New Music Magic: Our Top Concert Picks for December

Frequency performs Dec. 9 at the Royal Room.

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 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: marimba duos, MIDI accordions, Japanese koto, and modular synths.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

UW Modern Music Ensemble: Webern, Cage, & Neuwirth
In Greek mythology, the satyr Marsyas was a great musician who challenged Apollo to a musical duel—and was flayed alive when he lost. The dramatic tale is the inspiration behind Olga Neuwirth’s Marsyas II, which is performed here by the UW Modern Music Ensemble alongside works by Webern, Cage, Feldman, and Penderecki.
Wed, 12/5, 7:30pm, UW Brechemin Auditorium | FREE

The Esoterics: ADŌRŌ
Seattle’s contemporary choral group performs a concert of works examining the solace, spirituality, and silent prayers present in nature. A song cycle by Joseph Gregorio sets John Gould Fletcher’s “secular humanist” prayers to music, while Mason Bates’ Observer in the Magellanic Cloud is based on an ancient Maori entreaty to the night sky for a fruitful harvest. Ethereal works by Eric Banks, Donald Skirvin, Christina Whitten Thomas, and Karin Rehnqvist complete the program.
Fri, 12/7, 8pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (Seattle) | $15-$22
Sat, 12/8, 8pm, Holy Rosary Catholic Church (West Seattle) | $15-$22
Sun, 12/9, 3pm, St. John’s Episcopal Church (Olympia) | $15-$22

Sno-King Community Chorale: Holiday Magic
Setting an English translation of a Norwegian medieval folk poem, Ola Gjeilo’s Dreamweaver tells the musical tale of a man who falls asleep on Christmas Eve and sleeps until the twelfth day of Christmas. When he wakes, he rides to church to tell the congregation of his dreams and his journey through the afterlife.
Sat, 12/8, 3pm & 7pm, Nordic Museum | $15-$22

Frequency at the Royal Room
This dream string trio of Michael Jinsoo Lim, Melia Watras, and Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir lend their bows to music by Bloch, Klein, Kodály, and Watras in the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere of the Royal Room.
Sun, 12/9, 5:30pm, The Royal Room | $15

Phil Kline’s ‘Unsilent Night’
In this contemporary twist on holiday caroling, audience members each download one of four tracks of music which, when played together, comprise Phil Kline’s ethereal Unsilent Night. Participants meet up with boomboxes and speakers and each hit “play” at the same time—then walk through the streets of Tacoma creating an ambient, aleatoric sound sculpture.
Fri, 12/14, 6pm, Cornish College of the Arts’ Kerry Hall | FREE
Fri, 12/21, 6:30pm, Mason United Methodist Church (Tacoma) | FREE

Led to Sea & Betsy Olson Band
Drawing from classical, pop, and experimental music worlds, violinist and singer Alex Guy weaves together her own unique brand of chamber pop under the alias Led to Sea. Her trio splits the evening with the blues-based rockers of the Betsy Olson band.
Sat, 12/15, 8pm, The Royal Room | $10-$12

Neal Kosaly-Meyer: Finnegans Wake, Part I, Chapter 5
Though most might consider James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake a work of literature, Seattle-based pianist and avant-gardist Neal Kosaly-Meyer hears music in the words. He’s dedicating 17 years to learning and performing (by memory) each chapter of the sprawling work—one chapter per year. This year is Chapter 5, performed as always with props, costume, sound and lighting design, and acute musical detail.
Sat, 12/15, 8pm, Good Shepherd Center | $5-$15

Electronic Blankets for Winter Solstice
Pacific Northwest sound and visual artists christen the winter solstice with an experimental electronic music showcase featuring borscht soup, auditory hallucinations, planetary chasms, warm drones, glitch portals, and distant raves.
Fri, 12/21, 7pm, Good Shepherd Center | $5-$15

New Series One & Matrio
With influences ranging from Olivier Messiaen to the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Matrio creates set-long experiences that explore the space between sound and noise, music and silence. They’re joined by New Series One, a group exploring the roots of jazz and folk music.
Sat, 12/27, 8pm, Good Shepherd Center | $5-$15

Feast Your Ears on New Music: Our November Concert Guide

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! 

thvLYmNB

Keep an eye out for our 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.”

November 2018 New Music Flyer

 

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: spatial explorations, dramatic incantations, sonic meditations, and a whole lot of drummers.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Creativity in Hard Times: The Federal Music Project of the 1930s
Pianist Leslie Amper presents a multimedia lecture-recital telling the story of President Roosevelt’s Arts Initiative. The performance includes images, historic recordings, and piano performances of music by William Grant Still, Ernest Bloch, Henry Cowell, Roger Sessions, Ruth Crawford, and Aaron Copland.
Thurs, 11/1, 7:30pm, UW Brechemin Auditorium | FREE

Seattle Modern Orchestra: The Invisible
The depths of the unknown are explored in this program of sobering works ranging from George Crumb’s Eleven Echoes of Autumn to Chinary Ung’s Still Life After Death. Music by Yigit Kolat and Rebecca Saunders complete the program.
Thurs, 11/1, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$25

Pacific Northwest Ballet: All Premiere
Haunting sounds from Dustin Hamman, King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, Ólafur Arnalds, and Nils Frahm form the basis of Silent Ghost, a new PNB premiere with choreography by Alejandro Cerrudo. It’s presented alongside performances featuring the music of Michael Giacchino, Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert.
11/2-11/11, Various times, McCaw Hall | $37-$189

Hanna Benn. Photo by Mallory Talty.

Seattle Collaborative Orchestra: Sankofa
In the Twi language of Ghana, ‘Sankofa’ translates to “Go back and get it.” It’s also the title of Hanna Benn’s musical meditation on the ways in which our heritage shapes our future. Seattle Collaborative Orchestra performs the piece alongside world premieres by Northwest composers Julian Garvue and Makenna Carrico.
Fri, 11/2, 7:30pm, Roosevelt High School Theatre | $10-$20

Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir with the UW Symphony
Schelomo (Hebraic Rhapsody) was the final work in Ernest Bloch’s “Jewish Cycle,” a series of compositions exploring his musical and religious identity. The fiercely lyrical cello solo, performed here by Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, was envisioned as the incarnation of King Solomon, with the orchestra representing the world around him. Music of Hindemith and Brahms complete the program.
Fri, 11/2, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$15

Cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir.

Music of Remembrance: 20th Birthday Celebration
For the past two decades, Music of Remembrance has honored victims of the Holocaust through music. In this special anniversary performance, they are joined by guests from Spectrum Dance Theater and the Northwest Boy Choir for an evening of opera, dance, choral, and chamber works.
Sun, 11/4, 4pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $55

Cornish Presents: Gamelan Pacifica
The sacred echoes of gongs, chimes, and wide-ranging percussion make up the traditional gamelan ensembles of Indonesia. Gamelan Pacifica honors and expands upon that history with a unique blend of traditional and contemporary musical forms.
Sun, 11/4, 7pm, PONCHO Concert Hall | FREE

Bremerton Symphony Orchestra: From the Silver Screen
Sci-fi fans rejoice! This concert of classical music from the movies features a triad of pieces  from 2001: A Space Odyssey, including György Ligeti’s haunting Lux Aeterna, Johann Strauss’s The Blue Danube, and the opening of Richard Strauss’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Plus, music from The Godfather, ET, and more!
Sat, 11/10, 7:30pm, Bremerton Performing Arts Center | $10-$28

Meany Center Presents: Brooklyn Rider
A string quartet for the 21st century, Brooklyn Rider explores the healing properties of music in this concert of brand commissions from four of today’s top composers (all of whom happen to be women): Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Matana Roberts, and Caroline Shaw.
Tues, 11/13, 7:30pm, Meany Hall | $40-$48

Brooklyn Rider.

Black Violin.

STG Presents: Black Violin
It’s not everyday you see a hip-hop duo playing classical instrumentsbut violinist Kev Marcus and violist Wil B. are redefining both genres. They bring their unique brand of “classical boom” to the Paramount Theatre.
Thurs, 11/15, 7:30pm, Paramount Theatre | $31-$61

Philharmonia Northwest: Seattle Sounds
The sounds of the Pacific Northwest take center stage in this concert of music by contemporary Seattle composers. Hear William Bolcom’s jazzy Seattle Slew Suite, Ken Benshoof’s lyrical Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra, and the world premiere of Sarah Bassingthwaighte’s enchanting Sleeping in the Forest.
Sun, 11/18, 2:30pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (Seattle) | $15-$20

UW Percussion Ensemble: Percussion Music as Revolution
The visceral energy and powerful sounds of percussion ensemble are on full display in the U.S. premiere of Yiheng Yvonne Wu’s Violent Tender, performed alongside Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking Ionisation and Philip Schuessler’s The Glass Abattoir for speaking percussion ensemble, among other works.
Fri, 11/30, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10

Emerald City Music: The Daedalus Quartet
Beethoven’s infamous Kreutzer Sonata (and the dramatic tale behind it) form the basis of this concert exploring how the Kreutzer theme inspired future composers. String quartets by Leoš Janáček, Sergei Taneyev, and Tchaikovsky are performed alongside a quartet arrangement of Beethoven’s original Kreutzer Sonata.
Fri, 11/30, 8pm, 415 Westlake | $45

Late Nights in the Lobby: Seattle Symphony’s [untitled] Season

by Maggie Molloy

On just a handful of Friday nights each year, an intimate crowd of curious listeners gathers in the Grand Lobby of Benaroya Hall for concerts that are not confined by time period or tradition—or even titles, for that matter.

Now in its seventh season, the Seattle Symphony’s [untitled] series presents contemporary and experimental chamber works in a late-night, no intermission concert setting. Performances are held in the lobby, the musicians and audiences framed by floor-to-ceiling windows that look out across the sparkling lights of the city.

On any given [untitled] evening, you might hear music ranging from an Andy Warhol “popera” to Russian avant-folk songs, immersive arctic soundscapes, or even a piano that plays itself. This season, you can hear the icy windstorms of Hans Abrahamsen, the modernist masterworks of Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio, and the reorchestrated love songs of Reinbert de Leeuw.

[untitled] 1: Hans Abrahamsen
Friday, October 19, 2017 | 10pm

The sparse sound world of Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee builds and melts like a haunting snowfall. Whispering winds, ghostly canons, and shifting timbres coalesce into a meditation on time itself, the music moving at once forward and backward, swirling through chilling storms before evaporating into an eerie and unsettling silence. Thomas Dausgaard conducts.


[untitled] 2: Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio
Friday, March 22, 2018 | 10pm

Three pianos, three harps, three percussionists, and approximately three zillion notes comprise Pierre Boulez’s restlessly virtuosic Sur Incises. The chaotic colors of his 40-minute musical frenzy are balanced against the haunting dreamland of Luciano Berio’s Circles, a dramatic setting of three poems by E. E. Cummings. Soprano Maria Männistö sings the tempestuous role originally written for Berio’s wife, Cathy Berberian, with Ludovic Morlot conducting.


[untitled] 3: Reinbert de Leeuw
Friday, June 7, 2018 | 10pm

The elegant songs of Schubert and Schumann are reimagined with the rawness of early 20th century cabaret in Reinbert de Leeuw’s pastiche song cycle Im wunderschönen Monat Mai. Its title taken from the opening line of Schumann’s beloved Dichterliebe, the piece transforms Romantic lieder into 20th century melodrama—passionate, theatrical, and uninhibited. Sarah Ioannides conducts this riveting cabaret starring soprano Maria Männistö.


For tickets and more information on the Seattle Symphony’s [untitled] series, please click here.

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! 

thvLYmNB

Keep an eye out for our 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 2018 New Music Flyer

 

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: atmospheric soundscapes, improvised noise, music inspired by historic women of Mexico, and more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Max Richter and ACME
There are few places more appropriate for the rainy day soundscapes of Max Richter than Seattle. Hear the prolific composer with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble as they perform Infra in its entirety, plus selections from The Blue Notebooks. Check out our interview with the composer for more details on what’s in store.
Tues, 10/2, 7:30pm, Moore Theatre | $35-$45

Photo by Wolfgang Borrs.

Leslie Odom, Jr. with the Seattle Symphony
Leslie Odom, Jr. launched into stardom when he originated the role of Aaron Burr in a little musical called Hamilton. Now he joins our own Seattle Symphony for an evening of jazz standards and Broadway hits.
Tues-Wed, 10/2-10/3, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $46-$103

SMCO: American Experiences
It’s rare to see the concertmaster of PNB on the same program as the rapper from Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”but then again, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra’s 10th anniversary is cause for boundary-bursting celebration. Michael Jinsoo Lim joins the orchestra for Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, Wanz performs Randall Woolf’s Blues for Black Hoodies, and masterworks by Leonard Bernstein and Jennifer Higdon complete the program.
Thurs, 10/4, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $15-25

Wanz guest stars in SMCO’s Tenth Anniversary concert.

The Esoterics: CŌNSŌLŌ
Requiems are reimagined in this concert exploring the sense of comfort found in the musical act of remembrance. Included in the program are new works from the three winners of last year’s POLYPHONOS competition: Anna-Karin Klockar, Sarah Rimkus, and Ily Matthew Maniano.
Fri, 10/5, 8pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church | $15-$25
Sat, 10/6, 8pm, Holy Rosary Catholic Church | $15-$25

OSSCS: The Bounty of the Earth
Orchestra Seattle and Seattle Chamber Singers launch a season-long celebration of the music of Lili Boulanger, performing her extraordinary setting of Psalm 24 (“The Earth Belongs to the Eternal One”). Also on the program is Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Haydn’s The Seasons, and a composition by the OSSCS’s new conductor, William White.
Sat, 10/6, 7:30pm, First Free Methodist Church | $10-$25

Earshot Jazz Festival: Amy Denio
Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Amy Denio brings her inimitable brand of politically-charged avant-jazz to Earshot, performing compositions and improvisations that color her four-octave vocal range with electronics.
Wed, 10/10, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$18

Kin of the Moon & Karin Stevens Dance: lily/LUNG
Kaley Lane Eaton’s 30-minute electroacoustic composition LUNG receives its world premiere by musicians from Kin of the Moon and Strange Interlude, with choreographed dance by Karin Stevens and Amelia Love Clearheart. Also on the program is Eaton’s chamber opera lily [bloom in my darkness], which tells the story of Eaton’s great-grandmother, an orphan who fled England at the start of WWI.
Thurs-Sat, 10/11-10/13, 8pm, Erickson Theatre | $20-$50
Sun, 10/14, 11am, Erickson Theatre | $20-$50

Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis.

Samantha Boshnack: Seismic Belt
Seattle-based trumpeter and bandleader Samantha Boshnack takes listeners on a sonic adventure into the Ring of Fire in Seismic Belt, her latest large-scale work scored for seven-piece band.
Fri, 10/12, 7:30pm, The Royal Room | $10-$20

Seattle Symphony: [untitled] 1
Enter the sparse and haunting sound world of Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee (“Snow”), an immersive, hour-long chamber work filled with ghostly canons and crystalline frost. Fellow Dane Thomas Dausgaard conducts.
Fri, 10/12, 10pm, Benaroya Hall | $16

ROCCA: Enescu, Bartók, Prokofiev
Romanian American Chamber Concerts and Arts presents an afternoon of scintillating masterpieces by George Enescu, Béla Bartók, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Sergei Prokofiev.
Sat, 10/13, 3pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $26

Music of Today: Mivos Quartet
The New York-based Mivos Quartet travels to Seattle for a performance of music by University of Washington School of Music faculty composers Huck Hodge, Joël-François Durand, and more.
Tues, 10/23, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$15

Jesse Myers & Leanna Keith: Lizée’s Hitchcock & Tarantino Etudes
Cult classic fans rejoice: pianist Jesse Myers and flutist Leanna Keith present two of Nicole Lizée’s etudes for glitch film. In her Hitchcock Etudes, the composer glitches and stitches together live piano music with scenes from Psycho, The Birds, Rope, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. For her Tarantino Etudes, a virtuosic bass flute solo flutters between scenes from Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill.
Fri, 10/26, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Earshot Jazz Festival: Allos Musica
Classical, jazz, and Middle Eastern musical strands are woven together in this improvising ensemble of clarinet, launeddas, accordion, oud, harmonium, and percussion.
Thurs, 10/25, 7pm & 9:30pm, The Royal Room | $10-$22

Emerging Artist: Joep Beving
Lose yourself in the delicate, melancholic melodies of Dutch advertising-executive-turned-composer Joep Beving in this solo concert of intimate piano music.
Fri, 10/26, 8pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $25-$30

Emerald City Music: Café Music
Be whisked away to the warmth of a quiet café in this program of 20th-century French Impressionist and American composers, including music by Jean Françaix, Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Paul Schoenfield.
Fri, 10/26, 8pm, 415 Westlake | $45
Sat, 10/27, 7:30pm, The Minnaert Center (Olympia) | $25-$45

The Politics of Music: Q&A with Max Richter

by Maggie Molloy

Max Richter writes a lot of music.

Music for film, music for ballet, music for rainy days and quiet reflection, music for political protesteven music for sleep. Drifting amid a collection of keyboards and synthesizers, Richter writes pensive melodies that sparkle with elusive subtleties of texture and timbre. His delicate electroacoustic sound worlds have unfolded across eight solo albums to date, and this coming Tuesday, you can hear music from two of them performed live in Seattle at the Moore Theatre.

Joined by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Max Richter will perform his album Infra in its entirety, along with selections from his 2004 album The Blue Notebooks, which was reissued earlier this summer with new arrangements, remixes, and a previously unreleased track.

We caught up with Richter by phone to talk about the world of sleep, the power of literature, and the politics of music.

Second Inversion: The Blue Notebooks has just been reissued after 15 years. How have you and your music changed during that time?

Max Richter: Re-encountering an old work is, in a way, meeting a previous version of yourself. Some things are different, some are the same. The central concerns are pretty much constant, but part of creativity is moving beyond what you know. There is a little pool of light that we inhabit, of things that we know, and each project is a step out of that and into the dark, into something different. So it’s interesting to re-engage with these pieces. Seeing them from the perspective of today, they feel fresh.

SI: You have said before that The Blue Notebooks was written as a protest album in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The music also draws from the writings of Franz Kafka’s The Blue Octavo Notebooks and Czesław Miłosz’s Hymn of the Pearl and Unattainable Earth. How are those literary works connected to the Iraq War in your creative mind?

MR: The catalyst really was my sense that our political processes were moving into the realm of fiction. Kafka struck me as somebody very appropriate to invoke at that time. Kafka is so much the patron saint of doubt, in a way, and his use of the absurd to critique power structures in the society around him felt very relevant. And then Czesław Miłosz, writing about another war at another time, but very beautifully—and also about the redeeming powers of art. That last text, which prefaces The Trees on the record, is really about what can creativity do to make the world in some way better?

SI: Do you consider your music to be political?

MR: Yes, I do. I think if we’re making a creative contribution to society, we’re taking part in the conversation that is society, then we are engaging in political action, just by default. I’m not against the idea that art should have a kind of a social use, a kind of a utility. It’s for something. Music is for dancing, it’s for getting married, it’s for being buried, it’s for all sorts of activities. And it can also be a tool for thinking, and for engaging with the issues of society.

SI: At this concert you’re also performing Infra in its entirety. What is the story behind that album?

MR: Infra comes from a ballet I made for the Royal Opera House in London with Wayne McGregor. The starting point for the ballet was really the 7/7 bombing attacks in London. Wayne was interested also in one of the texts from T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, as a kind of jumping off point.

From a musical standpoint, because these attacks happened during rush hour, the victims were travelers. Of course, there’s a big history of traveling music within classical music. My favorite traveling music is probably the Winterreise of Schubert, so I submerged elements of Schubert’s music in the texture of Infra. You hear echoes of Winterreise and other bits of Schubert floating around in the background.

SI: Storytelling is a big part of your work, especially considering the amount of music you have written for film and dance. Do you always have a narrative in mind when you’re writing music? What about your more ambient compositions, like the 8-hour Sleep?

MR: Well, Sleep is a bit different because all the usual dynamics of music performance are sort of upended, really. In the case of Sleep, the piece is really an accompaniment to something, rather than the thing itself. So when we perform Sleep, the theme is the experience of the sleeping listener. And when we play the piece, we very much have the impression that we’re accompanying what’s happening in the room. It is the polar opposite of the ordinary performance dynamic, where you’re trying to project a story or a text to the audience. So it’s a very, very interesting situation for us. Everything is topsy-turvy in the world of Sleep.

SI: Did you write Sleep at night?

MR: Yes, I write a lot at night anyway. When we had tiny children I became sort of nocturnal, because that was the only time I could get any quiet—and the habit stuck. My writing hours for years and years have been late night hours.

SI: Do you listen differently at night?

MR: Well, at night everything’s quiet. You have a different kind of a mental space. At nighttime, it’s not the fact that the phone doesn’t ring, but it’s the fact that you know it won’t ring. That’s what makes it special.

SI: What is the ideal listening environment for people to experience your music?

MR: The records are conceived as records—they’re not individual tracks. I would love people to experience them as a whole, if possible. But at the same time, I’m very interested in what people bring to it. The pieces themselves are really propositions—they’re “what if?” questions. I have ideas about The Blue Notebooks, I have ideas about everything that I’ve written, but actually it’s the encounter with the listeners that turns that theory into something real.

SI: Many of your fans are not traditional classical music concert-goers. What do you think it is about your music that attracts a broader audience?

MR: It’s partly to do with a deliberate decision of mine which I took way, way back. When I was a student, I was writing in a kind of new complexity style—very, very dense modernist music. Which is what you were supposed to be writing if you were a university composer at that time. I just became dissatisfied with the reach of that material. I felt like I was talking to a tiny, tiny group of specialist listeners, who were either composers or new music professionals. I felt like that was somehow selling the idea of what creativity could be—sort of selling it short.

So I deliberately set out to develop a language which was more direct and plainspoken—something that could convey ideas in a very straightforward way. That meant engaging with different musical cultures, with electronics in the studio, and all these different things. It was a deliberate choice on my part, to rebuild my language from the ground up and remove a lot of the intellectual baggage.

Photo by Wolfgang Borrs.

SI: Do you believe classical music should be made more accessible in general, or do you think there’s a place for more challenging music too?

MR: There are a lot of questions about what makes music accessible—it’s in part to do with the material itself. Schoenberg remarked that if it’s popular it’s not art. And that became a kind of badge of honor—who cares if you listen? That kind of idea, from Milton Babbitt. It’s not that I’ve got anything against that material. There is some amazing music within that tradition. But it is a rather totalitarian kind of a viewpoint, and I find it politically troubling.

I think we kind of have a hangover from that era. Of course things have changed a lot, and it’s a very lively scene now, but we still have a lot of work to do to recover a broader constituency which just went away after the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when these sorts of attitudes were more prevalent. Actually I think most people don’t have a sense of prejudging material, and there’s nothing in itself about atonal music which makes it difficult. After all, people very happily listen to all kinds of stuff while they’re sitting in the movie house and the orchestra is screeching away in a very atonal situation. And people quite happily sit there eating their popcorn and it’s great. It isn’t the sounds per se, but it is the cultural baggage around it which has made things very difficult in terms of just letting people in. I think that’s a great pity, but a more direct, inclusive aesthetic is certainly a good starting point.

SI: What influence did studying with Luciano Berio have on your music?

MR: When I went to Berio I had just finished at the Royal Academy of Music in London, so I was firmly embedded in the modernist project. My music was very, very complicated and kind of impenetrable. He basically just subverted all my expectations and deflated a few of my grander ideas, and tried to lead me back to the origins of what it was I was trying to say. I trusted that he knew what he was doing because I really admired his music, and I think his music has an extraordinary generosity toward music history in it. To an extent unusual amongst the modernists of that time, his work embraced other music. There wasn’t that sense of erasing the past that you find in Boulez or someone like that.

I engaged with his ideas about a coexistence of different musical traditions and these things sort of talking to one another. A piece like Recomposed is very much in the footsteps of Berio. When you think about his Sinfonia, what he does with the Mahler for example in the second movement—it’s “Mahler Recomposed”! So his influence is everywhere in my work, in some ways.


Max Richter and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble perform at the Moore Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 7:30pm. Click here for tickets and more information.

At the Edge of the World with A Far Cry: Friday, Sept. 21 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

Composer Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol.

This Friday’s A Far Cry concert takes audiences to the edge of the world for a world premiere: Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol’s A Gentleman of Istanbul. Join us Friday, September 21 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a LIVE video stream of the Boston-based chamber orchestra as they perform Sanlıkol’s new symphony.

Scored for strings, percussion, piano, oud, ney (an end-blown flute), and tenor, A Gentleman of Istabul is inspired by the expansive travelogue of Evliya Çelebi, a 17th century Ottoman explorer. Born in Instanbul in 1611 and educated in the Ottoman court, Evliya’s travelogue is among the longest ever written, its pages filled with bold colors and vivid descriptions of his adventures.

Through its four movements, Sanlıkol’s symphony depicts the gentleman of Istanbul as an observer, an epic storyteller, a novelist, and a historian. Like Evliya’s travelogue, the symphony traverses vast musical territory, drawing from classical music, jazz ballads, African polyrhythms, Koranic chant, and various types of Turkish music. Plus, the composer himself performs with A Far Cry on piano, oud, ney, and voice parts.

Also on the travel itinerary are John Corigliano’s poignant Voyage, Jean-Philippe Rameau’s mythical Suite from Les Indes galantes, and Claude Vivier’s visceral Zipangu.

Visit this page on Friday, September 21 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a LIVE video stream of A Far Cry’s Edge of the World concert, streaming right here:

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

John Corigliano: Voyage
Jean-Philippe Rameau: Suite from Les Indes Galantes
Claude Vivier: Zipangu
Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol: A Gentleman of Istanbul (World Premiere)


A Far Cry’s Edge of the World performance streams live on this page on Friday, Sept. 21 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET. For more information about the orchestra, please click here.

Westerlies Weekend in Seattle: Sept. 20-23

by Gabriela Tedeschi

The Westerlies are a Seattle-bred brass quartet that has gained national acclaim for their genre-defying chamber music. Now, they’re giving back to the community that raised and inspired them with Westerlies Fest: a four-day music festival in Seattle featuring student workshops and concert collaborations with local artists.

The New York-based quartet is made up of Riley Mulherkar and Chloe Rowlands on trumpet with Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone. Mulherkar, Clausen, and de Koch are childhood friends from Seattle, and Rowlands (their newest member) was also born in Western Washington.

“The festival, for us, is an opportunity to feature all of the elements of what we do in their purest form as we envision them,” de Koch said. “Of course Seattle, being our hometown, seemed like the perfect place to bring together everything that we’ve gleaned from living in New York and traveling around the country performing.”

The festival runs Thursday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 23. During the day on Thursday and Friday, the Westerlies are speaking and performing in schools around Seattle, with an emphasis on teaching in underserved areas. On Saturday and Sunday, they are leading a workshop for high school and college age musicians at Seattle Pacific University.

All four evenings, the Westerlies are performing at different venues around Seattle with a diverse group of collaborators ranging from spoken word poets to jazz singers and music students of all levels and instruments. Learn more about the concerts below:

Poets Troy Osaki (left) and Azura Tyabji (right).

Troy Osaki and Azura Tyabji with The Westerlies
Thursday, Sept. 20, 7:30pm, Wing Luke Museum

In partnership with Youth Speaks Seattle, the Westerlies are inviting local spoken-word poets to perform alongside them. Music will be interspersed between poetry performances, and the quartet will also accompany two poems with original compositions.

“[This performance includes] a lot of exciting young voices from Seattle that we wanted to hear and we wanted to give a platform to,” Mulherkar said.

One poet is Troy Osaki, a friend of the Westerlies from Garfield High School who now serves as a Youth Speaks mentor. Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Azura Tyabji will also perform original works, as will Zora “Rainchild” Seboulisa and Esther Eidenberg-Noppe. Emphasizing identity and examining areas of inequality, these young artists use poetry as a tool for inspiring change in the world.


TORCH with The Westerlies
Friday, Sept. 21, 7:30pm, Nickerson Studios at Seattle Pacific University

Friday’s performance is really two concerts in one: a set from the Westerlies and a set from the Seattle-based chamber ensemble TORCH.

The group is comprised of trumpeter Brian Chin, clarinetist Eric Likkel, double bassist Steve Schermer, and percussionist Ben Thomas (who also plays vibraphone and bandoneon). Like the Westerlies, TORCH is known for combining the intellectual rigor of classical music with a genre-meshing sound. Chin is also the founder and artist director of the nonprofit arts organization Common Tone Arts, a partner for the festival.

“That night really features some of the best of Seattle’s contemporary classical scene,” Mulherkar said. “This is really an opportunity for us to bring what we got from New York and present it right alongside all the amazing music that’s going on in Seattle.”


Kate Davis (left) and Theo Bleckmann (right; photo by Lynne Harty).

Theo Bleckmann and Kate Davis with The Westerlies
Saturday, Sept. 22, 7:30pm, First Free Methodist Church

The Westerlies are joined by two acclaimed guest artists from New York: contemporary classical and jazz singer Theo Bleckmann and singer-songwriter Kate Davis.

The core of Bleckmann’s set will be “Songs of Refuge and Resistance,” a project that the Westerlies and Bleckmann developed this June while in residency at Yellow Barn, an international center for chamber music in Vermont. The project combines songs of refuge and protest pieces to highlight both music’s integral role in resistance movements and its ability to provide solace in the midst of turmoil.

Davis will perform a set of original works showcasing her warm, velvety vocals and inventive lyrics—including a Westerlies collaboration on her song “St. Joseph,” arranged by de Koch.


The Westerlies with Workshop Students
Sunday, Sept. 23, 4pm, Nickerson Studios at Seattle Pacific University

Sunday’s performance will serve as the culmination of the two-day student workshop the Westerlies are hosting for young musicians of all levels, styles, and instruments. The workshop will give students insight into the Westerlies’ unique approach to composition, improvisation, and ensemble practice.

“One thing that we’ve grown to be passionate about as an ensemble is improvising in a way that isn’t idiosyncratic to any genre,”  de Koch said. “The goal is to be able to introduce improvisation in a way that isn’t inhibited by any of the trappings of particular styles of music.”

The Westerlies also want to push young musicians to explore unusual instrument combinations, and to allow creative compatibility to overtake conventional ideas about ensemble work. Given their own history, the Westerlies know that good chemistry can lead to great music with any instrumentation.

“When we formed as a band, we didn’t form with the intention of being a brass quartet,” de Koch said. “We formed because we got along well as friends and admired one another’s personalities and musical tastes.”

At the concert on Sunday, students will perform in ensembles with the Westerlies, playing the music they create themselves through improvisation exercises.


Westerlies Fest runs Sept. 20 through Sept. 23. Thursday and Sunday’s performances are free, but reservations are recommended to guarantee admission. Student discounts and festival passes are available for Friday and Saturday’s concerts. For tickets and more information, click here.