Skating to the tune of Ethan Rose

The Oaks Park Roller Rink in Portland had the feel of an oversized aquarium during musician Ethan Rose‘s rinkside performance on Tuesday. Rose’s ethereal electroacoustic music gave the place an underwater ambiance (listen here, and you’ll see what I mean), and as I skated around and around in the dim light, I found myself feeling like an anchovy, caught up in a big, circling school — or maybe a jellyfish, drifting in directions I didn’t mean to go and posing an extreme threat to those around me.

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During his performance, Rose played the 86-year-old Wurlitzer pipe organ suspended on a platform above the rink, incorporating its notes with the recorded sounds of drums and chimes. The 30-year-old Chicago transplant often uses antiquated instruments — music boxes, player pianos, carillons, skating rink organs — as the basis of his computer-generated music. Tuesday’s event marked the debut of his latest album, Oaks, inspired by the very instrument at his fingertips.

To the resonating sounds of songs like “On Wheels Rotating,” “The Floor Released” and “Scenes from When,” I rolled around the rink on bright orange wheels, trying my best not to knock down small children or get in the way of the girl in the blue miniskirt who was skating backwards, lifting her leg and doing something akin to a triple salchow. (When I tried a move — a rolling crouch, executed at what turned into a snail’s pace — the referee told me to get inside the red line so as not to disrupt the flow.)

While I did not win any rabbit’s feet or get a chance to compete in the limbo, I did enjoy Rose’s music. It seemed a perfect complement to the act of rolling around in circles.

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