Staff Picks: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, October 6 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Michael Gordon: Timber (Cantaloupe Music)
Remixed by Ikue Mori

Michael Gordon could make music out of just about anything. His piece Timber, composed for six percussionists playing 2×4 planks of wood, is not just good—it’s so good  it spurred an entire album of remixes by 12 different electronic artists.

This particular remix by Ikue Mori slows down the texture and explores the space between the notes, with the music slowly oscillating up and down, side to side, from one headphone to the other and back again. With an echoing, almost ritualistic pulse, Mori’s version feels ghostlier than the original. It’s almost as though the wooden planks were cut from haunted trees—evoking a spookier interpretation of the title Timber. – Maggie Molloy

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


Julia Wolfe: Lick (Cantaloupe Music)
Bang on a Can All-Stars

This is an intense piece in many ways. It’s rhythmically difficult, aggressively pounding, and relentless throughout; it features no sound softer than a determined forte until possibly the very end. Generally I would abhor something like this, but the Bang on a Can All-Stars are able to give it a truly fascinating showcase: raucous and full of indomitable character.

It’s the first piece that Julia Wolfe wrote for the ensemble, hoping they would “go over the top” with the work’s “intense energy” born of the body-slamming rhythms of Motown, funk, and rock music of Julia’s childhood. I think it worked. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 3pm hour today to hear this piece.


Florence Price: Dances in the Canebrakes (MSR Classics)
William Chapman Nyaho, piano

William Chapman Nyaho: Asa is the second of five volumes curated by Ghanaian-American composer and pianist William Chapman Nyaho. All five volumes feature a fascinating and impressive collection of music of Africa and the African diaspora.  This second volume is focused on dance music, and Nyaho certainly shines as he dances his hands across the keys of his piano with striking expertise.

In Florence Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes, Nyaho treats the listener to three movements that feel like a courtly cakewalk.  Price, I should note, was the first black woman in the US to be recognized as a symphonic composer and to have her work performed by a major American orchestra. Price was a pioneer and is perfectly at home in this anthology of musical unity. – Rachele Hales

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


Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Ségal: “N’kapalema” (No Format Records)

I’m currently going through a months-long phase of discovering West African music, which started with Peter Gabriel’s collaborations with Youssou N’Dour and then led me through to Toumani Diabaté and Rokia Traoré. (Give them a listen!)

It looks like Ballaké Sissoko will carry the torch next. In “N’kapalema,” a collaboration with cellist Vincent Ségal for Sissoko’s album Musique de nuit, the composer plucks precise, intricate melodies on the kora while Ségal overlays the cello’s husky voice. For me, it evoked an image of a lot of families in their homes at dusk, all saying prayers before a candlelit dinner. – Brendan Howe

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece. Plus, catch the duo in Seattle when they perform as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival on Oct. 22.

ALBUM REVIEW: Possessed by Robert Black

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Elliott Fredouelle.

Double bassist Robert Black likes to explore uncharted territory—both literally and musically. In his new solo album Possessed, he takes his bass into the great outdoors to perform an improvised duet with the Moab Desert.

A founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Black has made a career out of pushing the boundaries of the double bass. In his new album, he uses the instrument to merge the music of man and Mother Nature, performing amid the desert winds and quiet rustlings of Moab’s sprawling landscapes. The surround-sound album also features a DVD showcasing his intimate solo performances amid the stunning grandeur of the Utah desert.

“The idea for me is to go to these different unique acoustical environments with my bass and start to improvise, and make music with the cliffs, the rocks, the canyons, the culverts,” Black said. “And then it becomes less about me improvising but more about me finding a way with the bass to make the environment start to sing.”

The album begins at sunrise with the three-part “Dawn in Hunter Canyon.” The bass grumbles and echoes amid the cavernous canyons and delicately chirping birds, building in speed and intensity until it reaches an urgent fantasia. A percussive interlude turns the bass into a drum, with Black drawing a percussive groove from every corner of the instrument as insects buzz around him. It ends with Black’s bass singing back to the birds, a sweet and tender ballad echoing across the desert air.

Photo by Elliott Fredouelle.

The piece is followed by “Morning in Pritchard Culvert,” a restless bass solo ringing and reverberating against the culvert’s rounded walls. Black saws at his bass amid a cloud of rosin and sand, exploring the instrument’s full sonic rangefrom the lowest, earthiest vibrations to the airiest whispers right at the bridge. As the piece wears on the echo chamber becomes an instrument itself, mimicking the long, velvety melodies of Black’s double bass and volleying back his oscillating waves of sound.

Texture is paramount in “Noon in Day Canyon,” a four-part piece that cycles through bold pizzicato and marcato riffs, soft harmonies, and sparse melodic whispersall vibrating across the quiet hum of the desert.

That near-silence begins to grow in intensity for “Evening in Dragonfly Culvert,” a wild and stormy fantasia that pulls from the cavernous depths of the instrument. With restless energy his bass screams, skitters, grumbles, and growls like a werewolf at the moon, each stroke of his bow feverishly echoing across the empty culvert.

The day in the desert ends back where it began with the four-part “Night in Hunter Canyon.” It’s a new type of nocturne, with Black’s bass improvisations quiet and pensive in the night air, drawing midnight melodies from the gentle sparkle of the stars abovetrading motives with a chorus of frogs and crickets.

The DVD portion of the release simply makes visible all the canyons, cliffs, culverts, and crickets you hear throughout the recordings. Breathtaking shots of Black and his bass amid the morning moonlight, the echoing culverts, the towering orange canyons, and the blazing desert sun highlight the vivid colors and natural grandeur that inspired the improvisations.

“Bass, environment, and Iwe merge,” Black writes in his album notes. “My hands move, the bass sings, the landscape responds and directs the movements, controls the sound. The music comes…from I don’t know where. I close my eyes. I lose myself. I give in. I surrender. I am transported. I am…possessed.”

October Concerts You Can’t Miss

by Maggie Molloy

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Second Inversion and the Live Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between! 

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Keep an eye out for our this flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. Feel free to download, print, and distribute it yourself! If you’d like to be included on this list, submit your event to the Live Music Project at least 6 weeks prior to the event and tag it with “new music.”

October 2017 Concert Flyer

 

Racer Sessions
A weekly showcase of original music with a jam session based on the concepts in the opening presentation.
Every Sunday, 8-10pm, Cafe Racer | FREE

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electronic/electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: saxophone sextets, prepared guitar improvisations, music for speaking pianist, and more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Philharmonia Northwest: At the Japanese Garden
East meets West in this concert featuring Toru Takemitsu’s Three Film Scores for string orchestra and Kosaku Yamada’s Symphony in F Major, the first symphony ever written by a Japanese composer.
Sun, 10/1, 2:30pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church | $15-$20

Tom Baker Quartet: Reunion Show
From 2004-2011 the Tom Baker Quartet performed unusual and avant-garde music across the Northwest and in New York City. Now they reunite for a one-night-only show at the Royal Room in Seattle.
Mon, 10/2, 7:30pm, The Royal Room | Donations

The Esoterics: GRAVITAS
Exploring themes of gravity in music, the Esoterics perform works by Robert Paterson and Steven Stucky alongside three world premieres by the winners of this year’s POLYPHONOS competition.
Fri, 10/6, 8pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Laurelhurst| $15-$22
Sat, 10/7, 8pm, Holy Rosary Catholic Church, West Seattle | $15-$22
Sun, 10/8, 7pm, Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma | $15-$22

STG Presents: Ludovico Einaudi
Known around the world for his chart-topping albums, famous film scores, and genre-crossing live performances, Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi brings his inimitable piano music to Seattle for an evening at the Moore Theatre.
Sat, 10/7, 8pm, The Moore Theatre | $39-$94

BetaSounds: A First Exploration
Dedicated to bridging the gap between modern audiences and classical music, BetaSounds presents an inaugural coffee shop concert featuring works by Britten, Barber, Bartók, Dvořák, and Ravel.
Mon, 10/9, 6pm, The Conservatory Coffee Shop | $15

SMCO: Music, Poetry, and the Influence of Communities of Color
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra examines the search for an American musical identity, exploring the lasting influence of Black music in the classical world. Featuring music by Jessie Montgomery, George Walker, Silvestre Revueltas, and Aaron Copland, plus poetry by Claudia Castro Luna.
Wed, 10/11, 7:30pm, Fremont Abbey | $15-$25
Sun, 10/15, 2pm, Langston Hughs Performing Arts Institute | $15-$25

Seattle Modern Orchestra: In Time of War
Seattle Modern Orchestra presents historic works penned by George Crumb and Julius Eastman in response to the cultural and political turmoil of the 1970s.
Thurs, 10/12, 7:30pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$25

Jesse Myers: The Minimal Piano
Jesse Myers premieres his new piece for solo piano and six-channel soundtrack. Also on the program are minimalist masterpieces by John Adams, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich, plus new works for piano and electronics by Missy Mazzoli and Christopher Cerrone.
Fri, 10/13, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Seattle Symphony: [untitled] 1
This late-night, no-intermission concert brings to life the the dramatically shifting soundscapes of John Adams’ Road Movies paired with the restless momentum and searing imagery of Steve Reich’s Different Trains. All aboard!
Fri, 10/13, 10pm, Benaroya Hall | $16

The Sound Ensemble: Kammermusik
Paul Hindemith’s Kammermusik (German for “chamber music”) is performed alongside eclectic chamber works by Darius Milhaud, Michael Djupstrom, Judd Greenstein, and Seattle-based composer James Falzone.
Sat, 10/14, 7pm, Good Shepherd Center | $5-$15

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
F.W. Murnau’s 1922 classic Nosferatu is beloved by horror fans and film buffs alike for its creepy story and stark images. Pianist Rick Friend and members of the Seattle Symphony bring this spine-tingling vampire tale to life as they perform the live score alongside the film.
Tues, 10/17, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $35-$90

NOCCO: Echoes & Dances
The North Corner Chamber Orchestra opens its season with Roupen Shakarian’s Violin Concerto featuring concertmaster Victoria Parker. Works by Prokofiev and Poulenc round out the program.
Sat, 10/21, 2pm, University Christian Church | $25

Music of Today: Intercontinental Experimental Music Ensemble
This rare convergence of world-renowned musicians from four continents features visiting artists collaborating with University of Washington School of Music faculty members in a program of strings, percussion, keyboard, đàn tranh, guzheng, and live electronics.
Wed, 10/25, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$15

Emerald City Music: Andy Akiho
Brooklyn-based composer and steel pan player Andy Akiho takes over the Emerald City Music stage to curate an exclusive evening of his own compositions alongside the works of Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass.
Fri, 10/27, 8pm, 415 Westlake Ave, Seattle | $45
Sat, 10/28, 7:30pm, The Minnaert Center, Olympia | $10-$43

Sound of Late: Steelworks
Sound of Late presents the West Coast premiere of Anna Clyne’s Steelworks, written for flute, bass clarinet, percussion, and tape recordings from the last steelworks factory in Brooklyn. Plus, works by Sarah Kirkland Snider, Somei Satoh, and more.
Sat, 10/28, 8pm, Flutter Studios | $15

Musical Saws and Moon Landings: Jake Heggie’s ‘EARTHRISE’

by Maggie Molloy

On Christmas Eve in 1968, astronaut Bill Anders took what would become one of the most iconic photographs ever: Earthrise, taken from the surface of the moon during the Apollo 8 landing.

“For as long as there have been people, we earthlings have watched, extolled and wondered over countless moonrises,” said composer Jake Heggie. “But here, for the first time, we could wonder collectively at the appearance of our own fragile, tiny blue planet rising over the cold surface of the moon, surrounded by an unfathomable, infinite darkness.”

Anders now lives on Orcas Island, where he was honored at this year’s Orcas Island Music Festival with a new piece composed by Heggie and featuring one of his favorite instruments: the ethereal musical saw.

Inspired by Anders’ iconic photo, Heggie composed EARTHRISE: Dec 24, 1968 for musical saw and string quartet. The piece was premiered at this summer’s festival by saw player Anita Orne with the Miró String Quartet. We are thrilled to share a live video of that star performance:

Musical Chairs: Chuck Corey on Classical KING FM

by Maggie Molloy

Chuck Corey has a pretty cool job. Some of his daily duties include playing microtonal music, making repairs on handmade instruments, tuning hundreds of strings—oh, and curating concerts of Harry Partch’s music.

Chuck is the Director the Harry Partch Instrumentarium, currently in residence at the University of Washington. Partch was a pioneer of new music, and one of the first 20th century composers to work extensively with microtonal scales. He created dozens of incredible instruments specifically for the performance of his musical texts and corporeal theatre works.

Chuck shares recordings of his favorite Partch pieces (and other composers that have inspired him) this Friday at 7pm on Classical KING FM 98.1’s Musical Chairs program. Click here to tune in, and take our photo tour of the instruments below!

All photos by Maggie Molloy.

Curious what the instruments sound like? Get a sneak peek when you watch the videos below of Chuck performing on Partch’s handmade creations:

LIVE VIDEO STREAM: A Far Cry on Friday, September 22 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

by Maggie Molloy

Philip Glass and J.S. Bach have a lot more in common than you might think. Cascading arpeggios, rapid scales, ever-shifting counterpoint—a transcendent, almost spiritual quality to their music. It comes as no surprise to learn that Glass studied the work of Bach closely under his famous teacher Nadia Boulanger.

But don’t just take our word for it: you can listen to both composers performed LIVE right here on Second Inversion tonight by the Boston-based chamber ensemble A Far Cry. Visit this page tonight, Friday, September 22 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a live video of A Far Cry’s 2017-2018 season opener, streaming right here:

Check out the program below, and click here for program notes.

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048
Glass: Symphony No. 3
Bach: Concerto for Keyboard and Strings in G minor, BWV 1058

To learn more about our live-streaming video broadcasts of A Far Cry, click here.

Photo by Yoon S. Byun.


Please note: Due to restrictions, the live video stream will not include Simone Dinnerstein’s performance of Philip Glass’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Thank you for your understanding.

 

Women In (New) Music: Du Yun’s Opera Angel’s Bone is Writing A New History

by Lauren Freman

Photo by David Adams.

There’s a fun kind of dark—take your Quentins Tarantino, your Samuels Pekinpah—a gleeful brand of hyperrealistic gore that makes you giggle uncomfortably in your seat, where the director gets lauded for “going there,” where a spray of blood is cool, a severed limb is funny.

Angel’s Bone, the 2017 Pulitzer-winning opera by Du Yun, is not that.

When stressed to extremes, our brains deprioritize recording memory accurately, and register emotion in broad strokes: fear, helplessness, pain. For this reason, Angel’s Bone’s heightened, cacophonous abstractions of violence give us a more honest representation of the experience of trauma, more real than an accurate depiction might be. If you think you might be triggered by anything related to sexual assault, drug use, or any kind of abuse, then please take good care of yourself digging into this opera.

Composed by Du Yun with a libretto by Royce Vavrek, Angel’s Bone tells the story of two angels (Boy Angel and Girl Angel, sung by Kyle Bielfield and Jennifer Charles) who have returned to Earth, only to be forced into spiritual and sexual slavery by an ordinary American couple (Mr. and Mrs. X.E, voiced by Kyle Pfortmiller and Abigail Fischer). That’s not a spoiler, that’s the premise: a barely-allegorical indictment of the horrors of human trafficking that doesn’t let you look away.

The staged production premiered in 2016 at the Prototype Festival, an NYC-based festival that showcases new works in “music-theater,” but the studio recording for Angel’s Bone drops September 22 (TOMORROW) on VIA Records. And if you’re near Brooklyn on October 7, you should absolutely attend the album release concert at the National Sawdust Theater (Take me with you? Live tweet it? Please).

This composer is very intentionally changing the landscape of classical music audiences and creators, and I am 100% here for it. In an interview with NPR’s Tom Huizenga this spring, Du Yun expressed a need for the music community to “examine what diversity really means. Diversity also means content, diversity also means styles. Diversity also means, ‘What do we want to say?’ We can’t just say one thing.”

As the music director at Music at the Anthology (MATA), she spearheads projects that amplify underrepresented voices. For example, look forward to “a three-year initiative to focus on the Islamic world, and also a series of solo concerts by female composers, called ‘A Room of One’s Own.’” Her money takes up permanent residence at where her mouth is.

One of my favorite things about Du Yun is that she pledges zero deference to the established conventions of one genre or another. In a Log Journal interview with Steve Smith, she says “We’ll be able to do so many things in so many styles, and if the content calls for that, then let’s just try it.”

While Angel’s Bone is more or less an opera in the traditional sense, each aria (song? track?) is laser-focused toward the style that tells the story best. Mrs. X.E.’s performative piety is represented in allusions to revivalist gospel in “I’ve Been Blessed,” because of course it is. The chorus of angels points to Gregorian Chant, because of course it does. Girl Angel shrieks and croaks recounting her abuse at the hands of “Brick J.” because of course she does.

Photo by Cory Weaver.

I’m prefacing this with a WHOLE LOTTA CAVEATS, but I’ll give it to ya straight: listening to Angel’s Bone was an awful experience. The performances are stunning, Du Yun’s subversion of aural expectations is deeply affecting, and the borderlessness between genres is fascinating. But. Sitting with this opera? Marinating in it for hours, watching otherwise unremarkable suburbanites brutalize extremely vulnerable people? Hurts. So. Bad.

And the question is Why. Why put audiences through that? Why put ourselves through that? Du Yun’s work is too deliberate to be intended as shock for shock’s sake, so why would she bring us so intimately close to the experiences of the victims of trafficking?

So that we would do something.

And there’s so much we can do, from influencing lawmakers to enact legislation that protects trafficking survivors, to educating ourselves, to volunteering our time or money to a nonprofit we care about—you, a presumed proponent of the arts, might be interested in checking out First Aid Arts, which equips trauma-care providers with arts-based resources.

“Art does not solve problems,” Du Yun warns. “Art, at its best, functions to provoke and suggest.” If Angel’s Bone disturbs you—and it will, and it should—then let it provoke you into action. Let it suggest that you help.

If you can, listen to this album. Have an awful experience. And then do something.


If you or someone you know is a victim of trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline to report a tip or get help.


 

Lauren Freman is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and composer, hell-bent on blurring the boundaries between high and low art. Follow her at www.freman.band, on Facebook, or on Instagram.