Summer Vibes (and Marimbas!) with Erin Jorgensen and Friends

by Peter Tracy

Rebekah Ko is part of an all-star cast of local percussionists featured in Good Vibes Only.
Photos by Kelly O.

For vacationers, beachgoers, and students fresh out of class, summertime is all about good vibes. But what about musicians and concertgoers? If the seasonal concert slump has put a damper on your summer, cheer up with Good Vibes Only: a one-night-only concert event featuring music for marimbas and vibraphones that’s sure to lift your end-of-summer spirits.

For Seattle-based marimbist Erin Jorgensen, the mastermind behind the concert, Good Vibes Only came about rather organically as a way to showcase local percussionists. Set for August 30 in the historic Washington Hall, the concert presents minimalist works in a laid-back atmosphere, with immersive visuals designed to enhance the music.

“Basically, I was thinking ‘summertime’: there are a lot of good players here, mallet music sounds very summery,” Jorgensen said. “And along those same lines, I love minimalism, so I wanted it all to be in that kind of vein.”

These things in mind, Jorgensen pulled together an all-star lineup—including local musicians Storm Benjamin, Rebekah Ko, Kerry O’Brien, Kay Reilly, and Melanie Sehman—to put together a program of minimalist and post-minimalist grooves for marimba and vibraphone. From the phasing patterns of Steve Reich to the bouncy, rhythmic melodies of Ivan Trevino and the funk-inspired energy of Marc Mellits, the concert showcases many different interpretations of minimalism.

Erin Jorgensen, Storm Benjamin, and Rebekah Ko.

And if the label of “minimalism” sounds too academic, Jorgensen certainly doesn’t want it to be. She has ambitious plans to create a one-of-a-kind concert experience for Good Vibes Only, complete with original lighting design and other DIY visuals. She’s working to tailor these visuals to the program, whether that be the colorful neon of Mellit’s “Gravity” or the more sprightly and summery marimba duet “2+1” by Ivan Trevino.

“I’ll just listen to a piece and get an idea or visual, and then think about how I can execute that myself without a big crew,” Jorgensen said.

The resulting concert environment envelops the audience in sound and color, transforming the way they experience the music. It also allows both the performers and the audience to connect with the music in a different way, free from the prescriptions of classical concert etiquette. For this performance Jorgensen and the rest of the musicians are forgoing the formal concert attire—and the stage.

“There’s something about that [formal] environment that makes you expect a certain thing,” she said. “You definitely are in a certain headspace, you’re dressed a certain way, you’re listening a certain way, so I think if you can kind of circumvent that a little bit people can enjoy it more.”

This ethos is behind the decision to eschew the hall’s raised stage for this concert, but it also guides a lot of Jorgensen’s other projects, whether that be her ambient Undertones Podcast or her Bach and Pancakes series, in which she performs Bach’s cello suites on marimba while the audience eats pancakes. What these all have in common is a more immersive, contemplative experience of the music—something that Jorgensen feels drawn to. Rather than taking the audience on a journey, she encourages a more laid-back, audience-guided listening experience where you’re welcome to close your eyes or daydream along with the music.

“I like being in those kinds of environments,” Jorgensen said. “I’ve done a lot of art shows with DIY lighting and things like that, and I think you can make that really magical. It’s also a product of being tired of people thinking that there’s only one way to do a concert, when really you can do it however you want.”

With its relaxed atmosphere and groove-driven tunes, the concert will provide something many of us might be in need of as the summer winds to a close: good music, good friends, and good vibes.


Good Vibes Only is Friday, Aug. 30 at 8pm at Washington Hall. For tickets and more information, click here.

Aidan Lang on His Time at Seattle Opera: Friday, Aug. 2 at 8pm PT

Seattle Opera’s outgoing General Director Aidan Lang with Dramaturg Jonathan Dean.

Aidan Lang has kept pretty busy these past five years as the General Director of Seattle Opera.

Under his leadership the opera has quadrupled millennial audiences, introduced over 200 new opera artists to Seattle, launched bold new chamber operas in different Seattle neighborhoods, forged innovative collaborations with companies around the globe, and even moved into a sprawling new home at Seattle Center.

Before he heads to his new post as General Director of the Welsh National Opera, Aidan joins us for a special episode of NW Focus LIVE this Friday, Aug. 2 at 8pm PT on Classical KING FM 98.1.

Tune in as Aidan looks back on his favorite (and funniest!) moments at Seattle Opera in a conversation with Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean, KING FM’s Sean MacLean, and Second Inversion’s Maggie Molloy. We’ll talk about the creation and commissioning of new works, taking creative license with the classics, and finding the critical relevance of opera in the 21st century.

Click here to tune in on Friday, Aug. 2 at 8pm PT.

Amanda Gookin Boldly Goes Forward (2.0)

by Dacia Clay

Amanda Gookin. Photo by Ryan Scherb.

In 2015, Amanda Gookin started a commissioning project called Forward Music Project. It premiered in 2017 at National Sawdust with seven pieces focused on issues that affect women and girls. Two years later, Gookin has returned with Forward Music Project 2.0.

True to its name, the project has taken big leaps forward. It now encompasses five new commissioned works that focus on more specific, personal issues for the composers, from body image to political oppression, sex positivity, and gender nonconformity. The performance includes electronics, video art by S Katy Tucker, and physically visceral cello playing from Gookin; the featured composers include Paola Prestini, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, Shelley Washington, Alex Temple, and Kamala Sankaram.

Forward Music Project 2.0 has an educational arm as well (Gookin is also a professor at Mannes and SUNY Purchase). Take a listen to find out more about the cellist’s latest step forward. To learn more about Forward Music Project 1.0, check out this episode of KING FM’s Classical Classroom podcast.

The Science of Sound: An Interview with Alvin Lucier

by Maggie Molloy

Alvin Lucier has spent the past six decades exploring sound—its physical properties, how it moves and morphs in space, and the ways in which we can manipulate our own auditory perception.

His music makes you listen differently. Instead of traditional notions of melody and harmony, his music plays with the very wavelengths of sound itself, placing you in the center of the acoustic phenomena and inviting you to hear the sound as it shifts and unfolds within the space.

We caught up with Lucier at the 2019 Big Ears Festival, which featured performances of his music by Joan La Barbara, the Ever Present Orchestra, and the composer himself—including his most iconic work, I Am Sitting in a Room.

In this interview, Lucier talks with us about the science of sound, the hallmarks of experimental composition, and what it takes to play his music.

Audio editing by Nikhil Sarma.


Music in this interview from Alvin Lucier’s Ever Present and I Am Sitting in a Room, both available on Mode Records.

A Proud History: LGBTQ+ Stories in Classical Music

by Dacia Clay

Photo by Steve Johnson.

In celebration of Pride Month, Cornish College of the Arts musicologist Kerry O’Brien and early music specialist Byron Schenkman tell stories of LGBTQ+ classical artists from very different periods of music history. How do we talk about queer artists of the distant past when there was no such thing as being “out” yet? Is it possible (or useful) to identify what unique qualities LGBTQ+ artists have brought to classical music? And why is it important to talk about the stories of minority populations anyway?

Byron Schenkman and Kerry O’Brien.

Hear all of this—plus stories you may never have heard before about famous classical artists—in our audio interview with Kerry and Byron.

Audio engineering by Nikhil Sarma.