LIVE VIDEO STREAM: A Far Cry’s “The Blue Hour” on Friday, Nov. 10 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

by Maggie Molloy

One woman’s story comes to life through the voice of five composers tonight in A Far Cry’s performance of The Blue Hour. Based on Carolyn Forché’s abecedarian poem “On Earth,” the song cycle explores the last hour of one woman’s life, the fleeting memories from A to Z that flash before her eyes—and how her one single story is ultimately many stories: an intimate snapshot of our shared humanity.  

Grammy-winning jazz singer Luciana Souza joins the chamber orchestra in this song cycle written by a collaborative of five leading composers: Rachel Grimes, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Shara Nova, Angélica Negrón, and Caroline Shaw.

And although the concert itself is in Boston, you can still hear every minute of this musical tour de force right here on Second Inversion during our live video stream of the performance this Friday, November 10 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET. Visit the video link below to tune in to tonight’s live stream, or click here to stream directly from Facebook.

In anticipation of tonight’s performance, we asked each of the five composers one question about the poetry, music, and meaning behind The Blue Hour:

Second Inversion: What is this poem about, and how did it inspire the music?

Rachel Grimes: Carolyn Forché’s remarkable poem “On Earth” is a profoundly beautiful and devastating exploration of the last moments before death from the perspective of a woman recollecting her life in shards of crystalline memories. Through the lens of these visceral personal moments are glimpses into different points in time in human history, recalling childhood, the fallout of war, a sense of home, intimacy, loss, nostalgia, the mundane, and the epic. 

In a phone conversation with all of the composers, the poet welcomed us to excerpt the poem in order to better serve the music and the new work as a whole. We were overwhelmed at this generous invitation, and vowed to honor the poem and to be true to the feeling of the whole work. We set about to excerpt it, choosing passages that felt ripe for music-making, while maintaining her original abecedary form. We consulted with Joseph Cermatori to sculpt a unified libretto, and to follow that original intent of the form. The poem was endlessly inspiring: so many images, particular and visual, and so many emotions and opportunities to investigate the human experience on a very intimate scale. Especially inspiring was the chance to explore, through this perspective of this one life coming to an end, the experience of facing death and the treasury of life’s myriad experiences that are in so many ways universal to all.

SI: What makes Luciana Souza the perfect singer for this song cycle’s premiere?

Shara Nova: When we composers first got together, we knew we wanted to find a singer who was able to read what we anticipated to be a challenging score, who had a wide vocal range and also had a sound closer to folk or jazz. Luciana Souza (pronounced like Loo-See-Ah-Nah Soh-za) has a dynamism and a warm, natural voice that really excited us.

Once I knew that she was going to be the singer, I started writing some of the movements on guitar, influenced by the great Brazilian songwriters like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, and then once I had that foundation, I expanded the arrangements for A Far Cry and removed the guitar parts. I wanted the music to be very tuneful and song oriented, as well as take the opportunity to really show off and explore the color and vibrancy of this extraordinary ensemble.  

SI: What was the composition process like?

Sarah Kirkland Snider: We got together one weekend and spent a lot of time reading through the text together, talking about it, brainstorming ideas. We each highlighted the bits of text that we felt the strongest connection to and then divided it up along those lines, with the idea that we’d interweave our voices in movements of varying length, texture, style, and emotion.

We decided there would be moments of spoken text, moments in which the ensemble sang and spoke, and a canonic refrain that happened three times, written by Caroline. Shara was the first one to start writing, and she sent us some computer mock-ups of her drafts. Some of my assigned bits of text followed hers, so in those movements I used a motive of hers as an ostinato or jumping-off point, or made harmonic and rhythmic decisions based upon hers, depending on whether I wanted contrast or continuity.

We all worked in this fashion, brick by brick, sharing our drafts with each other and responding to them musically, striving to maximize cohesion between the movements and forward momentum in the overall form. It was great fun getting inside the compositional mind of some of my favorite fellow composers. What I love about this piece is that, to my ear, it hangs together as a single journey, but you can hear our different voices emerge at different moments. This lends the music the same sense of collective consciousness that is innate to the poem itself. 

SI: How does the process of collaborative composition serve to illustrate or enhance the meaning behind this poem?

Angélica Negrón: There’s moments of deep sorrow, empathy, mystery, despair, warmth, confusion, intimacy and so many other layers and nuances in between. By bringing together five different composers each with a unique perspective and a distinctive sound, we’re able to explore more profoundly these layers of meaning and capture the complexity of this person’s life. Each composer opens up a new world of possibilities of the text and by allowing ourselves to being vulnerable and receptive of other’s interpretations, we find new connections and make new discoveries.

I feel this piece weaves together not only each composers’ individual interpretation of the text but also the common ground among us that we found along the way.  I’ve never been a part of such a deeply meaningful and truly collaborative project in which everyone’s voices are highly complementary to each other yet add a unique and essential ingredient to the whole. There’s a shared sensibility and an unusual connection between the composers that’s hard to describe, and this poem is at the center of it all. 

SI: What does this piece sound like?

Caroline Shaw: I’d say it sounds like micro and macro visions of the earth—precious sonic details emerging from and receding into a mysterious whole.


Visit our website on Friday, November 10 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET to watch a LIVE video stream of A Far Cry’s The Blue Hour with Luciana Souza. To learn more about our live-streaming video broadcasts of A Far Cry, click here.

Second Inversion Spooktacular: 48-hour Spooky Music Marathon

by Maggie Molloy

Nothing sets the scene for your Halloween quite like a marathon of spooky music! Let us provide the soundtrack for your Halloween haunts. On October 30 and 31, tune in to Second Inversion for a 48-hour marathon of new and experimental music inspired by monsters, witches, ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night.

Click here to tune into the scream—er, stream of Halloween music from anywhere in the world, or tune in on the go using our free mobile app. To give you a sneak peek of the spooky music that’s in store, our Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their Halloween playlists:

Harry Partch: Delusion of the Fury (Innova Recordings)

Likely written as an attempt to reconcile his own anger, Harry Partch’s stage play Delusion of the Fury is (superficially, at least) well-suited to Halloween. Containing killing, a ghost, body horror, futility, and absurdism, this piece not only touches on the more classic campy elements of spookiness, but is oriented around some of the darker elements of horror—existentialism, futility, and powerlessness to name a few. Plus, for my money, few musical things conjure the uneasy feelings associated with horror and dread like microtonal scales. – Seth Tompkins


Arnold Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire (Hungaroton Records)
Erika Sziklay, soprano; 
András Mihály, conductor; Budapest Chamber Ensemble

It just wouldn’t be a Halloween marathon without a spooky clown—and Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire is nothing if not haunting. A masterpiece of melodrama, the 35-minute work tells the chilling tale of a moonstruck clown and his descent into madness (a powerful metaphor for the modern alienated artist). The spooky story comes alive through three groups of seven poems (a result of Schoenberg’s peculiar obsession with numerology), each one recited using Sprechstimme: an expressionist vocal technique that hovers eerily between song and speech. Combine this with Schoenberg’s free atonality and macabre storytelling, and it’s enough to transport you to into an intoxicating moonlight. – Maggie Molloy


Adrian Lane: “Playing with Ghosts” (Preserved Sound)

The “ghosts” in the title refer to the 100-year-old cylinder recordings that Adrian Lane hacked to bits, reordered, sutured together, and reanimated as “Playing With Ghosts.”  The result is a grainy musical creature accompanied by Lane’s own ethereal piano, which was built around the same time the cylinders were originally produced. The deterioration of the recordings leave a haunting, nostalgic impression. – Rachele Hales

 


Michael Daugherty: Dead Elvis (CCn’C Records)
Martin Kuuskmann, bassoon; Absolute Ensemble

Have you ever wondered why people are obsessed with celebrities?  How some folks can see faces in toast?  Then you must be mystified by the phenomenon of Elvis Presley’s inimitable immortality.

Program notes from the premiere of Michael Daugherty’s Dead Elvis say that “It is more than a coincidence that it is scored for the same instrumentation as Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat (1918), in which a soldier sells his violin and his soul to the devil for a magic book. In Dead Elvis, the bassoon is Elvis (or perhaps an Elvis impersonator). Does this rock star sell out his Southern folk authenticity to the sophisticated professionalism of Hollywood movies, Colonel Parker, and Las Vegas in order to attain great wealth and fame?”

Daugherty’s over-the-top tribute to Elvis juxtaposed with Dies Irae (a religious chant which symbolizes Judgment Day) incites questions about the obsessiveness over celebrity and the immortality of image. – Micaela Pearson


Julia Wolfe: Cruel Sister (Cantaloupe Music)
Ensemble Resonanz

Cruel Sister by Julia Wolfe is a musical rendering of an eponymous Old English ballad. The ballad tells the tale of two sisters—one magnificently bright as the sun, the other cold and dark. One day a man comes courting and the dark sister becomes infatuated with him. Jealous and covetous, she pushes her bright sister into the sea. Two minstrels find the dead sister washed up on the shore and shape her breastbone into a macabre harp, strung with her yellow hair. They come to play at the cold dark sister’s wedding.

As the sound of the harp reaches the bride’s ears, the ballad concludes, “and surely now her tears will flow.” Wolfe’s piece follows the dramatic arc of the ballad—the music reflecting an argument that builds, a body floating on the sea, and of course, the mad harp. – Brendan Howe


Robert Honstein: Night Scenes from the Ospedale (Soundspells Productions)
The Sebastians

This work by Robert Honstein may not have been intended to be creepy, but whatever the goal, the result is unmistakable. From the slow scraping and scratching of strings at the very beginning to the long, stretched out melodies and despondent harpsichord, this piece has major spook factor. It’s also just a great piece of music; I love the way tension is slowly increased throughout each interlude, guiding the ear to always expect ever-higher sounds and some new string effect.

Night Scenes from the Ospedale depicts the nighttime stillness of the famous girls’ orphanage in Venice with the orchestra that performed many of Vivaldi’s works. It seems to capture the dusky darkness of that place long after the last note of rehearsal has fallen silent. It’s also great in its original presentation on the album, with works by Vivaldi interspersed between the interludes. – Geoffrey Larson

NUMUS Northwest 2018: Call for Submissions

by Maggie Molloy

You like new music? Then you’re going to love NUMUS Northwest.

Now in its second year, NUMUS Northwest is a day-long event dedicated to the creation, performance, and experience of new music in Seattle and beyond—and YOU can be a part of it. Save the date for Saturday, January 20 at Cornish College of the Arts’ Kerry Hall, and click here to RSVP.

Photo by Jim Holt.

NUMUS Northwest is now accepting submissions for workshops, panels, and performances from the Seattle new music community. Submissions are due by Friday, November 3 at 5pm PST.

Last year’s NUMUS featured workshops ranging from finding your muse to funding your art, telling your story, composing, collaborating, and the art of improvising—plus performances featuring music for flower pots, piano musings with live electronics, interactive sonic meditations, and more.

This year’s workshops and performances depend on YOUR proposals. Help fill NUMUS 2018 with innovative programs to challenge, engage, and inspire Seattle’s new music community. Click here to submit a proposal (you may submit multiple proposals).

Photo by Jim Holt.

More about NUMUS Northwest:

Where: Cornish College of the Arts, Kerry Hall

When: Saturday, January 20, 2017 from 9am-10pm

Who: You! Students. Friends. Colleagues. Musicians. Artists. Creators. People who don’t know they like this kind of music (yet!).

Leadership:

  • Kevin Clark (New Music USA)
  • James Falzone (Cornish College of the Arts)
  • Jim Holt
  • Shaya Lyon (Live Music Project)
  • Kerry O’Brien (Cornish College of the Arts)
  • Maggie Stapleton (Jensen Artists)

Why: Inspired by the New Music Gathering, the NUMUS leadership team strives to recreate the community-building, collaborative-natured, and artistically stunning event with a focus on musicians and artists in the Northwest.

Have questions? E-mail numusnw@gmail.com. Plus, click here to subscribe for updates on the event.

Seattle New Music Happy Hour: Monday, Oct. 23 at 5:30pm (New Location!)

by Maggie Molloy

You like new music. We like new music. Let’s get together and talk about new music, drink a couple beers, and make some new friends along the way.

Join us Monday, October 23 at 5:30pm at T.S. McHugh’s (note the new location!)  for New Music Happy Hour, co-hosted by Second Inversion and the Live Music Project. Bring a friend, make a friend, have a drink, and discover connections with fellow new music lovers from all over Seattle!

Click here to RSVP and invite your friends. Plus, sign up for alerts for future happy hour dates and day-before reminders so you’ll never miss a beer—er, beat.

Emerald City Music Broadcast on KING FM: Oct. 20 at 9pm PST

by Maggie Molloy

If you missed Emerald City Music’s sold-out world premiere of John Luther Adams’ “there is no one, not even the wind…” last month, you’re in luck. This Friday, October 20 at 9pm PST, you can hear the full concert broadcast on our parent station Classical KING FM. Tune in at 98.1 or click here to stream online from anywhere in the world!

Inspired by the stillness and light of the American Southwest, Adams’ piece is an immersive desert soundscape scored for two flutes, strings, piano, and a whole lot of percussion (expect to hear glockenspiels, marimbas, vibraphones, and a bass drum or two). The piece takes its title from a poem by the great Mexican poet Octavio Paz titled Piedra Nativa (Native Stone). He writes, “No hay nadie ni siquiera tú mismo.” (“There is no one, not even yourself.”) Adams takes this line one step further, removing even the wind itself.

“John Luther Adams’ work often resembles minimalism in the sense that it says as much as possible with as little as possible,” said violinist and Artistic Director Kristin Lee, who co-founded Emerald City Music with Andrew Goldstein in 2015. “It’s very ethereal, very atmospheric—often inaudible since it is so soft.”

John Luther Adams became a household name in the classical music community after the Seattle Symphony’s world premiere of Become Ocean in 2013. The 45-minute masterwork went on to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, putting Seattle on the new music map.

“The Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful part of the country, in my opinion,” said Lee, who performed in the piece’s premiere. “We have the beautiful water and mountains, and the city, the sound of the people. It’s really the meeting point and the melting pot where nature and the city meets. It’s the perfect place for John Luther Adams’ music.”

Adams’ music also in many ways epitomizes Emerald City Music’s eclectic programming, which highlights new and experimental works alongside jewels of the traditional classical canon. Adams’ music famously transcends all manner of categorization, blurring the boundaries between classical, ambient, jazz, experimental, and other genres.

“John Luther Adams is one of the first, biggest examples of the post-genre world that we’re navigating,” said co-founder and Executive Director Andrew Goldstein. “The connection that his music has defies classical music, defies jazz, defies all these genres and just goes straight to touching the listener.”

The world premiere is framed by performances of Andrew Norman’s vibrantly colored “Light Screens” and Steve Reich’s canonic, notoriously virtuosic “Nagoya Marimbas.” Also included is a violin and piano rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s iconic “America” from West Side Story, tying in with a larger overarching season theme celebrating Bernstein’s centennial. And for the traditionalists: Dvorák’s sparkling Piano Quartet in E-flat Major.

“The way that Kristin [Lee] does her programming is so much about connecting to people and letting music touch you beyond just the barriers of what classical music is,” Goldstein said. “She really allows the genre to live outside of itself a little bit.”


Emerald City Music’s “Not even the wind…” concert will be broadcast on Classical KING FM 98.1 on Friday, Oct. 20 at 9pm PST. Tune in at 98.1 or click here to stream online from anywhere in the world.

This article was previously published on Sept.13, 2017. Please click here to read the original article.

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: