Staff Picks: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, August 4 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

John Cage: Piano Sonata XI from the Sonatas and Interludes (Centaur Records)
Susan Svrcek, piano

John Cage threw a wrench in the Western music tradition when he invented the prepared piano in 1940. Presented with the challenge of writing dance music for a small stage, he created his own percussion orchestra inside a piano by placing screws, bolts, and pieces of rubber between the strings.

The Sonatas and Interludes was his magnum opus for the iconoclastic instrument. Pianist Susan Svrcek lends her fingers to the Cage classic in this stunning recording, pulling the percussive melodies out of a mess of strings and hardware supplies with sincerity, warmth, and an ever so delicate touch. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 12pm hour today to hear this piece.

John Adams: Phrygian Gates (RCA Records)
Hermann Kretzschmar, piano

Sometimes, instead of a complicated meal full of newly-invented ingredients and prepared with exotic techniques, it is preferable to have a simple salad composed of greens, oil, and salt. John Adams’s Phrygian Gates is the musical equivalent of this, in my opinion. This piece confirms that a construction built from the simplest ingredients can unfold into a supremely delicious and satisfying experience. – Seth Tompkins

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

So Percussion and Matmos: “Flame” from Treasure State (Cantaloupe Music)

Electronic music and modern composition collide in Treasure State, the collaborative album from Matmos and So Percussion.  In “Flame,” a melancholy guitar and phonoharp are joined and propelled by ripples of vibraphone, glockenspiel, and stomping as the song transitions from alluring to pure cacophony.

Matmos is notorious for bizarre sampling, having previously used sounds of “the amplified neural activity of crayfish,” lasers, and even surgical procedure noises to produce gorgeous experimental techno. Treasure State is a showcase for both Matmos and So Percussion, as well as an interesting study in unusual musical resources—and “Flame” will thank your ears for “sampling” the album with its stylized cascading groove. – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 8pm hour today to hear this piece.

David Leisner: Dances in the Madhouse (Centaur Records)
Clayton Haslop, violin; Jack Sanders, guitar

An early 20th century lithograph, entitled “Dance in a Madhouse,” depicts a scene in an insane asylum that inspired composer David Leisner to write four dances for the highlighted patients. The first movement, “Tango Solitaire,” is for the stylish woman dancing solo in the center of the frame. “Waltz for the Old Folks” corresponds with the happy couple in front of her, who seem completely comfortable with their insanity. Third, “Ballad for the Lonely” represents the despairing women on the sidelines, and “Samba!” is for the couple on the left, dancing with wild, dizzying energy.

The recognizable dance rhythms move through lenses of distortion as they may be perceived by individual patients in the scene. The melodies and cadences are largely harmonious and accessible, conveying a sense of joy in spite of circumstance, with “Ballad for the Lonely” evoking a swell of sympathy for those unable to take part in the celebratory moment. Jack Sanders’ guitar and Clayton Haslop’s violin respond seamlessly to one another, delivering a remarkably rich and unique listening experience. – Brendan Howe

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece.

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