This week, we’re taking a look back at some of our favorite music stories and interviews. We blast out of this galaxy with Afrofuturistic music, come back down to earth to follow one musician’s odyssey, and explore those whimsically designed pianos that have been popping up around Portland.
From November 2017 to January 2019, the experimental art series “We. Construct. Marvels. Between. Monuments.” introduced a completely unique vibe to the Portland Art Museum. In January, we spoke with “Monuments” artistic director Libby Werbel, who told us her aim was to interrogate how curation works and expand the definition of museum-worthy art. The fifth and final installment in the series might be the largest-ever retrospective in an American museum on the work of Sun Ra — the Afrofuturist musician, artist and philosopher. “The Earth Expedition of Sun Ra” was conceived in partnership with Portland’s activism-oriented arts platform Deep Under Ground (DUG). We walked through the exhibition with DUG member Bethlehem Daniel, who shared her take on the changing nature of insider art. If you missed Sun Ra’s show in January, this is your chance. Mississippi Records has brought them back for a three-show run over at the Hollywood Theater starting Sunday, July 14 through Tuesday, July 16.
For more than a decade, Luz Elena Mendoza and her band, Y La Bamba, have been melding traditional musica mexicana with dreamy folk pop. Their latest and eagerly anticipated fifth album, “Mujeres,” deals explicitly with Mendoza’s upbringing in southern Oregon, where she was raised by devout Catholic Mexican immigrants.
When we spoke with Mendoza in February, she generously granted us access to her songwriting process, her musical evolution and her emotional reckonings with the past. At its heart, the work is an earnest, raw exploration of identity — what it means to be a Mexican American woman today. Y La Bamba’s album “Mujeres” is out now.
Public Pianos — 41:03
Life is full of rules. Stay off the grass. Don’t touch the art. Use your inside voice. So how great is it to see — not a restriction — but an invitation? As in, “please play this piano.” The public art project called “Piano. Push. Play” is going on its seventh year, inviting people not only to enjoy beautifully designed pianos and the talent of other musicians, but encourages anyone and everyone to take a shot at sharing their own music. Megan McGeorge is the founder and creative director of “Piano. Push. Play.” McGeorge and local artist Gary Hirsch, who designed one of this year’s pianos, spoke with “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller about this summer’s kickoff. A map of where pianos are stationed can be found here.