My trip to Portland for BPOW!!! (the Battery Powered Orchestra Workshop) is over and it’s now time to reflect and report for the blog. Overall, this trip very much in line with the things I write about on CatSynth: electronic music, synthesizers, mathematics, urban landscape, photography, architecture, and even cats. Indeed, I know things were off to a good start when I arrived on Friday night and was immediately greeted by this cat:
It turns out this is Athena, one of the cats that lives with Travis Feldman, creator of the Molecule Synth and the host of BPOW!!!.
Look for a few more BPOW- and Portland-related posts on these pages in the coming days.
Our series returns to the west coast, and to a state I know from personal experience. I have traveled through the western part of Oregon multiple times. It is a state that at first glance has much in common with northern California, politically and geographically, but has its own unique characteristics.
Traveling north on I-5, one crosses an arbitrary line the separates the spectacular landscape of far-northern California from the spectacular landscape of southwestern Oregon. The highway weaves through the mountains and valleys of the Cascade Range, including numerous volcanic (or formerly volcanic) peaks.
At the town of Medford, one can continue north, or take a detour east on state highway 62 to Crater Lake. Crater Lake fills a caldera in the Cascade Range, and is the deepest lake the United States. It's circular shape is quite distinctive, as are its internal landmarks, including Wizard Island (the pointy island to one side of the lake), the “Old Man of the Lake“, and several volcanic formations. I had the opportunity to visit Crater Lake many years ago.
More recently, I traveled the other route from Medford, on I-5 north to Portland, while I was on tour last October.
We experienced Portland's famously variable weather. Fortunately, many of the city's attractions are indoors. This includes Powell's Books. I could have spent the whole day in the Pearl Room, which contained the art and architecture offerings, as well as their extensive rare book collection.
Portland also has abundant public art. Across from Powell's is this “brush,” a noted landmark:
This building brings to mind the city's nickname, Rose City.
Portland is someplace I could see living, and indeed the idea crossed my mind during my period of unemployment last year. Ironically, it was en route to Portland that I took the fateful phone call that led to my current job and new life in San Francisco.
We also performed in the coastal town of Astoria, which can be reached by traversing the coast range or traveling along the Columbia River on US 30. This is actually the western end of US 30, which starts at a junction with our friend US 101.
Astoria was cool and rainy and very green, as one would expect along the northern Pacific coast. The people we met there were also very welcoming to a group of Bay Area musicians playing weird experimental music. Again, you can read more about our visit at the original tour article.
I have never been to the eastern part of Oregon, which is a very different place altogether. I am quite intrigued by the descriptions of part of eastern Oregon as a desert landscape. But it seems like one has to be very motivated to visit, as it is far less populated and less accessible via major highways. The east-west divide also seems to extend to politics, with western Oregon being more liberal in the “northern California” sense, and eastern Oregon being more conservative. I wonder how this divide is going to play, at least in the media, given the patterns of this election…
I am reporting on Portland after Astoria, even though we visted and played a day earlier. That’s just how things sometimes work.
We did have some time to spend in the Rose City before our show at Rotture:
We experienced Portland’s famously variable weather. Fortunately, many of the city’s attractions are indoors. This includes Powell’s Books. I could have spent the whole day in the Pearl Room, which contained the art and architecture offerings, as well as their extensive rare book collection.
Portland also has abundant public art. Across from Powell’s is this “brush,” a noted landmark:
And this “recursive elephant” was quite intriguing:
This sculpture includes other animals besides the elephants. I think I see a cat on the trunk:
It always comes back to cats, doesn’t it.
The show that evening was at Rotture, a club on the waterfront, conveniently located next to a construction zone. Although our audience was small, the show went well; and I did like the space, a converted early-20th century industrial brick building.
They also had an interesting mural in the main audience area, and a nice large stage. We shared the bill with Emily Hay, who also does improvisation with flute and voice (although with a very contrasting sound and style from Polly); as well as Tim DuRoche and Resolution 51 (free jazz improvisation). So it was definitely worth sticking around after our performance to hear everyone else – although the entire evening was probably branded as “experimental night” or “improvisation night”, there was a great variety among the three groups, and I think the ordering worked well with us first, both musically and energy-wise.
More on Portland, our show at Rotture, and the trip up from the Bay Area can be found here.