Art in Spring to close on ambitious note

Friday 7 p.m. – Smith Center Ballroom – FREE
7 p.m. – Adam Bailey
7:25 – Ben Selker
7:45 – Onyx Trio
8:35 – Starlyn Holder
8:50 – Heidi Evans
9:05 – PSU Players
9:35 – Robyn Barklys
9:50 – Tom Colett
10:05 – Dan Gaynor and Ben Selker
10:25 – Dan Gaynor
10:45 – Daniel Menche
11:35 – Scott Jackson
11:55 – 1 a.m. DJ Sebastian

Tom Colett heeded the call. When the 19-year-old freshman piano major heard PSU Student Development was planning a spring arts festival he got to work. The result, Abstracts, is a celebration of all that progressive music has to offer.

In just three short months, Colett corralled over 20 musicians with one thing in common – an interest in music beyond what we usually hear on our radios and in concert halls.

While the music department puts most of its energy into its award-winning opera program, Colett finds himself more interested in the works of modern composers like Reich, Schoenberg, Bartok and Cage. Colett himself is playing two groundbreaking works by Cage during Friday’s program: “In a Landscape” and “4:33.” “4:33” is a rarely-performed and amazingly conceptual work that stunned audiences upon its unveiling on Aug. 29, 1952.

Amazingly, Colett only recently developed his affinity for classical music.

“I’ve only been playing piano for six months,” confesses the Lake Oswego native who first got his musical chops as a DJ and electronic producer. “What interests me about the (work of) 20th century composers is that it contains elements of weirdness that I find in a lot of electronic music mixed with the virtuosity of classical stuff.”

Weirdness mixed with virtuosity? Now that’s a combination to which anyone who’s read Cage’s poetry or Schoenberg’s tone theories can relate. Add to that mix Colett’s fascination with electro-freaks Plaid and it all starts to make sense: this is a student with better things to do than sit around and watch “Seinfeld” reruns.

The program itself is an eclectic mix of virtually all the major music movements of the 20th century. Adam Bailey kicks things off playing two atonally tuned grand pianos (too complicated to explain here) at once while singing in the Indian raga style. The Onyx trio plays the haunting “Quartet for the End of Time,” composed by Messiaen on the few working keys of a concentration camp piano.

Later in the program the PSU Players perform Terry Riley’s “In C,” a composition that demands the players all play the same 53 phrases at different intervals – at 170-180 beats per minute. Dan Gaynor, likely the university’s most accomplished pianist, teams up with Ben Selker to play Steve Reich’s “Piano Phase,” in which the pianists play the same phrases over and over again, creating an organic loop as the players double over each other and “phase” in and out. Gaynor then remains on the bench for some atonal selections, possibly including parts of Eric Satie’s “Vexations” – to play the whole thing would take 24 uninterrupted hours. To end the program, Colett will do his thing as DJ Sebastian, spinning “jazzy house music” with horn accompaniment.

Also on hand will be minimalist sculptures by Kristen Emmette – plexiglass and concrete constructions made especially for the show.

Colett plans on making Abstracts a yearly part of the Art in Spring festival. He also hopes to someday make it a weekend-long event, and maybe bring in some talent from across the pond, like Autechre or the aforementioned Plaid. For him, it’s all about getting people together, avoiding the trap of cliques, and being open to all types of music.

“It’s boring if you stay within the confines of one model,” he said. “Everybody’s saying one thing if you really listen.”