Women in (New) Music: Grant Opportunity for Women Composers

by Maggie Molloy

Calling all women composers! The Allied Arts Foundation just launched a new grant opportunity for women composers and songwriters.

The grant, titled Listen UP! Music by Women will distribute at least $15,000 in award grants to women composers and songwriters living in Washington State. Nearly all musical genres are eligible in this cross-genre competition, including contemporary classical, electroacoustic, blues, R&B, jazz, world music, multimedia, sound installations, and more.

Across history women have been systemically disadvantaged in the fields of music composition and songwriting, often receiving far fewer opportunities and resources to create new musical work than their male peers. Listen UP! Music by Women presents an opportunity for community dialog, expression, and support for the significant female talent in Washington State.

The deadline for applications is Monday, April 30, 2018 at 8pm PST. Click here to learn more and submit an application.

For Lenny: Lara Downes Plays Leonard Bernstein

by Dacia Clay

This year, Leonard Bernstein would have been 100 years old. To celebrate, pianist Lara Downes took on a massive project called For Lenny that involves arrangements of Bernstein’s songs, new works dedicated to him, collaborations with artists from diverse genres, and an online component that includes extensive videos, podcasts and more.

As an artist whose work also moves between genres, traditions, and other boundaries, Downes feels a kinship with Bernstein. For example, of her time in the studio with beatboxer Kevin “K.O.” Olusola of Pentatonix she said, “You know, when I was in the studio with him and we were working on this beatbox version of ‘Something’s Coming,’ I just felt this freedom to try different things—both of us working together coming from vastly different ends of the American music spectrum and just having fun with it, and I thought, you know, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Leonard Bernstein.”

In this interview, Downes talks more about who Bernstein was, about her love of American music, and about the experience of working with artists from such different corners of the musical world on one project.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, February 16 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Anna Thorvaldsdottir: In the Light of Air (Sono Luminus)
ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble)

If I had to describe this piece in one word, it would be ice. Not only is it an icy, ethereal soundscape sculpted by an Icelandic composer, but it’s even performed by ICE (the International Contemporary Ensemble). Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s In the Light of Air is an iridescent sound world scored for viola, cello, harp, piano, percussion, and electronics. Infinitely varied in its timbres and textures, the piece evokes the translucent calm and quiet sparkle of an icy landscape, with gorgeous harp details, gentle piano echoes, and whispering melodies glittering above the rumbling earth below.
 Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 1pm hour today to hear a movement from this piece.


Florent Ghys: “An Open Cage” (Cantaloupe Music)
Bang on a Can All-Stars

If you don’t have five hours to listen to John Cage’s sprawling, narrated sound art piece Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse), Florent Ghys’s “An Open Cage” offers a compelling (and surprisingly catchy) four-minute summary. In Ghys’s version, a solo pizzicato bass line dances within the rhythms of Cage’s calm and serene narration, painting his deadpan delivery with a funky groove and a distinctly contemporary color. The unconventional duet expands as the piece grows in musical force, gradually adding more and more instruments until finally a small chorus of voices appears, echoing Cage’s words:

“The avant-garde is flexibility of mind and it follows like day the night from not falling prey to government and education. Without avant-garde, nothing would get invented.”
 – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 2pm hour today to hear this piece.


John Adams: Lollapalooza (Nonesuch Records)
Hallé Orchestra; Kent Nagano, conductor

I first encountered this piece over 10 years ago in my college wind ensemble. Although this version is for orchestra, the band version is an excellent example of quality writing for winds. And beyond that, this piece is one of the best examples of onomatopoeic music anywhere; once you hear it, you can never un-hear it.  Loll-a-pa-loo-za!
– Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 4pm hour today to hear this piece.


Missy Mazzoli: “Tooth and Nail” (Bedroom Community)
Nadia Sirota, viola

Admittedly, I’m a little bit of a fangirl when it comes to Missy Mazzoli and Nadia Sirota, so I may be somewhat biased in my review of this piece. I love how much is going on in it—there are things going on near and far and in between. And Mazzoli brings the electronic textures I’ve heard in some of the music from her band Victoire into this. I hear echoes of Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” in the chord progressions, and the same kind of desperation in the viola as I heard in Abigail Fischer’s voice in Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar. This was my introduction to Sirota’s album Baroque, and I can’t wait to dig in to the rest of it! – Dacia Clay

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7pm hour today to hear this piece.

Joshua Roman’s Cello Conspiracy Concert Broadcast: Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 7:30pm PST

by Maggie Molloy

Last December A Cello Conspiracy brought Joshua Roman together with four of his superstar cello friends for a one-night-only, sold-out cello performance. Presented as part of Town Music’s 10th Anniversary season, the concert featured Roman performing alongside an extraordinary cast of four Seattle Symphony cellists: Efe Baltacıgil, Nathan Chan, Meeka Quan DiLorenzo, and Eric Han.

This Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 7:30pm PST, we’re letting you in on the cello conspiracy with a concert broadcast of last December’s sold-out performance. Click here to tune in and stream the full cello performance from anywhere in the world!

Join us for an evening showcasing Seattle’s best cellists as they lend their bows to the vast expanse of cello repertoire: the classic, the contemporary, and the cleverly reimagined. From Rossini and Paganini to Reena Esmail and Christopher Cerrone, this program celebrates the cello’s full range of possibility.

Program:

Mozart: Overture from Marriage of Figaro (arr. Moore)
Wagner: Overture from Tannhäuser
Mozart: Sonata
Christopher Cerrone: On Being Wrong
Richard Strauss: “Beim Schlafengehen” from Four Last Songs

Reena Esmail: Munni Badnam
Anthony DiLorenzo: Kaleidoscope
Paganini: “Moses” Variations for two cellos (arr. Demenga)

INTERMISSION

Josquin: Untitled (arr. Jacot)
Anne Wilson: Lament
Purcell: Fantasia Upon One Note (arr. Moore)

Edward Elgar: “Nimrod” from Enigma Variations
Rossini: Overture from Barber of Seville
Led Zeppelin: “Stairway to Heaven”

Town Music’s 10th Anniversary Season continues this spring with a performance by Roomful of Teeth on Friday, March 9 and a performance by Joshua Roman with the JACK Quartet on Thursday, May 10. For tickets and information, please click here.

NW Focus LIVE: The Sound Ensemble

by Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Classical KING FM 98.1 tonight (Friday, Feb. 9) at 8pm PST for an in-studio performance of the Sound Ensemble on NW Focus LIVE. Click here to stream the performance online from anywhere in the world.

Founded and directed by conductor Bobby Collins and tuba player Jameson Bratcher, the Sound Ensemble is a new music collective dedicated to defying traditional concert hall expectations. With a flexible lineup of winds, brass, strings, piano, and wide-ranging percussion, the ensemble crafts performances that are at once thought-provoking and accessible for contemporary classical newcomers and seasoned new music enthusiasts alike.

For tonight’s program, they’ll perform Schoenberg’s immortal Transfigured Night alongside selections from a new world premiere by composer Kevin Clark. The piece, titled Eleanor and Hildegard, was inspired by two historic women from the Middle Ages: one of the greatest patrons of music, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and one of the greatest composers, Hildegard von Bingen.

Tonight’s NW Focus LIVE performance serves as a preview for the Sound Ensemble’s upcoming concert, A Life Transformed, which takes place this Saturday, Feb. 10 at 7pm at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. Click here for tickets and additional information.

The Artist and the Antihero: David Lang’s New Symphony Premieres in Seattle

by Maggie Molloy

The notion of the artist as the hero is one of the central tenets of the Romantic era, with composers from Beethoven to Berlioz crafting symphonies of enormous scope and heroic splendor. Composer David Lang turns that notion on its head in his symphony without a hero, which receives its world premiere this week at the Seattle Symphony, conducted by Ludovic Morlot. The program juxtaposes Lang’s new work against the epitome of the heroic symphony archetype: Richard Strauss’s epic tone poem, A Hero’s Life.

The titles are nearly exact opposites. As it turns out, so is the music. Second Inversion’s Maggie Molloy talks with Lang about his new symphony and the relationship between artist and hero in the 21st century.

Audio edited by Dacia Clay.

Music in this interview:

David Lang: child: “short fall” (Cantaloupe Music)
Sentieri Selvaggi; Carlo Boccadoro, conductor

David Lang:
the little matchgirl passion: “from the sixth hour” (Cantaloupe Music)
Los Angeles Master Chorale; Grant Gershon, conductor

Richard Strauss: A Hero’s Life: The Hero’s Battlefield (CSO Resound)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Bernard Haitink, conductor


Seattle Symphony performs David Lang’s symphony without a hero Feb. 8 and 10 at Benaroya Hall. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘All Melody’ by Nils Frahm

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Alexander Schneider.

More than perhaps any other aspect of music, melody is what captures our hearts and gets stuck in our heads. Be it classical, jazz, pop, or rock—nearly all styles of Western music hold melody to be paramount.

Simple in theory but endlessly expansive in its possibilities, melody is at the heart of Nils Frahm’s newest album, out now on the Erased Tapes label. It is a collection of 12 songs in which not only all the music but also the entire recording space were created in service of that greatest musical jewel: melody. 

All Melody is Frahm’s ninth solo album, featuring the composer himself on his usual keyboard collection of pianos, synthesizers, and pipe organs—but here expanded to feature an ethereal choir of vocalists along with subtle strings and percussion. The album was recorded in the historical East German Funkhaus, a 1950s recording complex where Frahm spent the past two years renovating a studio with hand-crafted and hand-picked studio gear, including a custom mixing console.

The album itself is an ambient mix of minimalist melodies, mid-tempo dance grooves, and broad, synth-laden washes of sound. Though each song is expertly crafted in iridescent detail, the individual pieces also fit together into a larger whole, the album unified in its wistful melodies and muted colors.

Wordless vocals from the chamber choir Shards sing the first melody of the album in the atmospheric overture “The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched.” Floating atop the whispering bellows of an organ, the choir intones a circling theme that beckons the listener into musical hypnosis. Pieces like “Sunson” and “A Place” feature more groove-oriented melodies, each its own intricately textured overlay of synth sounds and drum machines embellished with subtle strings, mellow percussion, and ambient vocals.

Other melodies on the album hint toward jazz in their poignant dissonances and wandering discoveries. Tunes like “My Friend the Forest” and “Forever Changeless” are intimate piano lullabies punctuated by the soft stir of the piano hammers and the gentle resonances of a bass marimba. A metallic trumpet melody weaves through an atmospheric trance in “Human Range,” while “Fundamental Values” paints a liquid wash of piano melodies swimming in a whisper of cello and bass marimba.

The album’s title track is an endless melody swirling through ever-transforming musical textures, infectious in its pulse and hypnotic in its repetitions. Equally mesmerizing is the relentless rhythm of “#2,” decorated with clipped choral melodies, synthesizers, and percussion. It’s followed by “Momentum,” a piece which echoes with the solace and solemnity of a church hymn, the choir and organ blending together into an expansive soundscape before eventually giving way to a slow and steady groove.

The aptly titled “Kaleidoscope” layers many, many melodies into dense clouds of sound, the distinctive details of each just waiting to be discovered with each additional listen. It’s contrasted against the album’s closing piece “Harm Hymn,” a gorgeously simple harmonic progression that brings melody back to its most basic form.

It’s a tenderness felt throughout the entire album, wrapped up in the immersive soundscapes and melodic orbits of each and every piece. Yet there’s something so vital and nuanced about that closing track—with each quiet, measured breath of the harmonium we’re reminded of both the simple pleasure and the intimate perfection of a good melody.