Sarah Tiedemann on Indian Music Now...
Third Angle has a long tradition of celebrating the music of other cultures. In addition to tours to China and Thailand and commissioning international composers including Dai Fujikura, Narong Prangcharoen, and Wang A-Mao, our series of Music Now concerts (Japanese Music Now, Chinese Music Now, et. al.) has introduced 3A’s audiences to music they might not have experienced otherwise. These cross-cultural collaborations are vital in the world of contemporary music, particularly within our globalized contemporary society. Living in a reality broadened by Google, there is no excuse for hearing music only through Western-centric ears.
But this year I wanted to try something different. Throughout Third Angle’s 2018-19 season, we’re taking a deep dive into the local community. Although we’re based in a northern city that might at first appear to have escaped the more widely known transgressions of southern slave states, whitest-city-in-America Portland has its own shocking history of racism. In 1844, Oregon’s provisional government in the same breath banned slavery and also banned black people from living here. Those who were already here and stayed were flogged every six months by order of law. You can read more about that sorry state of affairs here.
This legacy of oppression continues, although it wears new masks. There are major issues with gentrification, white supremacist rallies, and even the most well-intentioned of white people committing micro-aggressions like complimenting a woman’s hair and asking if they can touch it. Any look we take at this community requires removing our microbrew-soaked rose-colored glasses.
During my brief time as a white, blue-eyed American living in Scandinavia, I had plenty of uncomfortable interactions. To have brown skin and live in a place with Oregon’s racial legacy is an experience that’s hard for me to imagine.
When I grew up in Hillsboro—a much, much smaller Hillsboro of open fields and minimal traffic—the news told tales of local Skinheads. I didn’t have P.O.C friends until I got to college in Ohio. I have been that well-intentioned liberal sticking my foot in my mouth because of the deficit of understanding that grew out of my isolated upbringing.
Since that time I’ve seen Washington County, in particular, evolve into a more diverse and inclusive area. In bringing the Music Now series into alignment with our local community, with Indian Music Now I wanted not only to celebrate the increasing population of immigrants from South Asia, but also to celebrate the young people growing up within both cultures and to create a performance in which they can experience art created by people with experiences similar to their own. My dream is that a young person (or several) sitting in the audience will become inspired to try their own hand at composition.
For Indian Music Now, I sought out composers currently living in the U.S. who had made their own very personal decisions to communicate openly about their lives and music existing at this intersection between Indian and American cultures. This concert is not simply about Indian music—it is about tradition, modernity, intersectionality, and identity, all within the context of today.
We are particularly fortunate to be working with Portland’s Creative Laureate Subashini Ganesan, whose dancing, choreographing, teaching, administration, and advocacy work are cornerstones of this vibrant arts community. She’s also the founder and executive director of New Expressive Works, home of Third Angle’s Studio Series, and we knew going into this just how much fun we would all have together.
And Nina Shekhar, a young composer with whom Team 3A worked at Gabriela Lena Frank’s Creative Academy of Music... I don’t even know where to begin. I knew she was talented when we commissioned her because of the wonderful work she did at the academy. Then the score and electronics for her piece arrived last month, and I still haven’t recovered from having my mind blown. Her work Honk If You Love Me is a meta-version of the traffic sounds unique to Indian cities, using electronics to disintegrate these sounds and recontextualize them into something deeply personal and human. Keep your eye on her, because she’s destined for big things.
I hope you’ll join us for Indian Music Now, an interdisciplinary journey through music, dance, visual arts, community and individuality.