Matt Haimovitz and Portland Cello Project

I managed to catch Matt Haimovitz [also] and some of the Portland Cello Project at a free show today in downtown Portland. It was in the music section of a downtown bookshop, and it was crowded and awkward. However, it was also pretty great music.

Haimovitz is one of those artists that is so good that the music they are really interested in now is challenging for much of the audience. Opening with some Bach, Haimovitz then moved into playing selections from “After Reading Shakespeare.” That’s the point when the audience started to thin out. One person walking away was heard saying, “Well, that was … interesting.”

Reminds me of an Amy Denio show at Folklife many years ago. She was doing some amazing stuff on stage that really showed her vocal range, control and artistry … but a family group in the front few rows got up and started to walk out. As these people passed conspicuously in front of Amy on stage, she said, “Sorry to scare you.”

Well, Haimovitz really has skill. He’s got the kind of skill that seems unnatural. He’s good enough that he can play music that doesn’t make complete sense to everyone. It’s a level of technical ability that just doesn’t translate well to those unfamiliar with the language. I mean, I had trouble understanding all of the musical language, to be sure, but I could tell that he was good enough to be a musician’s musician.

Like Paul Hinklin of Sadhappy, who drew other musicians to his shows. At some shows, there would be a vanguard of other musicians in the front row standing witness to the artistry being shown.

It really does, sometimes, take one to know one. The really accessible stuff was greatly appreciated by all. But, there was also music of a style and complexity that was beyond some of the audience. However, I was offered glimpses into the beauty of what was being played. There were things done by Haimovitz that practically made me do a double take, as I had to look closer to figure out how he was doing what he was doing. For example, he was plucking strings while bowing at the same time by using his fingers on the neck to finger notes and pluck. He also had an astonishingly ability to moderate the volume of his playing while still being crystal clear. There were moments when the musical language was shocking, but also moments where the musical language caused the audience to laugh.

A very, as the person said, interesting show, to be sure. I’m glad I went and had that experience.

I noticed at least one person leave early that was wearing a Portland Cello Project shirt. It wasn’t until the very end that PCP joined for a rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” [also] but that was a good, fun ending to the show. Only a few of PCP were present, but I recognized a few of the players. I was able to immediately recognize Anna Fritz, but I didn’t have the nerve to go up and admit I’ve been addicted to her CD … Oh, well. Maybe next time …