Brian McWhorter is a real homegrown genius: When he attended the University of Oregon music school in the 1990s, the Portland native earned a national reputation as a trumpet prodigy and local notice for his innovative After Quartet (which performed original music to accompany silent films) and other new music ventures. After moving to New York to attend the Juilliard School, McWhorter quickly scored prime gigs in orchestras and new music circles—including work with John Cale and John Zorn—by virtue of his ability to play almost unperformable new sounds. He joined and revitalized the Meridian Arts Ensemble (the Kronos Quartet of horn players), with whom he tours playing modern postclassical music.
Molly Barth, another new-music star, earned a national rep—and a Grammy—for her flute work in a decade with the young Chicago-based new music ensemble Eighth Blackbird. Weary of touring six months a year with the adventurous group, she moved with her percussionist husband, Phillip Patti, to Oregon. Her skills earned Barth gigs in the Oregon and Eugene symphonies and local new music ensembles FearNoMusic and Third Angle, among others.
Both music masters were recently hired to the faculty of the University of Oregon. "Beta Collide started with Molly and me talking about our experiences in some of the nation's most prominent new music ensembles," McWhorter says. "The experiment of Beta Collide is: Can we curate the music that excites us in a way that excites the public?" The group's name evokes experimentality—beta testing—and interaction between art genres and sensibilities; uptown and downtown; improvised and codified music.
Beta Collide's show at UO's refurbed White Stag building features baritone Nicholas Isherwood in music of Euro-modernist composers György Kurtág and Luciano Berio. McWhorter and his wife, Eugene Symphony assistant concertmaster Lisa McWhorter, cellist Justin Kagan of the Portland Cello Project, Barth and Patti will play mid-century modernist Earle Brown's Folio. The concert also includes live painter Roger Hayes, music of avant-gardists Mark Applebaum and Stephen Vitiello and, best of all, Portland native Lou Harrison's beguilingly beautiful Indian-influenced Ariadne for flute and percussion.
University of Oregon in Portland, 70 NW Couch St., 800-824-2714. 8 pm Friday, Oct. 17. Free.