An explorer and passionate outsider, Corbell’s anti-credentials include: drop-out, busker, cook, bartender, post-punk guitarist, songwriter, 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 underground classical scene working on his next opera, the craft of song has been Corbell’s religion – a cult of Orpheus, a devotion to the possibility that consciousness is beyond discourse, and that nothing hints at its 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 Thetaer, 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, featuring new art-song compositions, works for harp, flute, and percussion, dance, and a preview of the debut Cult of Orpheus album.
Corbell is currently working on his second opera, a two-act work based on Antigone. Meanwhile he performs regularly with cellist Sonja Myklebust, who joined him in recording the forthcoming debut album Time-wise animals. He also continues to compose art-songs and will premiere a new cycle (of translations of Sufi poetry) in August 2016 at The Old Church.
This year will also see a new, longer-run production of his original opera Viva’s Holiday: An Opera in One Act (which premiered in 2015). The opera will also be published for independent production by other opera companies, and a cast recording is in the works.
When not working on his own projects, Corbell champions the underground opera scene in Portland by supporting other groups such as Opera Theater Oregon. He also currently serves in the Community Advisory Group for All Classical Portland radio, and likes to support original local art and performance in all mediums and genres.