A Musical Confluence

By in Articles, News

I grew up, in an incredible stroke of luck, on the shores of Bellingham Bay in Washington. Water has always held a special attraction to me, undoubtedly because of this.

The bay changes from glassy Monet-like ripples to churning wind-whipped white caps on grey water through the different seasons of the year. I have always felt a connection to the unpredictable yet constant and engaging nature of water. What a joy as a child to discover purple starfish on half submerged rocks, and to realize waves off the side of the ferry hold an orca pod, majestic, and dangerous and altogether wild. Water moves, holds many secrets, and swallows joys and tragedies alike in its depths.  

It doesn’t surprise me that, in creating a concert all about water, I have come crashing into the rocks many times only to find unexpected treasure in the caves beneath. Everything has changed from my original plans as I’ve been overwhelmed by the abundance of artists who create amazing work on this topic. The metamorphosis of this concert has connected me with an incredible community of maritime musicians across the Pacific Northwest and it is so exciting to share a concert with them.

The Ripples Widen

I formed the initial idea for this concert when I realized that some of the most interesting and inspiring artists I know are also scientists. Of my friends who immediately came to mind, I thought of a botanist, a psychologist, and quite a few marine biologists who are artists in addition to being scientists. I decided to collaborate with biologists for this project, although I hope to design more science and art collaborations in the future that can involve a greater range of disciplines.

The person who really co-created this project with me is Nicole Portley. Nicole, in a word, gets stuff done. I met her at University of Oregon while she was working on a degree in music composition while working as a salmon scientist, often working in Russia. (Nicole is fluent in Russian, by the way.) She is an accomplished runner, a rock musician, and currently digging out her basement by hand. Just trying to sum up some of Nicole’s accomplishments exhausts me. I cannot thank Nicole enough for all of her work in creating this concert. She, like a river, is a force to be reckoned with.

When I was having trouble finding enough marine biologists to fill out the concert, Nicole discovered another community, the Fisher Poets Gathering. Nicole introduced me to Mary Garvey, a fabulous musician and scientist, and one of the most amazing connectors of people I have ever met.

Mary has worked in marine research and support for marine research in Newfoundland and Washington and is an absolute pillar in the shanty community. Within a few emails, she gave Nicole and I over fifteen leads for performers, three CDs to listen to and let us know that the best way to connect with the community is at the Fisher Poet’s Gathering, an annual gathering of artists who do exactly the work we were seeking.

The Fisher Poets’ Gathering

Nicole and I attended the Fisher Poets’ Gathering in Astoria, which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest and most underground creative gatherings in Oregon.

For three days, poets and musicians who have some connection to commercial fishing gather in Astoria to perform the work that they have written about their experiences. Nicole and I were only able to stay one night, but that was long enough to hear hours of great poetry as well as attend an extended song circle the next morning. If you have any curiosity about it, I cannot suggest strongly enough that you attend the Fisher Poets’ Gathering. Look out for it next March.

A Musical Confluence

Through the connections made with Mary and at the Gathering, the concert evolved again — a surprising bend in the river that led somewhere even better than the original destination.

In our concerts, which will be in Bellingham, Seattle and Portland, local musicians and poets will open with a showcase of their work before Sound of Late’s set. These artists all have fascinating stories to share, and it will be so much fun to share the stage with them across Oregon and Washington.

I am beyond excited to explore “What Water Knows.”

Rebecca Olason
Rebecca Olason is a horn player and the director of development with Sound of Late. She currently lives and performs in Portland, Oregon.