Exploring Gravity with A Far Cry: Friday, April 12 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

by Maggie Molloy

A Far Cry. Photo by Yoon S. Byun.

Music of earth, sky, and celestial stars come together on A Far Cry’s concert program this Friday.

Aptly titled Gravity, the concert brings together mystical and corporeal musical meditations from such wide-ranging composers as Arvo Pärt, Iannis Xenakis, Aaron Jay Kernis, Béla Bartók, and Osvaldo Golijov. From heavenly harmonies to earthly textures and the cold weightlessness of space, the concert explores the vast and ever-changing sounds of our universe today.

And no matter where you are in that vast expanse of space, you can stream the performance live right here.

Visit this page on Friday, April 12 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a LIVE video stream of A Far Cry’s Edge of the World concert, streaming here:

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

Arvo Pärt: Silouan’s Song
Iannis Xenakis: Aroura
Aaron Jay Kernis: Musica Celestis
Béla Bartók: Divertimento for String Orchestra
Osvaldo Golijov: Tenebrae


A Far Cry’s Gravity performance streams live on this page on Friday, April 12 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET. For more information about the orchestra, click here.

Tragoedia In and Out of Style: Andrew Rudin at 80

by Michael Schell

In the fledgling years of electronic music—the 1950s and 60s—European composers benefitted from the massive support offered by government-owned broadcast studios. Varèse, Stockhausen and Berio created their midcentury masterworks at radio stations equipped with multiple tape recorders and vintage oscillators and filters. American pioneers like John Cage and Pauline Oliveros had to scrape by with homemade instruments and the more modest furnishings of university studios and artist collectives. And their recordings were often drowned out in LP catalogs by their state-sponsored European counterparts.

It was in this environment that Nonesuch Records stepped up, offering the label as a platform for electroacoustic compositions by Cage, Dodge, Wuorinen and Gaburo, as well as Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon (1967), the first tape piece ever commissioned by a record company. Another work commissioned by Nonesuch was an album-length epic called Tragoedia, released in 1969 and created by Andrew Rudin, a Texan who taught for several decades at University of the Arts in Philadelphia and who today is celebrating his 80th birthday.

Switched-On Mahler

Tragoedia was made with an early Moog synthesizer of the sort popularized by Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach. It had a grittier sound then the Buchla synthesizers heard in Subotnick’s music, and its controls made it more suitable for complex, gradually-changing sonorities than the beat-driven patterns facilitated by the Buchla’s sequencer-centric design. Tragoedia‘s sound palette is purely electronic—there are no concrète (prerecorded) sound sources in the piece.

1960s and 21st century Rudin

Rudin (who pronounces his name roo-DEEN) conceived Tragoedia as an exploration of Greek tragedy. But with its familiar four-movement structure, I hear it as more of a synthesized symphony, a modern microtonal organism built from rhythm and timbre but supported by a traditional skeleton.

Viewed this way, the first movement, Kouros, stands in for a sonata-allegro. It begins with a three-chime “alarm clock” that launches a long sinuous paragraph filled with sliding sawtooth waves that culminate abruptly at 1:29 with four “bass drum” stokes. This passage is repeated with some variations, whereupon at 3:29 we hear a new idea, comparable to a sonata form’s second theme, based on short notes that sound like dripping water. At 4:16 an oscillator plays the first real melody of the piece before it too is cut off by bass drum strokes:

The foregoing ideas are now combined and recombined in the manner of a classic development section. The alarm clock gets its solo moment starting at 7:00, and at 8:10 the quoted melody returns a half-step higher. The bass drum tries repeatedly to shut it down, finally succeeding after one last loud stroke.

The second movement, Hybris (“hubris” in modern English), functions as a scherzo. In place of the opening movement’s long contrapuntal lines, Hybris is mainly a succession of brief motives spliced together in a kind of monophony. Headphones will help you hear the fancy stereo effects (e.g. at 1:25). The coda is remarkable: a rising accelerando (created by tape playback with increasing speed) that ends with a dramatic tocsin.

Peitho features fast flurries of randomly-generated tones in counterpoint with slowly shifting sustained sounds. It’s a kind of intermezzo setting up the long final movement, Até, which resembles one of those resigned adagios that often come at the end of Mahler symphonies. A high gated sound that resembles an impulse sprinkler recurs throughout Até as a refrain, usually panning from one ear to the other. The melody from Kouros returns, along with other ideas from the previous movements. The coda features an extended two-voice canon that eventually subsides, leaving the last fleeting words to the impulse sprinkler.

Though Tragoedia’s neoclassicism is not as groundbreaking as the montage structure of Varèse’s Poème électronique or the process-driven form of a minimalist landmark like Come Out, its sound world—still fresh and novel in 1969—impressed Federico Fellini enough to incorporate excerpts from it (without the composer’s permission) in the soundtrack to his Satyricon.

In and out of style

To each era belongs its instruments…and hairstyles (Rudin and a Moog synthesizer in 1972)

As the 1980s ushered in the age of CDs, major disruptions came to the recording industry. Nonesuch was brought under tighter control by its corporate masters at Warner, and the venerable electronic music titles started to drop out of its catalog. Simultaneously, modular synthesizers gave way to digital instruments, and as Gen Xers fawned over the new MIDI synths with their unprecedented portability and programmability, they gradually lost interest in the monuments and artifacts of the old ways.

But things can change over the course of a generation. The emergence of streaming and downloadable media in the 21st century made it easy to reclaim old recordings for digital distribution. And millennials grew tired of the canned timbres produced by their parents’ Korgs and Yamahas. Eager to reintroduce some irregularity into their sound world, they returned to analog technology, now much improved over its first generation, and this in turn rekindled interest in early synthesizer music. Now Tragoedia and its breathren are back, readily accessible online through Spotify, Amazon and YouTube. So grab your headphones, dim your room lights, and (re)connect with this nugget from the golden era of electronic music.

Witches, Myths, and Microtones: The Music of Harry Partch

by Maggie Molloy

Over the past five years Harry Partch’s orchestra of handmade instruments has become a staple in the Seattle spring concert calendar—among experimental music lovers, at least.

Partch was one of the first 20th century composers to work extensively with microtonal scales, creating dozens of incredible instruments specifically for the performance of his works. Those instruments have been in residence at the University of Washington since 2014, where, under the direction of Charles Corey, students and community members practice and perform on them each spring.

The Chromelodeon
The Gourd Tree
The Bamboo Marimba II
Charles Corey, Director of the Harry Partch Instrumentarium
The Diamond Marimba
The Surrogate Kithara
The Spoils of War
The Chromelodeon

This year, Corey and his crew of Partch enthusiasts are playing two of Partch’s most ambitious and rarely-performed works: Daphne of the Dunes and The Bewitched. Catch both in concert this week at Meany Hall:

Daphne of the Dunes
The ancient Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo is reimagined through the primal rhythms and eerie microtones of Partch’s handmade instruments. His sprawling Daphne of the Dunes (originally composed as a film score) is performed alongside microtonal art songs of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Tues, 4/9, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | $10

The Bewitched
Music, theatre, and ritual merge in Partch’s radical dance satire The Bewitched. Written as a reaction against the rigidity of modern civilization, the piece explores how we might ultimately find a sense of rebirth through a discovering our ancient past. The Bewitched showcases Partch’s most ambitious writing for the female voice, the piece unfolding across 12 scenes with the instruments dominating the set.
Sat, 4/13, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | $10

Interested in learning more? Click here for our photo tour of the Harry Partch Instrumentarium.

Music for Dreamers, Schemers, and Curious Listeners: Your April Concert Guide

by Maggie Molloy

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! 

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

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: dynamic collaborations, deep ecology, and sounds from the end of the world.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Seattle Symphony: Trimpin, Stiefel, & More
Equal parts composer and sound sculptor, Trimpin creates sonic installations at the intersection of music and visual art. Hear his work Solo Flute, Eight Pottery Wheels and Assorted Vinyls alongside music of Andrew Stiefel, Leonardo Gorosito, Rafael Alberto, and Igor Stravinsky.
Tues, 4/2, 7:30pm, Octave 9 | $20

Emerald City Music: Dreamers’ Circus
Classical music meets Nordic folk song in this globe-trotting Scandinavian trio. Comprised of violin, piano/accordion, and cittern (a lute with a flat back), the trio brings together the warmth and nostalgia of acoustic folk music with the subtle complexities of the classical tradition.
Fri, 4/5, 8pm, 415 Westlake | $45
Sat, 4/6, 7:30pm, The Minnaert Center (Olympia) | $20-$25

Dreamers’ Circus. Photo by Kristoffer Juel Poulsen.

James Falzone: The Already & The Not Yet
Reflecting on his past three years living in Seattle, composer and clarinetist James Falzone offers a meditation on his long-running solo work, Sighs Too Deep for Words. Plus: new music composed for Tao Trio featuring Falzone alongside pianist Wayne Horvitz and bassist Abbey Blackwell.
Sat, 4/6, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Third Coast Percussion: ‘Perpetulum’
Philip Glass’s first and only piece for percussion ensemble receives its Pacific Northwest premiere in the capable hands of Third Coast Percussion, who commissioned the piece last year. A handful of the ensemble’s own original Glass-inspired works complete the program.
Sun, 4/7, 6pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $22

Third Coast Percussion.

Harry Partch Ensemble: ‘Daphne of the Dunes’
The ancient Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo is reimagined through the primal rhythms and eerie microtones of Harry Partch’s handmade instruments. His sprawling Daphne of the Dunes (originally composed as a film score) is performed alongside microtonal art songs of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Tues, 4/9, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | $10

Harry Partch Ensemble: ‘The Bewitched’
Music, theatre, and ritual merge in Harry Partch’s radical dance satire The Bewitched. Written as a reaction against the rigidity of modern civilization, the piece explores how we might ultimately find a sense of rebirth through a discovering our ancient past. The tale unfolds across 12 scenes played out on Partch’s collection of handmade microtonal instruments.
Sat, 4/13, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | $10

Harry Partch’s Chromelodeon. Photo by Maggie Molloy.

Music of Today: Performing with the Brain
Performers can create music without movement thanks to a new brain computer music interface developed at the University of Washington. Patients with motor disability improvise with professional musicians in this performance led by composers Juan Pampin and Richard Karpen and neuroscientist Thomas Deuel.
Fri, 4/19, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | FREE

Seattle Symphony: ‘Surrogate Cities’
Man, machine, and the modern metropolis are the major themes behind Heiner Goebbels’ new multimedia work Surrogate Cities. Like the city itself, the music is a sprawling blur of human and machine-made sounds enhanced with striking visual effects. Get a sneak preview of Goebbels’ immersive chamber works performed in Octave 9, and hear Surrogate Cities in the main hall over the weekend.
Mon, 4/22, 7:30pm, Octave 9 | $25
Thurs, 4/25, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $22-$122
Fri, 4/26, 8pm, Benaroya Hall | $22-$122

Philip Glass: ‘Hydrogen Jukebox’
The pulsing minimalism of Philip Glass and the countercultural activism of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg combine in Hydrogen Jukebox, a 1990 chamber opera reflecting on issues of war, peace, social equity, and sustainability. The UW Vocal Theatre Workshop performs the Northwest Premiere under the direction of Cyndia Siden, Dean Williamson, and Deanne Meek.
4/26-4/27, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | $10

Ladies Musical Club: Northwest Composers
Pacific Northwest composers are celebrated in this wide-ranging concert of chamber music featuring works by Karen P. Thomas, Alex Shapiro, Sarah Mattox, and many more.
Sat, 4/27, 7pm, Music Center of the NW | FREE

Seattle Symphony: American Horizons
Composer-in-Residence Derek Bermel curates an evening of music ranging from Steve Reich to Mary Kouyoumdjian, with world premieres by Kaley Lane Eaton and Bermel himself composed specifically for the immersive new Octave 9 space.
Sun, 4/28, 6pm, Octave 9 | $35

Seattle Symphony Composer-in-Residence Derek Bermel.

Seattle Modern Orchestra: ‘Coming Together’
Frederic Rzewski’s hypnotic classic Coming Together uses text adapted from a prison letter written by Sam Melville, an anarchist bomber who was killed during the Attica Prison uprising in 1971. The harrowing piece is performed here alongside politically-charged works by Christian Wolff.
Sun, 4/28, 7:30pm, The Royal Room | $10-$20

Paul Taub: Landscape with Birds
Flute music from across three continents is presented in this program exploring the instrument’s wide range of techniques and influences. Paul Taub, who recently retired from nearly four decades of teaching at Cornish, performs music of Pēteris Vasks, Toru Takemitsu, Bun-Ching Lam, Robert Aitken, Janice Giteck, and more.
Tues, 4/30, 7pm, Folio | $20

Six Living Legends Playing This Year’s Big Ears Festival

by Maggie Molloy

For the past 10 years the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee has been bringing together composers, performers, and curious listeners from around the globe for an annual weekend of exhilarating and ear-expanding music. From ambient to electric, eclectic, experimental, and avant-garde, the festival showcases over 100 genre-bending artists each year in a celebration of the sheer delight and diversity of new music.

Second Inversion is thrilled to be attending this year’s festival. Keep an eye out for our very own Maggie Molloy at the event, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates! In the meantime, check out our list of six can’t-miss living legends performing at this year’s festival.

Meredith Monk:

For nearly six decades, Meredith Monk has redefined and revolutionized contemporary vocal music and performance, weaving in elements of theatre and dance to create visceral musical experiences. At this year’s festival, catch her with her vocal ensemble performing Cellular Songs, a multimedia work exploring biological processes, genetic mutation, and the ways in which millions of tiny little cells can come together to form something extraordinary.

Friday, March 22, 9:15pm, Bijou Theatre
Saturday, March 23, 12pm, Bijou Theatre


Art Ensemble of Chicago:

Over the past half-century the Art Ensemble of Chicago has grown beyond a mere band and into a way of life—a collective musical ethos that transcends the individual members of the group. Founded with the motto “Great Black Music: Ancient to Future,” the group draws from musical traditions across history and around the globe. Their live performances are a revelation: their wildly experimental brand of avant-jazz further amplified by loudly colored costumes and face paint. Catch them live this Sunday.

Sunday, March 24, 8:15pm, Tennessee Theatre


Kayhan Kalhor:

Kayhan Kalhor is a modern master of an ancient instrument: the kamancheh, an upright Iranian fiddle with a melancholic tone and a rich musical history. As a soloist and a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, he has spent his career traversing international borders and transcending musical boundaries. This Saturday, hear him in an intimate solo performance that takes traditional Persian music in new directions—and Sunday, catch him in a cross-genre collaboration with Brooklyn Rider.

Saturday, March 23, 6pm, Church Street United Methodist Church (solo)
Sunday, March 24, 5pm, Bijou Theatre (with Brooklyn Rider)


Joan La Barbara:

Joan La Barbara has spent the past 50 years exploring the furthest reaches of the human voice. A pioneer of extended vocal techniques, her acrobatic vocal stylings range from multiphonics to shrieks, squeaks, whispers, wails, moans, drones, and a whole slew of sounds you didn’t even know humans could make. Hear her singular voice live when she performs her own original works on Thursday, and come back Friday to hear her sing music of Alvin Lucier with the Ever Present Orchestra.

Thursday, March 21, 8pm, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral (solo)
Friday, March 22, 1pm, Bijou Theatre (music of Alvin Lucier)


Alvin Lucier:

Alvin Lucier has spent his 60-year career exploring not only music but the ways in which we experience sound itself. His historic compositions experiment with the resonance of spaces, the physical properties of sound, and the manipulation of auditory perception. This Friday, Joan La Barbara and the Ever Present Orchestra perform music from across his career—and on Sunday Lucier performs some of his own original works (including his landmark 1969 sonic exploration I am Sitting in a Room).

Friday, March 22, 1pm, Bijou Theatre (with Joan La Barbara)
Sunday, March 24, 1pm, Ann & Steve Baily Hall at the KMA (solo)


Wadada Leo Smith:

“Creative music” is the descriptor Wadada Leo Smith has given to his expansive body of works. Over the past five decades, the trumpeter has cultivated his own inimitable musical language (and notation) informed by jazz and world music histories but deeply rooted in the present moment. This Saturday, he performs solo meditations on the music of Thelonious Monk—and on Sunday he teams up with two former bandmates to play Divine Love, an ethereal and immersive trumpet and percussion suite first released in 1978.

Saturday, March 23, 2pm, The Standard (solo)
Sunday, March 24, 6:15pm, Tennessee Theatre (“Divine Love”)


The Big Earts Festival is March 21-24 in Knoxville, Tennessee. For tickets and more information, click here.