Joep Beving’s Philosophy of Music

by Gabriela Tedeschi

Photo by © Rahi Rezvani, courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon.

Solipsism refers to the philosophical idea that only the individual’s mind exists because nothing outside of it—others’ minds or the world—can truly be known. In other words, solipsism holds that there is no universal reality.

Dutch pianist and composer Joep Beving disagrees—his debut album Solipsism is meant more as a challenge to that philosophy than a statement in support of it. The up-and-coming artist, who has gained international acclaim through Solipsism, two follow-up albums, and several singles, uses music to challenge the notion that no shared reality exists. By distilling music to its aesthetic essence, Beving strives to create a universal language, something that disproves solipsism and speaks to everyone.

This week, Seattleites have the chance to experience Beving’s universal musical reality. Beving is performing pieces from his anti-solipsist solo piano albums in the Nordstrom Recital Hall in Benaroya Hall on Friday, Oct. 26 at 8pm.

But it’s not just about allowing audiences to experience a universal reality; it’s also about improving the way we experience the world outside of the concert hall. Beving believes in using his universal language as a way to provide comfort and solace in a chaotic world. Though generally soft and slow, there’s a gentle, rhythmic flow to his music that makes it majestic in an understated way. The warmth of his harmonies portray an underlying sense of hope even while the pieces traverse haunting, melancholy paths.

Beving’s music also stands out because of his gentle touch on the keys. After his grandmother’s death in 2009, he inherited her German piano and discovered that it required a lighter touch, ultimately leading him to adopt a more tender, classical style of playing. By working with a smaller range of dynamics and articulations, Beving is able to make a dramatic impact with the slightest changes in touch.

Though Beving’s music is dark and ruminative, its underlying tenderness leaves you with a sense of inner peace. You’ll leave the concert hall with a newfound connection to those around you, too, knowing that you’ve felt the same things and experienced the same reality.

Find out more about Beving’s musical philosophy in our interview below.

Second Inversion: In your work, music is the universal form of communication. How did you develop this philosophy as a composer?

Joep Beving: When I started to write music behind my piano at home, it was at a time that I myself was feeling more and more alienated from the people around me and the reality we live in. I lost track of the human scale of things and everything seemed to be more and more grotesque and unreal. The piano helped me to look for something essential, something to find trust and comfort in.

I stripped down the music to a very minimalist essence, to the point that it started to affect me. I had a hope that the music would resonate with people in general, and for this I strived to capture beauty in the hopeful belief that there is some form of universal truth in there. My only indicator of coming close to this were my own goosebumps, and I remember seeing it as an experiment in communication in the sense that if there was some sort of absolute aesthetic it could mean that my goosebumps should be yours too.

With music you can make a very personal connection to people you don’t know; they will find some form of recognition in the music and this creates a connection—a human connection that I feel is so needed in these times.

SI: You’ve mentioned that inheriting a German piano from your grandmother has influenced your style, leading you to adopt a more classical approach. How would you describe the way your music and playing have evolved over time?

JB: In my younger years I played a bit of jazz and the struggle was always to play as many notes as possible. I was very impatient and my technical skills didn’t allow for me to play what I was hearing in my head. When I grew older I started to dislike the way I was (trying) to play and looked at other ways to improvise, getting inspired by minimalists and pianists like Keith Jarrett who would create these magnificent atmospheres and tell what I experienced as more profound stories. I didn’t play that much piano but when I did, I looked for these type of stories.

It was only four years ago that all of sudden almost from one day to another my playing style turned into what it is now, and a lot of that has to do with the sound of my grandmother’s piano. It is the space between the notes played that contains the most magic, and with this instrument this empty space sounded so good that I didn’t want to contaminate it with too many notes.

SI: Your music can be mournful and haunting, but it also strives to be a soothing antidote to a chaotic world. Do sad and soothing work together easily or is it difficult to strike a balance?

JB: Absolutely. I believe that melancholy is like the default human condition or emotion. There is the element of sadness about the unfairness of life and many other things, but there’s also the hope that today or one day it will be better. Making music to that basic emotion feels honest and truthful or perhaps soothing, since it so well reflects how we really feel deep down. Music has the power to communicate on a level beyond the rational and establish this connection on a deeper level of understanding; it reminds us that we all more or less feel the same as humans.


Joep Beving is performing this Friday, Oct. 26 at 8pm at Nordstrom Recital Hall. For tickets and more information, click here.

Improvisation is Life, and Other True Stories from James Falzone

by Dacia Clay

James Falzone’s musical career began with Peter and the Wolf and has since expanded into the far-reaching realms of classical, jazz, Arabic music, and beyond. These days he is the Chair of Music at Cornish College of the Arts and clarinetist of the Allos Musica ensemble. The group features oud (an ancient Arabic lute), voice, accordion, and a wide array of wind and percussion instruments from around the world—and you can hear them in action on October 25 when they perform as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.

In this interview, Falzone talks about how his eclectic taste in music came to be (it started with a 5th grade teacher), and what Allos does. He also talks about the importance of improvisation for musicians, and about what audiences can expect to hear at their upcoming performance.


Allos Musica performs as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7pm and 9:30pm at the Royal Room. Click here for more information.

Sneak Peek Audio Leak: Daníel Bjarnason’s ‘Collider’

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Börkur Sigthorsson.

Daníel Bjarnason’s music is at its most potent when he’s writing for symphony orchestra. He has a masterful way of balancing the cavernous depths of a large ensemble against moments of shimmering near-silence, often within a matter of seconds. 

His luminous orchestrations are on full display in his forthcoming album Collider, a collection of three works that glisten with timbral detail. Bjarnason conducts the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in the lively, interlocking textures of “Blow Bright” before transitioning to the haunting three-part work “The Isle is Full of Noises,” a setting of three monologues from Shakespeare’s The Tempest featuring the ethereal vocals of the Hamrahlid Choir.

“Collider” unwinds a bit more slowly, moments of eerie stillness gradually building into an eruption of restless energy that pulls the listener deeper and deeper into a shifting sound maze. We’re thrilled to premiere the title track from the brand new album ahead of its October 26 release date. Click below to hear Bjarnason’s “Collider.”


Daníel Bjarnason’s Collider comes out October 26 on Bedroom Community. Click here to pre-order the album.

Musical Chairs: Leanna Keith on Classical KING FM

by Maggie Molloy

Leanna Keith is not your average flutist.

Sure, she can breathe beautiful, delicate melodies through her instrument—but she can also speak into it, sing, hum, or beatbox through it, clatter its keys, bend its pitches, make its melodies vibrate, flutter, shimmer, and soar.

Keith is a flutist and composer specializing in contemporary classical and experimental sounds. She explores the furthest reaches of her instrument’s range, both in music and in performance. On any given evening in Seattle you might catch her performing in new music ensembles ranging from the experimental chamber troupe Kin of the Moon to the Japanese drumming collective Dekoboko Taiko. Next Friday, she’s performing Nicole Lizée’s etudes for glitch film on a concert with pianist Jesse Myers.

And this Friday, Oct. 19 at 7pm PT, she’s in the Classical KING FM studios as the special guest on Musical Chairs with Mike Brooks, where she will share a handful of her favorite recordings from across her musical career, plus details about her upcoming performances.

Tune in at 98.1 FM, listen through our free mobile app, or click here to stream the interview online from anywhere in the world!

Seattle New Music Happy Hour: Friday, Oct. 19 at 5:30pm

by Maggie Molloy

Cruise into your weekend with a cold beer and warm company at our next Seattle New Music Happy Hour!

Join us Friday, October 19 at 5:30pm at T.S. McHugh’s for a 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.

Musical Chairs: Maggie Molloy on Classical KING FM

Maggie Molloy likes listening to strange music. Lucky for her, she gets to do it for a living.

Since joining the Second Inversion team in 2014, Maggie has written over 300 articles on new, experimental, avant-garde, and otherwise unconventional music. In her current role as Second Inversion Editor, she curates our music library and programs all of the music you hear on our 24/7 online stream—and she also serves as an on-air host.

This Friday, Maggie is the guest on Classical KING FM’s Musical Chairs with Mike Brooks, where she will share just a handful of her favorite recordings from across her musical career. She’ll share memories from her week as a journalist covering the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, her summer spent studying experimental music composition at the IRCAM in Paris, her performances at the John Cage Musicircus and the Harry Partch Festival, her big break into the world of radio, and the composers who left her starstruck.

Musical Chairs airs this Friday, Oct. 12 at 7pm PT on Classical KING FM. Tune in at 98.1 FM, listen through our free mobile app, or click here to stream the interview online from anywhere in the world!

Nat Evans “Flyover Country” at the Grocery Studios

by Dacia Clay

Nat Evans and Will Hayes at the Grocery

Nat Evans and Will Hayes at the Grocery (photo by Dacia Clay)

Imagine that you’re having a nightmare. There’s a monster chasing you. It’s a dark, shadowy threatening thing that devours everything and everyone in its path, working its way ever-closer to you. You instinctively try to run. And then, at the inevitable moment when it’s upon you and you know that you’re done for, something unthinkably terrifying happens: you realize that the monster is you.

That moment of Edvard Munch-level terror is at the heart of Nat Evans’ multimedia work, Flyover Country: How do contemporary people deal with, as Evans puts it, our “disconnected collective consciousness,” wherein we have convinced ourselves through the stories that we tell that we are separate from the natural world and from our origins?

Flyover is also a meditation on the power and function of story in our lives, starting with Evans’ own family. In 2017, he began to look at family trees and photos dating to the 1870s, piecing together the stories of his forebears; he also began to dig into the stories of contemporaneous indigenous people. What emerged from his research clearly mortified him. Where his family’s historical records petered out, stories of their indigenous counterparts came violently to the fore. In short, Evans began to suspect that there was a direct link between his family and mass atrocities of the past.

The audience at Beacon Hill’s Grocery Studios this Sunday night (May 20, 2018) experienced the horror of what Evans unearthed along with him – his family’s link to the genocide of indigenous people, the slaughter of the bison, and the pillaging of the earth – when the performance reached a climax of truly scary cognitive and musical dissonance. For most of the piece up until that point, Will Hayes’s guitar had been dreamy and expansive. But at that moment, it escalated to wretches and squeals, and the room went dark as the audience choked on the starkness of what Evans had laid out for us. The story completely unraveled leaving us to sit with the heartlessness, callousness, and opportunism deep in the roots of the United States.

But what were we to do with that information? Where were we to go from there? Especially when, as Evans pointed out, our country is still doing it. We’re still, for example, draining the Ogallala Aquifer and leaving behind dead lands (aka, “flyover country”). The land beneath the building we were sitting in, as Grocery Studios’ Janet Galore pointed out before the performance began, was part of unceded indigenous lands that belonged to the Coast Salish people.

I don’t want to spoil the experience of Flyover Country for you so I won’t tell you about the edict/conclusion that Evans left the audience with. But I will say that it had to do with harnessing the power of story for good. And that it involved a really stubborn buffalo.

Flyover Country is the distillation of one artist wrapping his head around the enormity of his origins – both those of his family and of his country – and what those things mean here and now. Through acoustic and electronic music, a slideshow of archival photos and video, field recordings, and spoken text, Evans has woven together a deeply personal story, but he leaves enough space for us to inhabit it. It’s a piece that’s impossible not to think about for hours and days after, precisely because it’s a story that we’re all still writing.