VIDEO PREMIERE: Kevin Clark’s ‘Eleanor & Hildegard’

by Maggie Molloy

In the 12th century one of the Middle Ages’ greatest patrons and politicians, Eleanor of Aquitaine, wrote a letter to one of the the era’s greatest composers, Hildegard of Bingen, asking for advice. Eleanor’s original letter has since been lost, but Hildegard’s reply remains.

That legendary correspondence was precisely the inspiration behind composer Kevin Clark‘s newest chamber work, Eleanor & Hildegard. Commissioned and premiered by Seattle’s own Sound Ensemble with mezzo-soprano Elspeth Davis this past February, the piece celebrates a regular occurrence that is rarely documented in history books: two influential women, talking to each other as autonomous individuals, independent of men.

Watch our in-studio video of Clark’s Eleanor & Hildegard and read the composer’s program note below.

Eleanor & Hildegard

Eleanor of Aquitaine was the most powerful woman in politics in 12th century Europe. Hildegard of Bingen was the most important woman in religion in the same time and place, as well as being a composer.

History doesn’t give us many stories of powerful women, much less of what they had to say to each other. But these two wrote. It was 1170, and Eleanor’s marriage to Henry II was collapsing. She was on the verge of a new life. The queen wrote to Hildegard of Bingen asking for advice. Hildegard’s reply survives.

This piece fills in the missing pieces. Tania Asnes wrote a poem to take the place of Eleanor’s missing letter, which begins the piece. As the composer, I brought in music Eleanor might have heard throughout her marriage by Bernart de Ventadorn. At the end, we hear Hildegard’s reply to Eleanor, telling her to flee, ‘Fuge’, from her troubles.

Within a few years she wasn’t just free from her marriage, but making war on Henry II with the aid of her son, Richard the Lionheart.

– Kevin Clark, composer


This Saturday, the Sound Ensemble turns from the Middle Ages to something a little more modern: an evening of chamber music penned by some of today’s top rock stars. You Didn’t Know They Composed features the Sound Ensemble performing music by the likes of Björk, Beck, Bryce Dessner, and more, plus a new commission by James McAlister.

You Didn’t Know They Composed is Saturday, April 7 at 7pm at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Portland Cello Project Plays Radiohead and Elliott Smith

by Maggie Molloy

Equally at home in rock clubs and concert halls, Portland Cello Project is an ensemble known for pushing the boundaries of the classical cello tradition. The group reimagines classical favorites and contemporary hits alike for their famous choir of cellos, with an expansive repertoire ranging from J.S. Bach to Jay-Z and Kanye West and beyond.

In Seattle last December, the group performed the entirety of Radiohead’s OK Computer in celebration of the album’s 20th anniversary. We caught up with them at the station and filmed a video of one of their favorite Radiohead tracks, “Paranoid Android,” along with their cover of Elliott Smith’s “Tomorrow, Tomorrow.”

Radiohead: Paranoid Android (Portland Cello Project)

Elliott Smith: Tomorrow, Tomorrow (Portland Cello Project)


Catch Portland Cello Project performing LIVE in Seattle on Tuesday, May 15 at 7:30pm at the Triple Door. For tickets and more information, click here.

VIDEO PREMIERE: John Luther Adams’ “there is no one, not even the wind…”

by Maggie Molloy

John Luther Adams’ newest work whispers like the winds of the Sonoran Desert. Inspired by the stillness and light of the American Southwest, “there is no one, not even the wind…” is an immersive desert soundscape scored for two flutes, strings, piano, and percussion.

We are thrilled to premiere our video of Emerald City Music in their sold-out world premiere performance of Adams’ “there is no one, not even the wind…”

The piece takes its title from a poem by the great Mexican poet Octavio Paz titled Piedra Nativa (Native Stone). He writes, “No hay nadie ni siquiera tú mismo.” (“There is no one, not even yourself.”) Adams takes this line one step further, removing even the wind itself.

“there is no one, not even the wind…” was co-commissioned by Emerald City Music, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Camerata Pacifica, the Redlands Symphony Orchestra, and Chamber Music Northwest. Click here to learn more about Emerald City Music’s world premiere performance in our conversation with Artistic Director Kristin Lee and Executive Director Andrew Goldstein.

 

VIDEO PREMIERE: Daniel Rhode’s “Return” ft. GVSU New Music Ensemble

by Seth Tompkins

The beautiful and complicated images that accompany the music of Daniel Rhode’s Return allow for just enough ambiguity to yield a fascinating experience. As the title track of the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble’s forthcoming album, this video premiere uses Rhode’s pensive electroacoustic soundscape to pull the listener into a small but profound exchange.

The subject removes her makeup, presumably at home, presumably with a person for whom she cares.  They share intimate but relaxed physical contact.  She returns to her natural state, in her home, with her closest person, unadorned by a coating of foreign substances.  She literally and figuratively lets her hair down.

These images, paired with Rhode’s music, might suggest a complex and nuanced emotional journey—one that encompasses the opposed relaxation and deflation that are often associated with returning home after an intense or exciting group experience.  Perhaps there is even trauma in the recent past.

However, consider the possibility that, like Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Return might actually be joyful, despite the audio’s solemnity.  Perhaps the quiet, peaceful, yet revelatory bliss of discarding the physical and emotional elements of a public persona is what the video is intended to show.  Or perhaps we’re not meant to know.


Grand Valley State University New Music ensemble’s new album Return comes out on Oct. 27. To pre-order the album, please click here.

Musical Saws and Moon Landings: Jake Heggie’s ‘EARTHRISE’

by Maggie Molloy

On Christmas Eve in 1968, astronaut Bill Anders took what would become one of the most iconic photographs ever: Earthrise, taken from the surface of the moon during the Apollo 8 landing.

“For as long as there have been people, we earthlings have watched, extolled and wondered over countless moonrises,” said composer Jake Heggie. “But here, for the first time, we could wonder collectively at the appearance of our own fragile, tiny blue planet rising over the cold surface of the moon, surrounded by an unfathomable, infinite darkness.”

Anders now lives on Orcas Island, where he was honored at this year’s Orcas Island Music Festival with a new piece composed by Heggie and featuring one of his favorite instruments: the ethereal musical saw.

Inspired by Anders’ iconic photo, Heggie composed EARTHRISE: Dec 24, 1968 for musical saw and string quartet. The piece was premiered at this summer’s festival by saw player Anita Orne with the Miró String Quartet. We are thrilled to share a live video of that star performance:

VIDEO PREMIERE: Memory Palace by Christopher Cerrone

by Maggie Molloy

Still frame from Mark DeChiazza’s video for Christopher Cerrone’s Memory Palace.

The method of loci is a mnemonic strategy dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The idea is this: you memorize the layout of a building or geographic space, then assign memories to any number of discrete locations within itand to recall the information, you imagine yourself walking back through the space.

In composer Christopher Cerrone’s Memory Palace, he takes that method one step further: instead of imagining a geographic space, he creates a sonic one. Composed for solo percussion and electronics, the piece is performed on a collection of homemade instruments and field recordings. In Cerrone’s memory, the palace is built of crickets and cheap guitars, wind chimes and wooden planks, beer bottles and quiet breath. The result is a vivid mosaic of music and memory—an intimate retrospective of a life lived in sound.

Memory Palace is a kind of paean to places and people that have deeply affected me,” Cerrone said. “The sounds in the piece are signposts; they help me remember—and more important, understand, who I am.”

Percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum premieres Cerrone’s Memory Palace in this brand new video by Mark DeChiazza:

NEW VIDEO: PROJECT Trio’s “Sloeberry Jam”

by Maggie Molloy

Comprised of three classically-trained musicians with an ear for eclecticism, PROJECT Trio​ brings humor, charisma, technical prowess, and clever arrangements to classical repertoire and pop music alike.

Check out our brand new video of the trio performing their sweet and syrupy “Sloeberry Jam” at Town Hall Seattle:

Like what you hear? Check out our video library for more contemporary and cross-genre works from some of the biggest names in new music!