Renee Baker: When Two Close Kindred Meet

Article by Gabriela Tedeschi
Audio interview by Dacia Clay

The celebrated, multi-talented composer Renee Baker is joining Kin of the Moon this Saturday for When Two Close Kindred Meet, a concert featuring the world premiere of Baker’s Tyaga: Divine Life Suite.

Structured around the four stages of life in the Hindu faith, Tyaga guides performers in improvisation by allowing them to respond to a variety of media: graphic notation, original paintings, and other printed media. This kind of outside-the-box approach to music is standard for Baker, who is known for her unique notation techniques and innovating by combining multiple art forms. Serving as conductor, too, Baker uses her own system of highly expressive gestures to lead the musicians and give shape to Tyaga.

Renee is after a charged, soloistic, intuitive, committed, take-no-prisoners, uncompromising approach to sound-making,” Kin of the Moon violist and co-director Heather Bentley said. “Renee’s ideas and insights about what new music is and can be are monumental.”

Baker is also co-hosting a film screening this Thursday with the Northwest Film Forum at the Seattle Public Library in Downtown Seattle. She’s presenting two films, one of her own and one by Oscar Mischeaux, both of which she has scored with the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, a chamber ensemble she directs.

Second Inversion’s Dacia Clay speaks with Baker about her Seattle film screenings, the world premiere of Tyaga, and her wide-ranging musical career. Listen to the full interview below.


Renee Baker presents two film screenings this Thursday, June 14 at 6:30pm at the Seattle Public Library in Downtown Seattle. For more information, click here.

Kin of the Moon premieres Renee Baker’s Tyaga this Saturday, June 16 at 8pm at the Chapel Performance Space in Wallingford. For more information, click here.

Westerlies Go West: Wednesday, May 23 at the Royal Room

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by John Abbott.

Far from your typical brass band, the Westerlies are a Seattle-bred, New York-based quartet known on both coasts for their bold artistry, impeccable finesse, eclectic musical interpretations, and remarkable versatility. Fresh off a tour with the indie folk band Fleet Foxes, the Westerlies are back in the Northwest this Wednesday for a show at the Royal Room in Columbia City.

Comprised of Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler on trumpet with Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone, the Westerlies grew up together playing music in Seattle under the mentorship of pianist and composer Wayne Horvitz, who is the co-founder and music programmer of the Royal Room. The homecoming concert is made even more special by the fact that it will be Zubin Hensler’s last performance with the Westerlies, as he is leaving the group to focus on music composition, production, and his solo project twig twig.

The Westerlies performing with Wayne Horvitz at the Royal Room. Photo by Daniel Sheehan.

This Wednesday, you can expect to hear a little jazz, a little classical, some folk, roots, blues, and chamber influences—but no matter what the Westerlies play, the one element that remains constant across all of their music is the warmth, camaraderie, charisma, and humor of four longtime friends.

“Whatever ‘sound’ the Westerlies have stumbled upon is the result of four friends channeling these diverse interests through warm air, buzzing lips and conical brass tubes—with a lot of love and saliva in there too,” says Andy Clausen.

For a sneak preview, check out our in-studio videos of the guys performing works by Charles Ives, Andy Clausen, and Wayne Horvitz:


The Westerlies perform at the Royal Room Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30pm. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

LIVE VIDEO STREAM: A Far Cry on Friday, May 18 at 4:30pm PT / 7:30pm ET

by Gabriela Tedeschi

Photo by Yoon S. Byun.

Next Generation is the name of tonight’s A Far Cry concert, which centers on the experiences of young musicians. Not only does the program focus on early experiences with musicwith variations of Mozart’s beloved children’s song, “Ah! vous dirais-je, Maman” and works from Benjamin Britten and Galina Ustvolskaya that allude to their music mentorsit will also feature several young musicians. 

A Far Cry welcomes the Honors Quartet from Project STEP, a program that provides comprehensive musical training to students from underrepresented communities, for a pre-concert performance at 7:30 p.m. During the concert, the ensemble will be joined by Sean Diehl (violin), Keina Satoh (cello), and Julide San (double bass), winners from A Far Cry’s New England Conservatory Prep School Competition. Click here to learn more about the student performers.

Visit this page on Friday, May 18 at 4:30pm PT / 7:30pm ET for a LIVE video of A Far Cry’s Next Generation.

Check out the program below, and click here to read the full program notes.

W.A. Mozart / Ethan Wood
Variations on “Ah! Vous dirais-je, Maman”

Galina Ustvolskaya
Concerto for Piano, String Orchestra, and Timpani

Benjamin Britten
Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10


A Far Cry’s Next Generation performance streams live on this page on Friday, May 18 at 4:30pm PT / 7:30pm ET. For more information about the orchestra, please click here.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Robert Honstein’s ‘An Economy of Means’

by Gabriela Tedeschi

Robert Honstein. Photo by Elisa Ferrari.

From Bach to Philip Glass, composers have long been fascinated with economical design. Working with simple materials requires innovative approaches from the composer and impressive virtuosity from the performer—which can often lead to intense, intricate works.

Robert Honstein’s new album An Economy of Means is inspired in part by this long-standing tradition. Featuring two large solo works, the title track and Grand Tour, the album seeks to show what incredible variety and complexity one performer on one instrument can develop within a piece.

An Economy of Means is a six-movement piece scored for solo vibraphone. Performed by percussionist Doug Perkins, the piece utilizes a variety of mallets and props to create wildly different colors on the instrument. Though Perkins makes it sound effortless, a performance of this work requires intense concentration and athleticism—which is why one of the piece’s most rigorous movements is titled “Cross Fit.”

It’s dazzling to watch Perkins’ coordination as he develops an intricate polyrhythmic pattern with four mallets. Making use of a metal sheet over the keys as well as tapping the sides and sliding across the resonators, Perkins generates an array of percussive sound and crisp melodic motifs. Without seeing it, you wouldn’t believe only one performer was playing.

Luckily, you can see it right here in our video premiere for “Cross Fit” from Robert Honstein’s new album An Economy of Means, created by Four/Ten Media.


Robert Honstein’s new album An Economy of Means comes out May 18. Click here to purchase the album.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Third Coast Percussion Paddles to the Sea

by Maggie Molloy

Skittering wood blocks, ceramic tiles, finger cymbals, and bowls of water are just a few of the unusual instruments employed in Third Coast Percussion’s new film score for Paddle to the SeaWe’re thrilled to premiere a video of the group performing Act I of their original score, which was co-commissioned by Meany Center for the Performing Arts and performed there earlier this year.

The Oscar-nominated film Paddle to the Sea is based on Holling C. Holling’s 1941 children’s book of the same name, which follows the epic journey of a small wooden boat that is carved and launched by a young Native Canadian boy.

“I am Paddle to the Sea” he inscribes on the bottom of the boat. “Please put me back in the water.”

Over the course of the film, the boat travels for many years from Northern Ontario through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway out to the Atlantic Ocean and far beyond—and each time it washes ashore, a kind stranger places it back in the water.

Third Coast’s new film score (recently released as an album on Cedille Records) is inspired by and interspersed with music by Philip Glass and Jacob Druckman, along with traditional music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. All of the music in the score is inspired by water, with Third Coast performing an entire ocean of sounds ranging from pitched desk bells to wine glasses, water bottles, sandpaper, and one particularly special instrument: the mbira.

The mbira is a thumb piano that plays a leading role in the Shona music from Zimbabwe. In fact, one of the pieces on the album, Chigwaya, is a traditional song used to call water spirits in the Shona religion—a song which was taught to Third Coast by their mentor Musekiwa Chingodza. By incorporating elements of their Western classical training with their study of the traditional music of the Shona people, Third Coast weaves together their own epic musical journey.

And in the spirit of Holling’s original story, the music itself becomes the small wooden boat: rather than keep it for themselves, the musicians add what they can and send the story out into the world again for others to discover.


Third Coast Percussion’s Paddle to the Sea is now available on Cedille Records. Click here to purchase the album.

LIVE BROADCAST: Joshua Roman and JACK Quartet | May 10, 7:30pm PT

by Gabriela Tedeschi

Photo by Shervin Lainez.

The world-renowned JACK Quartet welcomes a fifth member this week at the Town Music season finale: acclaimed cellist Joshua Roman. With a program designed to conjure up vivid images and emotions, Roman and the quartet are using sound to paint pictures and tell stories that will linger in listeners’ minds. Perhaps the most evocative work on the program is a piece by Roman himself.

Photo by Hayley Young.

Roman, who leapt right into performing with the Seattle Symphony and around the world after studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music, began composing his own music in 2013. He was commissioned by Town Hall and Music Academy of the West to compose Tornado, a work that paints a portrait of the storms that were a fixture of his childhood in Oklahoma.

Tornado is also inspired by music traditions of the past: Roman quotes a theme from  Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and alludes to works of the Baroque era which use virtuosity to evoke sensations of nature. In an ode to the untameable force of a tornado, Roman has left elements of the piece up to chance and performer interpretation by writing microtone smears and aleatoric parts.

The first half of the concert will feature John Zorn’s exhilarating Ouroboros and Jefferson Friedman’s Quintet, a musical manifestation of the grieving process. Amy Williams’ Richter Textures also appears on the first half of the program, each of its seven parts inspired by a different painting from German artist Gerhard Richter and each seeking to musically portray the complex textures his visual art is famous for.

In addition to Tornado, the second half will feature three Madrigali libro sesto from Don Carlo Gesualdo, arranged by Ari Streisfeld for strings. Gesualdo—an unstable and murderous 17th century composer—is known for chromatic harmonies and diverse emotional expressions that make his music sound modern to contemporary audiences. Because removing the voices meant removing the lyrics, Streisfeld employs different timbral techniques to convey the meaning and emotions of the text to the audience.

Second Inversion is thrilled to offer a LIVE concert broadcast of the performance this Thursday, May 10 at 7:30pm PT. Click here to stream the performance live from anywhere in the world!

Program:

Jefferson Friedman: Quintet (2013)
John Zorn: Ouroboros (2017)
Amy Williams: Richter Textures (2011)

Intermission

Carlo Gesualdo: Selections from Madrigali libro sesto, arranged by Ari Streisfeld
     Lo parto, e non più dissi
     Beltà, poi che t’assenti
     Già piansi nel dolore

Joshua Roman: Tornado (2017)


Town Music presents JACK Quartet and Joshua Roman on Thursday, May 10 at 7:30pm at Seattle First Baptist Church. For tickets and additional information, click here.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Ashley Bathgate Plays “Parisot” by Martin Bresnick

by Gabriela Tedeschi

Cellist Ashley Bathgate is a one-woman orchestra in Martin Bresnick’s Parisot.

The piece is an adaptation of Parisot for 12 cellos, written as a tribute to Bresnick’s friend and colleague Aldo Parisot and premiered by the Yale Cellos in 2016. In our in-studio video, Bathgate (who you may know from the Bang on a Can All-Stars) forms an ensemble all on her own by playing live over 11 backing tracks she recorded herself. Through three movements played without pause, “Paradox,” “Parallels,” and “Paragon,” Bathgate’s virtuosity is on full display 12 times over.

We’re thrilled to premiere our video of Ashley Bathgate performing Bresnick’s Parisot: