halls” – with no mention that the university had, in fact, fired the festival’s artistic director on August 24, with no stated cause, a mere two months after extending his contract, with a raise, for four years. It was a broken prophylactic of a statement, a reassurance after the unfortunate fact, a monument of untethered platitudes, and it had all the earmarks of having been vetted within an inch of its life by a squadron of administrators and lawyers.

Then, on Thursday, the lawyers’ work ambled into full view in the headline to Saul Hubbard’s news story in Eugene’s Register-Guard: “University of Oregon agrees to pay Matthew Halls $90,000; Halls agrees not to disparage UO.” Translation: You shut up; we’ll pay up. It is a very lawyerly deal, designed to solve an immediate crisis, avoid the courtroom, and let the players move on. With the pay-not-to-play solution, you might almost have thought Halls was a football coach.

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A China-Oregon connection: UO’s Jeffrey Stolet bridges the Pacific through music

Electroacoustic concert enriched by cross-cultural influences concludes an intensive University of Oregon workshop for visiting Chinese composers

by GARY FERRINGTON

It is a long journey from Beijing to Eugene, but each July for the past eight years, a cadre of Chinese conservatory students and faculty has been making the 5,000-mile trip to participate in the University of Oregon’s Summer Academy for Computer Music directed by Dr. Jeffrey Stolet, professor of music and head of Future Music Oregon.

Jeffrey Stolet and assistant Chi Wang with Summer Academy students.
Photo: FMO/symbolic sound 2012.

On July 29, the 2017 Summer Academy will culminate in a final concert of new music influenced by the crossing of a cultural bridge between China and Oregon. For some listeners, with an ear tuned to traditional instrumental music, the experience of hearing a soundscape of acoustic effects and driving rhythmic patterns from suspended speakers around the concert hall may seem unfamiliar, distant, and sometimes unsettling. Yet an attentive ear will hear electroacoustic performances rich in compositional practice and musical forms.

The music will be forged in an intensive two week workshop involving Chinese and Oregon student and faculty musicians, a continuing collaboration almost a decade in the making.

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‘Music of the Forest’ preview: Old growth, new music

UO Music Today Festival concert features contemporary Oregon music inspired by old growth forest soundscapes

by GARY FERRINGTON

In the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, an hour east of Eugene, you’ll be visually immersed in an iconic landscape of towering old-growth Cedar, Hemlock, and moss-draped Douglas Fir. But close your eyes and open your ears and a rich acoustic environment is revealed: whispering treetop breezes; distant snapping sounds of animals traversing twig covered trails; bird calls echoing through the forest with insects buzzing above the ground; all this against the rhythmic beat of fast flowing water over a rocky terrain.

Oregon Composers Forum members finding musical inspiration in old growth forest. Photo: Michael Fleming.

One rainy fall day, a group of UO composition students ventured into this soundscape to listen, meditate upon, and sketch musical ideas while soaking up the inspiration the forest provided. The creative results from this and subsequent journeys back to nature, will be heard on Saturday, April 22 during the Music of the Forest concert, the third of nine events scheduled during the 2017 Music Today Festival on the University of Oregon campus.

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Tony Glausi: Finding musical identity

Young Eugene composer/trumpeter's debut album defines his place in Oregon jazz

by GARY FERRINGTON

When award-winning young Oregon jazz trumpeter and composer Tony Glausi set out to make his debut album last year, he looked back over the last few years of his original compositions and realized that a common theme flowed through much of his music: the search for his own musical identity, starting with his childhood musical inspirations. Glausi, a graduate teaching fellow pursuing his master’s in jazz composition at the University of Oregon, has quietly gained a national reputation for his ability to excite the ears of audiences and judges. His new CD Identity Crisis, released in December and available online and at gigs, reveals a young musician who has both established a distinctive musical identity, and is poised to take the next big step in his career.

Eugene jazz musician Tony Glausi. Photo: Tyler Sams. 

Eugene jazz musician Tony Glausi. Photo: Tyler Sams.

“Tony’s music — whether in performance or in composition or in band leading — is pure Tony,”  says Brian McWhorter, Associate Professor of Music  and one of Glausi’s mentors at the University of Oregon. “He may be having an identity crisis, as the album seems to imply, but he’s not afraid of putting that very crisis in every note. Where most musicians shy away from that kind of vulnerability, Tony’s voice is direct, charismatic, and unyielding. And unusually, his music remains light and fun. He’s vulnerable without having to resort to some heavy, bogged down introspection. Rather, when we hear his music, we get an immediate sense of his obvious intellectualism and wit, without the burdensome feeling like we’re going to have our own identity crisis just by hearing about his!”

Selected as Outstanding Performer Overall and (twice) Outstanding College Trumpeter at the Reno Jazz Festival, Glausi also was named 2013 outstanding undergraduate improviser by Downbeat Jazz & Blues Magazine and placed 1st in the Jazz Division of the 2014 National Trumpet Competition. He graduated magna cum laude with a BM in Jazz Performance at the University of Oregon in 2015.

In addition to leading his own jazz quintet and nine-piece funk band, Glausi is a dedicated collaborator who performs and records with other Eugene ensembles such as the Top-Hat Confederacy and Jessika Smith’s Eugene Composers Big Band. He also performs with several university ensembles including the award-winning Oregon Jazz Ensemble, which toured Europe in 2014, and the JazzArts Oregon Combo. Along the way he’s performed with internationally renowned artists including virtuoso jazz pianist George Colligan, reggae legend Norma Fraser, and British indie pop-star Ruth Theodore.

The young Oregon artist on the rise gives his impression of the state of jazz today from the point of view of the next generation of Oregon jazz musicians. He also explains the sources of his own music, and the challenges an indie jazz musician faces in making a debut album in the 21st century.

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Oregon Composers Forum: Seeding new Oregon music

Fresh sounds flourish from University of Oregon new music program, guest artists, and student-led ensembles

by GARY FERRINGTON

As autumn’s leaves fall, fresh new music is already springing up at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance’s Oregon Composers Forum (OCF), the state’s primary seedbed of new Oregon music.

“The Forum is at the core of the school’s composition program,” texts Robert Kyr, founder and director of OCF, and chair of the university’s composition department. “It offers our students the opportunity to compose and perform their own works and music by their colleagues, while also learning how to found and direct new music ensembles.”  Such experiences, he adds, “deeply connect audiences with an exceptional broad range of contemporary music, including multimedia collaborations.”

OCF premiers new music by young composers. Photo: G. Ferrington.

OCF premiers new music by young composers. Photo: G. Ferrington.

The forum promises a diverse menu of concert options and it all begins with a fall OCF concert at 7:30 pm (Pacific), Tuesday, November 10. This live-streamed event from the University of Oregon’s beautiful Beall Concert Hall, features an array of new music ranging from Li Tao’s Illusion of Fog (2013) for solo piano to large ensemble pieces such as Benjamin J. Penwell’s Kafkaesque (2015) for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Trumpet, Percussion, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass. Other selections include Passacaglia by Emily Korzeniewski, Echoes from the Void by Aidan Ramsay, Prayer for Roethke by Stephen Anthony Rawson, Tempest by Michael Dekovich, Stilly Sleep by Ramsey Sadaka, 7F by Cara Haxo, June by Madeline Cannon, Spaces by Izabel Austin, and Cascade by Nathan Engelmann.

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There’s A Dog In My Studio…..

This week Connective Conversations Inside Oregon Art takes a quick diversion to reveal some of the closest and best friends of the Oregon artists featured on the studio tours and photographed by Sabina Poole.

We are taking a different tack this week:  an unabashedly minimalistic approach, a photo essay, if you will.  This will be a bit of a divergence from a focus solely on the artist and the studio.  Mostly, because in more than a few studio spaces there was another living, breathing, very essential being…one who observed, protected, interacted with a loving keenness and remarkably attentive attitude.  We, are of course, talking about the artist’s dog. And in one case, cat.  From Spanky to Gretta, from Saga and Yarn to Jacques Louis, the dogs peered at me, barked at me, and sooner or later settled into a calm curiosity or a blaise indifference.

I hope you will enjoy a brief meeting of a canine companion and a short stroll through the studios of

Vanessa Renwick
Eva Lake
Shelley Jordon
Christine Bourdette
Brittany Powell Parich
Julia Oldham
Susan Murrell
Sandy Brooke
Daniel Duford
Laura Vandenburgh

Click on any of the images to view in larger format.

Vanessa Renwick.

Vanessa Renwick.

[Editor’s Note: University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts’ Sabina Poole visited 70 artist studios in 2014 to illustrate a new book published by The Ford Family Foundation with the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts, Connective Conversations: Inside Oregon Art, 2011-2014. You can read her introduction to this series here. On behalf of The Ford Family Foundation and the UO, Poole travelled around the state to photograph artists who had received studio visits from the curators and critics of the Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art 2011-2014, The Ford Family Foundation and the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts Curator and Critic Tours and Lectures program for the years since the program’s inauguration in 2011. She travels light, only one camera, no lighting equipment, one lens. Her goal is to show these artists in their environment—authentic, uncontrived, at ease. Learn about the project,Connective Conversations Inside Oregon Art 2011-2014 and the release of the book October 2015.

Poole has been posting weekly, if you have missed any of the articles, catch up here with Renee Couture, DE May, Ryan LaBar, Julia Oldham and Blair Saxon-Hill.]

 

Vanessa Renwick.

Vanessa Renwick.

 

 

Shelley Jordon.

Shelley Jordon.

 

 

Shelley Jordon.

Shelley Jordon.

 

 

Christine Bourdette.

Christine Bourdette.

 

 

Eva Lake.

Eva Lake.

 

 Studio of Brittany Powell Parich.

Studio of Brittany Powell Parich.

 

 

Julia Oldham.

Julia Oldham.

 

 

Susan Murrell.

Susan Murrell.

 

 

Sandra Brooke.

Sandra Brooke.

 

 

Studio of Daniel Duford.

Studio of Daniel Duford.

 

And only because, the world can never have enough photos of cats…..

Laura Vandenburgh.

Laura Vandenburgh.

Blair Saxon-Hill : Fit To Be Tied

Photographer Sabina Poole visited 70 artist studios around the state for a new book, Connective Conversations Inside Oregon Art. This time, she ties Blair Saxon-Hill.

I love extraordinary evenings. Even an ordinary evening can seem special, just because of the heightened focus between what can and cannot be seen in that evening’s darkness. But set that evening inside an artist’s studio deep in Portland’s southeast industrial district, place the artist, wrapped in paper and tied with rope, on a pedestal, light her with the bright spotlit glare of a humming 1980s era projector, and this little theater becomes fantastic.

Place the artist, wrapped in paper and tied in rope on a pedestal, light her with the bright spotlit glare of a humming 1980s era projector...

Place the artist, wrapped in paper and tied in rope on a pedestal, light her with the bright spotlit glare of a humming 1980s era projector…

[Writer’s Note: In the summer of 2014, I began my travels around Oregon to photograph the artists who had received studio visits from the curators and critics of the Connective Conversations | Inside Oregon Art 2011-2014, The Ford Family Foundation and the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts Curator and Critic Tours and Lectures program for the years since the program’s inauguration in 2011. I travel light, only one camera, no lighting equipment, one lens. My goal is to show these artists in their environment—authentic, uncontrived, at ease. Learn about the project,Connective Conversations Inside Oregon Art 2011-2014 and the release of the book October 2015.]

Thus started another Connective Conversations photoshoot, this time with Portland artist, Blair Saxon-Hill.  It’s worth taking a moment here to pause and contemplate Blair’s description of the work she makes, in her own words:

[Blair’s] work examines materiality and the relationships between photography and sculpture through the use of outmoded print technologies, the verbiage of our time (such as scanning and digital printing), and the evocation of the haptic. The resultant works appear as impossible documents and emotively activate the viewer’s perceiving body in considerations of material, space, presence and absence.  Blair creates site-specific installations, artist books, sculpture, photographs, paintings and prints. Co-Owner (with artist John Brodie) of Monograph Bookwerks, she is represented by Fourteen30 Contemporary.

Back to the matter at hand:  images of Blair in her studio….We had decided the week prior to meet again, for a second photoshoot. Our first meeting had been in the tame daylight of a late fall morning.

In her SE Portland studio, Blair Saxon-Hill.

In her SE Portland studio, Blair Saxon-Hill.

We had worked around the studio, Blair showing me her work, her favorite pieces, and her various work areas throughout her two-room studio space. It had been a foggy, rainy day, outside the wet Oregon gray light licked at the windows.

Blair sits comfortably on any surface in her workspace, it is like a theatrical home for her.

Blair sits comfortably on any surface in her workspace, it is like a theatrical home for her.

Blair, while completely cooperative, suggested we try and get together a second time when the light of day would not detract from the equipment she was making use of in her work at the time—namely, the overhead projector. We needed darkness, she explained.

"I often perform in my studio. It's those performances that assist the work and expand how I see possibility," says Blair.

“I often perform in my studio. It’s those performances that assist the work and expand how I see possibility,” says Blair.

Standing at the far room in her studio, in a long overcoat and holding a tall crook.

Standing at the far room in her studio, in a long overcoat and holding a tall crook.

Not one to miss an opportunity, I eagerly agreed. When I arrived on the appointed night, Blair greeted me with her customary warm hug, and showed me up the stairs to her studio where the projector was whirring away, a frayed net splayed over its surface.

Arranging the frayed and well-worn fishing net on the projector.

Arranging the frayed and well-worn fishing net on the projector.

“Here’s my idea!” Blair explained. She asked me to wrap her in a large roll of paper, closing the paper around her like a gift and tying it with a  well-used rope right about where I imagined would be the mid-section of this bundle of Blair. I helped her up onto a rickety, paint-stained stool and made sure she lined up “just so” with the net projected from across the room. The shadow of the netting blanketed her like a captured mermaid, a siren pinned to the studio wall.  Once she was situated, I couldn’t decide if she was more aloof 16th-17th century-Elizabethan, more powerfully victorious Nike of Samothrace (but notably with head in place) or more hedonistic-Botticelli maiden restrained under a mantle of paper.

The shadow of the netting blanketed her like a captured mermaid, a siren pinned to the studio wall.

The shadow of the netting blanketed her like a captured mermaid, a siren pinned to the studio wall.

She could have easily been all three.

Her image, to me, captured an essence of Blair, a reserved realism and a fierce female strength. She was fully covered yet her expression was confronting, revealing, a bit sensual, inviting in its transparency. “It looks like you have no clothes on,” I said offhandedly, and she giggled, maybe at the effect we had created. The portrait, I feel, realizes Blair as an exceptionally strong individual within her studio space: comfortable, vulnerable, susceptible. For a moment, we, as audience, are  allowed in to see a side of her that is inherently connected to her art and ethos. It is Blair in character, but playing herself and playing herself with honesty and integrity.

Blair Saxon-Hill's well-equipped studio.

Blair Saxon-Hill’s well-equipped studio.

That, I believe has been the real crux of this project to photograph the Oregon artists for Connective Conversations. We have been allowed to see an artist in their space, portrayed in a way that incorporates their work and aesthetic, and this view can give us a new understanding, knowledge and appreciation of both artist and work.

Within her studio, materials of her work.

Within her studio, materials of her work.

During my photoshoot with Blair, she explained her method: “Experiment, make something with the experiment and then use it for something else. I believe the studio is on some sort of holy ground. I felt that way about my last studio as well. Both spaces have looked south.”

Wearing a hat perched on her head of long flowing hair, Blair Saxon-Hill.

Wearing a hat perched on her head of long flowing hair, Blair Saxon-Hill.

Directing her here and there, photographing Blair revealed her sense of timing and self-depiction. Being “in character” for Blair is a truth, a lifestyle, a constant state. She is no other way. Whether standing at the far wall of her studio, in a long, dark overcoat and holding a tall crook (items pertinent to her recent work), wearing a hat perched on her head of long flowing hair, or sitting demurely on her studio couch, holding a red-fleshed apple as if it were a scarlet, wild rose, Blair was quirky, and intriguing. Every shot seemed a part and scene.

Blair Saxon-Hill sitting demurely in her studio holds a red-fleshed apple as if it were a scarlet, wild rose.

Blair Saxon-Hill sitting demurely in her studio holds a red-fleshed apple as if it were a scarlet, wild rose.

This intention became perfectly clear later when she explained to me, “I work in parts and scenes that then become whole works. Simultaneously thinking as a sculptor and a painter, I work with both precise and radical moves in the studio.” She continued, “I often perform in my studio. It’s those performances that assist the work and expand how I see possibility.”

As I photographed her, Blair moved around the room interacting with it as a theater that she had designed, a set ready for something to happen: arranging the papers on the studio table, her crook, the old netting. Each item was handled as if it was invaluable, though she paid particular attention to things that were not quite perfect, flawed in some way-—the broken, unusual, or different. A severed square in part of the net monopolized her attention for quite some time as I watched her arrange it to her satisfaction.

Collaborating with Blair Saxon-Hill, the artist showed me her own unique version of “all the world’s a stage.” Although I would slightly alter Shakespeare’s observation in this case: “all the world’s a studio…”

All the world's a studio...Blair Saxon-Hill in her SE Portland studio.

All the world’s a studio…Blair Saxon-Hill in her SE Portland studio.

 
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