An explorer and passionate outsider, Corbell’s anti-credentials include: drop-out, busker, cook, bartender, post-punk guitarist, songwriter, poet, indie bandleader, librarian, writer, technologist, music-community organizer, underground-classical concert producer, opera composer.
The connecting thread through such varied experiences is an uninterrupted devotion to music and words. Whether as a New Orleans street performer writing a song a day, or as a leader of the Portland indepenent classical scene working on his next opera, the craft of song has been Corbell’s religion – a cult of Orpheus, a devotion to lyrical consciousness, a sense that nothing hints at our ephemeral nature and transcendent potential like words becoming music.
With classical music, privilege is the elephant in the recital hall. As a bright young composition student drawn to the domain but coming unprepared from a lower-middle-class background, Corbell was sensitive to the invisible machinery of exclusion and hierarchy, and disappointed by the ivory-tower cerebralism of academic new music. Ultimately the culture drove him away from the academic world, and he embraced the underground and its wayward path of artistic discovery.
The calling of the music remained however, and he found the perfect forum for an outsider in the Classical Revolution movement’s uniquely inclusive Portland incarnation. In 2010 Corbell became enthusiastically involved in the scene that brought performers and composers to a bar once a month and mix it up informally and musically amid conversations and whiskey, mostly free of the hierarchical and pedantic condescension that often characterizes the domain.
Corbell served as Executive Director of Classical Revolution PDX (CRPDX) for two years. During this tenure he also became more outspoken in the community, writing articles for Oregon ArtsWatch and PDXMag, championing a more open and inclusive classical-music culture, and advocating community-focused rather than western-history-focused art.
Since 2013 Corbell has facilitated scores of low-key chamber jams, new music gatherings, and small-venue shows, and also acted as artistic director and/or producer for numerous innovative underground-classical performances:
- CRDPX Summer Showcase 2013, Star Theater, including a joint Mozart performance of Corbell and Viva Las Vegas (photo above.)
- Cult of Orpheus Opus 2013, The Waypost, the first full program of Corbell’s art-song and chamber-music compositions.
- Decomposer’s Night 2013, Star Theater, a macabre chamber music concert featuring original works, Caplet’s Conte Fantastique, and tie-in to the goth dance night Church of Hive.
- The Marriage of True Minds, Holocene, a tribute to LGBTQ composers in support of Marriage Equality; part of March Music Moderne 2014.
- Viva’s Holiday: An Opera in One Act, Star Theater, a three-night run of Corbell’s original opera.
- May Day Worker’s Cabaret, Vie de Boheme, a show mixing songs of class struggle from Brecht, Eisler, and Weill with original Cult of Orpheus works and collaboration with Portland band Three for Silver.
- Cult of Orpheus Summer Concert 2016, The Old Church Concert Hall, featuring new art-song compositions, works for harp, flute, and percussion, dance, and a preview of the debut Cult of Orpheus album.
- Viva’s Holiday, 2016 Production, Star Theater, a 6-night renewal of Portland’s favorite original underground opera.
- The Emerald Tablet, The Old Church Concert Hall, a premiere of new vocal and chamber works that Oregon ArtsWatch called “a highlight of the fall music season.”
Corbell is currently working on building Cult of Orpheus into a viable independent arts organization with dedicated troupe of performers and part-time staff. The group will issue two full-length recordings in 2018: the eclectic-spiritual Sacred Works I featuring musical settings of texts from Hermetic alchemy, Sufi poetry, and Buddhist scripture, and a complete recording of Viva’s Holiday: An Opera in One Act. Corbell’s current composition work is focused on a two-act opera based on Sophocle’s Antigone, and a new dive-bar opera featuring collaborations with local writers, to be performed in small bars, pubs, and taverns.
When not working on opera and art-song projects Corbell teaches guitar, writes software, and runs (first Portland Marathon completed in 2017). He also currently serves in the Community Advisory Group for All Classical Portland radio, sings in the First Unitarian Chamber Choir, and likes to support original local art and performance in all mediums and genres.