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 this 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.

Neal Kosaly-Meyer: Playing the Piano One Note at a Time

by Gabriela Tedeschi

Neal Kosaly-Meyer performing Gradus at NUMUS Northwest. Photo by James Holt.

Neal Kosaly-Meyer plays the piano one note at a time. Or at least, that’s the idea behind his ongoing performance series Gradus: For Fux, Tesla and Milo the Wrestler. He devotes an extended improvisation (20 minutes or longer) to each individual note on the piano, and to as many combinations of notes as possible.

This Saturday at the Chapel Performance Space he will perform one installment of the series: 40 minutes on one note (C sharp to be specific), 20 minutes on five notes in multiple octaves, and 60 minutes on two notes. Extended periods of silence are incorporated into all three sections. Kosaly-Meyer flips a coin to determine the number of notes per movement, how long the movements will be, and how much silence will be interspersed in each movement.

The idea for Gradus presented itself to Kosaly-Meyer over 30 years ago while he was a graduate student in the School of Music at the University of Washington. He had been thinking a lot about John Cage and how composers could follow in his footsteps by challenging preconceived notions of what music could be.

“It’s hard to find the frontier after a composer like Cage, who went right out to the edge of so many frontiers,” Kosaly-Meyer said. “This thought, learn to play the piano one note at a time, was kind of a thread to be able to push to do music that felt like it was on an edge, that felt like there was a risk being taken.”

Still, it wasn’t until he moved to San Diego with his wife and was able to play on a grand piano at a church he attended that he began to really explore the idea. Kosaly-Meyer believes performing on a grand piano is pivotal to Gradus.

“It’s not something you could do on an electronic keyboard or even an upright piano,” Kosaly-Meyer said. “I think to do something where you actually have enough sound, enough reverberation for a project like this to be interesting requires a grand piano.”

He began with 40 minutes improvising on the lowest A on the piano, and then began using combinations of As. Implicit in the idea of learning to play the piano one note at a time was the idea of learning to play differently by finding artistry in each sound. With attack, duration, dynamics, and intricate pedaling techniques, Kosaly-Meyer developed the ability to make a wide assortment of sounds using just one A.

His work temporarily came to a halt when he moved again and no longer had access to a grand piano. But years later, in 2001, his friend Keith Eisenbrey helped solve that problem.

Kosaly-Meyer met Eisenbrey while taking composition courses at the UW. They had done a lot of improvisation work together, and Kosaly-Meyer was able to develop the Gradus project and other works by bouncing ideas off of Eisenbrey. They became family when Eisenbrey married Kosaly-Meyer’s sister Karen, and in 2001 Kosaly-Meyer was able to continue with Gradus by rehearsing on Eisenbrey’s grand piano.

When he began sharing Gradus, it was positive feedback from Eisenbrey and other composers that emboldened Kosaly-Meyer to move forward with this musical venture. He began his annual performance series in 2002 in Seattle.

Kosaly-Meyer determined that Gradus works best with a two-hour, three-part structure that allows him to separate what he sees as three distinct ways of making music.

“I had come to a conclusion after working on this a little bit that playing with one note is a particular kind of making music, playing with two notes is another kind of making music that’s very different than just playing with one, and that playing with 3 or more notes is very different than playing with two,” he said.

Drawing inspiration from Cage, Kosaly-Meyer chose to incorporate silencewhich really means all unintended ambient soundsas an equal partner in the performance. If weather permits, Kosaly-Meyer leaves the windows open at the Chapel, allowing highway noise, barking dogs, and audiences’ creaking benches and coughs to form a chorus that supports his playing.

“I always found in improvising that music happened much more organically with an ensemble. Even if it was just an ensemble of two, it was so much easier for something musical to happen,” Kosaly-Meyer said. “Gradus is really the first kind of solo improvisation project I find that can stay musical and I think the trick is that it’s not really a solo project.”

This particular performance is dedicated to the late jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, who displayed incredible control over each and every note he played, no matter how intricate the performance. Kosaly-Meyer was also interested in exploring the interplay between the ideas of Taylor and Cage, who were at odds during their lifetimes because of Cage’s aversion to jazz and improvisation. Gradus combines Taylor’s spontaneity with Cage’s interest in silence as an equal partner.

“One thing that’s going on in Gradus is an attempt to harmonize a Cage way of thinking with a Cecil Taylor way of thinking,” Kosaly-Meyer said.


Neal Kosaly-Meyer presents Gradus: For Fux, Tesla and Milo the Wrestler this Saturday, July 14 at 8pm at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center. For more information, click here.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Third Coast Percussion’s Paddle to the Sea (Act II)

by Maggie Molloy

Third Coast Percussion performs an entire ocean of sounds in their new film score for the 1966 classic Paddle to the Sea. From skittering wood blocks to water-filled wine glasses, each instrument adds its own unique shimmer to the sound of the sea.

We’re thrilled to premiere a video of the group performing Act II of their original score, which was co-commissioned by Meany Center for the Performing Arts and performed there earlier this year.

(Click here to watch our video for Act I, which we premiered in May 2018.)

The Oscar-nominated film Paddle to the Sea is based on Holling C. Holling’s 1941 children’s book of the same name, which follows the epic journey of a small wooden boat that is carved and launched by a young Native Canadian boy.

“I am Paddle to the Sea” he inscribes on the bottom of the boat. “Please put me back in the water.”

Over the course of the film, the boat travels for many years from Northern Ontario through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway out to the Atlantic Ocean and far beyond—and each time it washes ashore, a kind stranger places it back in the water.

Third Coast’s new film score (recently released as an album on Cedille Records) is inspired by and interspersed with music by Philip Glass and Jacob Druckman, along with traditional music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. All of the music in the score is inspired by water, with Third Coast performing an array of sounds ranging from pitched desk bells to bowls of water, glass bottles, sandpaper, and one particularly special instrument: the mbira.

The mbira is a thumb piano that plays a leading role in the Shona music from Zimbabwe. In fact, one of the pieces on the album, Chigwaya, is a traditional song used to call water spirits in the Shona religion—a song which was taught to Third Coast by their mentor Musekiwa Chingodza. By incorporating elements of their Western classical training with their study of the traditional music of the Shona people, Third Coast weaves together their own epic musical journey.

And in the spirit of Holling’s original story, the music itself becomes the small wooden boat: rather than keep it for themselves, the musicians add what they can and send the story out into the world again for others to discover.


Third Coast Percussion’s Paddle to the Sea is now available on Cedille Records. Click here to purchase the album.

New Music for June: Red River, Wonderful Town, and LOTS of Women in Music

by Maggie Molloy

SI_button2

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 this 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.”

New Music Flyer June 2018

 

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: sound collages, electronic textiles, radiophonic works, and more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

PNB: Love & Ballet
Love takes many formsfrom literal to abstractduring Pacific Northwest Ballet’s four-pack of contemporary hits featuring music by Arvo Pärt, Sufjan Stevens, Joby Talbot, and Beethoven.
6/1-6/10, Various times, McCaw Hall | $37-$187

Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra: Zimmermann
An ardent pacifist and humanist, German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann‘s abhorrence for his country’s actions during World War II resulted in compositions that cried for justice and brotherhood. Seattle Philharmonic performs his final work: “And turning around me, I saw all the injustice under the sun.”
Sat, 6/2, 2pm, Benaroya Hall | $20-$30

Ancora: Postcards
Ancora performs song suites from four corners of the world: Russia, Japan, Spain, and Iran. The program features songs by and Sergei Rachmaninoff, Bob Chilcott, Einojuhani Rautavaara, and Abbie Betinis.
Sat, 6/2, 4:30pm, Green Lake Church of Seventh-Day Adventists | $11-$14

Inverted Space Ensemble: UW Composition Studio
New music collective Inverted Space performs works by UW faculty composers Huck Hodge, Joël-François Durand, and Chuck Corey, as well as world premieres by student composers Aidan Gold, Irene Putnam, and Nikki Chang.
6/2, 7:30pm, UW Brechemin Auditorium | FREE

Tess Altiveros performs the role of E in Seattle Opera’s new production.

Seattle Opera: O+E
Journey to hell and back with a new twist on Gluck’s classic telling of Orpheus and Eurydice. A groundbreaking adaptation of the legendary tale reimagines the main characters as a modern same-sex couple and features an all-female cast and creative team.
6/2-6/10, 2pm/8pm, Seattle Opera Studios | $45

Seattle Mandolin Orchestra: The Wheel
The musical worlds of the U.S. and Iran come together in this concert featuring the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra and the Seattle Guitar Ensemble. An exciting new generation of Iranian and American composers will debut works for mandolin ensemble, guitars, strings, and voice.
Sun, 6/3, 7pm, Trinity Parish Church (Seattle) | $15-$25

Orca Concert Series: English Quintets
Seattle clarinetist and composer Sean Osborn reimagines 19 Beatles songs in his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings. Quintets penned by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Arthur Bliss round out this evening of English music.
Mon, 6/4, 7:30pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $15-$25

Seattle Modern Orchestra: In Quest of Spirit
In their season finale, the Seattle Modern Orchestra performs British composer Jonathan Harvey’s Bhakti (Devotion): an epic 50-minute work centered around Sanskrit hymns from the Rig Veda and scored for chamber ensemble and quadraphonic tape.
Sat, 6/9, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$25

Seattle Symphony Composer-in-Residence Alexandra Gardner.

Seattle Symphony: Wonderful Town
A world premiere by composer-in-residence Alexandra Gardner is performed alongside selections from Leonard Bernstein’s Broadway classic Wonderful Town and his cheeky Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs.
Thurs, 6/14, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $22-74
Sat, 6/16, 8pm, Benaroya Hall | $22-74

Seattle Symphony: [untitled] 3
The sonic landscapes of the Southwest come alive through Alexandra Gardner’s playful Coyote Turns and Mason Bates’ richly-colored Red River. Ahmet Adnan Saygun’s lyrical Partita for Solo Cello completes this late-night program in the Benaroya Hall Grand Lobby.
Fri, 6/15, 10pm, Benaroya Hall Grand Lobby | $16

Brass Band Northwest: On the Town
Brass, jazz, and classical music combine in this sparkling program featuring three dances from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town performed alongside George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture and other works.
Sat, 6/16, 7:30pm, Bellevue Presbyterian Church | $10

Kin of the Moon presents a world premiere by Renée Baker.

Kin of the Moon: Tyaga
Experimental chamber troupe Kin of the Moon performs the inimitable Renée Baker’s newest piece, Tyaga: Divine Life Suite. Scored for voice, viola, cello, percussion, electronics, and a whole lot of flutes, the piece will also feature guest improvising artists Gretchen Yanover and Greg Campbell.
Sat, 6/16, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Seattle Symphony: Copland Symphony No. 3
Aaron Copland’s Third Symphony, with its rousing Fanfare for the Common Man, comes to life alongside music of Leonard Bernstein and John Williams.
Thurs, 6/21, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $22-74
Fri, 6/22 (Untuxed), 7pm, Benaroya Hall | $13-55
Sat, 6/23, 8pm, Benaroya Hall | $22-74

Westerlies Go West: Wednesday, May 23 at the Royal Room

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by John Abbott.

Far from your typical brass band, the Westerlies are a Seattle-bred, New York-based quartet known on both coasts for their bold artistry, impeccable finesse, eclectic musical interpretations, and remarkable versatility. Fresh off a tour with the indie folk band Fleet Foxes, the Westerlies are back in the Northwest this Wednesday for a show at the Royal Room in Columbia City.

Comprised of Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler on trumpet with Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone, the Westerlies grew up together playing music in Seattle under the mentorship of pianist and composer Wayne Horvitz, who is the co-founder and music programmer of the Royal Room. The homecoming concert is made even more special by the fact that it will be Zubin Hensler’s last performance with the Westerlies, as he is leaving the group to focus on music composition, production, and his solo project twig twig.

The Westerlies performing with Wayne Horvitz at the Royal Room. Photo by Daniel Sheehan.

This Wednesday, you can expect to hear a little jazz, a little classical, some folk, roots, blues, and chamber influences—but no matter what the Westerlies play, the one element that remains constant across all of their music is the warmth, camaraderie, charisma, and humor of four longtime friends.

“Whatever ‘sound’ the Westerlies have stumbled upon is the result of four friends channeling these diverse interests through warm air, buzzing lips and conical brass tubes—with a lot of love and saliva in there too,” says Andy Clausen.

For a sneak preview, check out our in-studio videos of the guys performing works by Charles Ives, Andy Clausen, and Wayne Horvitz:


The Westerlies perform at the Royal Room Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30pm. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

Not Even Harry Partch Can Be An Island

by Michael Schell

Partch and musicians for “The Dreamer That Remains.” (1972, photo by Betty Freeman.)

No one lives up to the American Maverick sobriquet better than Harry Partch (1901–1974), whose hand-built instruments and 43-tone scale will be on display once again at this year’s Harry Partch Festival on May 11–13 at the University of Washington.

But as much as we admire the uniqueness and audacity of Partch’s career (see Harry Partch: Celebrating a Musical Maverick and Meet the Instruments of the Harry Partch Instrumentarium), even a gadfly like Partch has his influences—however disparate and contrarian they might be. Let’s take a look at a few of the raw ingredients that fed the cauldron of one of music history’s most unusual thinkers.

Neighborhood Roots

Partch spent much of his childhood in rural Arizona Territory where his neighbors included the Pasqua Yaqui people, who at that time were refugees from the ethnic cleansing policy of the Díaz regime in Mexico. Though Partch’s contact with the Yaquis must have been limited, as an adult he could remember hearing their music—the origins of a lifelong sympathy and appreciation for Native American culture.

In 1933, Partch landed a short but interesting job at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles transcribing Native American songs recorded on Edison wax cylinders by the Museum’s founder Charles Lummis. Partch must have been struck by the diffuse and inflected pitch of many of the indigenous singers, whose vocal style was often closer to heightened speech than to Western folk or classical singing. Partch’s own intoning voice technique, honed in early works like the 17 Lyrics by Li Po, owes an obvious debt to this style.

Canción de los Muchachos (Isleta Pueblo), reprinted from Enclosure 3: Harry Partch.

One of the transcribed songs from an Isleta Pueblo resident impressed Partch so much that he quoted it years later in his short piece Cloud Chamber Music (which will be performed at the Festival’s closing concert). The tune is first heard on the Adapted Viola starting at 2:18 in Partch’s own recording:

A Mexican Maverick

Partch wasn’t the first modern composer to explore microtones. The 1920s, for instance, had seen a minor heyday of music based on quarter tones: intervals halfway between the adjacent keys of a keyboard tuned in conventional equal temperament. A few manufacturers even designed new instruments for this 24-notes-per-octave system. One of them was a piano that inspired Ives’ Three Quarter-Tone Pieces, one of the few enduring masterpieces of this vogue.

Partch with his Kithara II in 1959. (Photo by Danlee Mitchell.)

One man who leaped wholeheartedly into the interwar microtonal craze was the Mexican composer-conductor Julián Carrillo (1875–1965). Carrillo postulated a system that he called trece sonido (“13th sound”, meaning that it went beyond the usual 12 notes per octave) where the scale was divided not just into quarter tones, but into eighth and even sixteenth tones (creating, at least in theory, a 96-tone scale).

Partch mentions Carrillo’s work in his book Genesis of a Music, which, in addition to describing his own music and instruments also includes a fascinating and opinionated survey of intonation systems from antiquity through the mid-20th century. But being obsessed with acoustically pure intervals, Partch disdained any system based on equal temperament (with its irrational frequency ratios). And history, abetted by the difficulty of procuring instruments adapted to the trece sonido, has largely consigned Carrillo’s output to the novelty bin.

Nevertheless, Carrillo’s best-known piece, Prelude to Christopher Columbus, bears a striking resemblance to some of Partch’s mature compositions. Written in 1922 for soprano, flute, strings, quarter tone guitar and a special sixteenth tone harp, it was known to Partch through a Cuban recording made in the early 1930s, and later through the publication of its score by Henry Cowell in 1944. Listen to the microtonal plucked string tremolos and glissandos at 4:00 of the above video, and compare them to the similar timbres at 5:23 of Partch’s Daphne of the Dunes.

Meanwhile, Back in the Old World…

Partch had European influences too. There was the drama and music of Ancient Greece, as best Partch could grasp it from the scholarship of the day. And there were the very first European operas, developed around 1600 by such now-obscure foot soldiers as Peri and Caccini, eager to build a new and expressive technique for declaiming texts with fidelity to their natural contours and rhythms. To Partch’s way of thinking, things went downhill soon afterwards, derailed by such blasphemies as bel canto singing, equal temperament, and abstract forms like sonatas and symphonies.

Detail from “The Dreamer that Remains” (1972).

Europe finally started emerging from the Dark Age of the Three Bs around the turn of the 20th century. The sprechstimme in Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912) impressed Partch as a workable middle ground between overwrought operatic singing and accompanied rhythmic recitation (whose “inharmonic relation between instruments and voice” he found objectionable). Partch was also impressed by the simple and austere vocal writing in Satie’s Socrate (1919) which, though sung, closely tracks the natural flow of its French text.

And then there’s Carl Orff. Partch admired the archaic directness of the text settings in his Carmina Burana (1935–36). But it’s Orff’s musical adaptations of Greek dramas—works largely unknown outside the German-speaking world—that display the most tantalizing similarities to Partch.

The first of them, Antigonae, was premiered in Germany in 1949, a couple of years before Partch’s first big theater work, Oedipus. Antigonae was not produced in the US until 1968 though, so the earliest exposure Partch seems likely to have had to it was a 1955 recording on Columbia Records. Nevertheless, the parallels between the two works are remarkable, and the similarities would continue as both composers independently built their catalog of ancient drama settings: Orff with Oedipus the Tyrant (1959) and Prometheus (1968), and Partch with Revelation in the Courthouse Park (1960, an adaptation of The Bacchae) and Delusion of the Fury (1964–66, based on a Noh drama and an Ethiopian folk tale). All of these works emphasize the theatricality of ritual, which for Partch was a key element in corporeality: an integrated and meaningful artistic experience spanning multiple disciplines.

Production still from Partch’s “Oedipus” at Mills College in 1952. (Photo by Carl Mydans, Life Magazine.)

The first act of Orff’s Antigonae is a good showcase of these seemingly Partchian traits: the use of intoning voices and recitative (often on a single pitch), and the percussion-centric orchestra. Orff even calls for some new mallet instruments of his own design (conceived for his music pedagogy approach called Orff Schulwerk) to go alongside six pianos and a chorus of winds and double basses. One can compare Orff’s duet between Kreon and the Messenger with Partch’s duet between Oedipus and Tiresias, or the percussive jigs in Act I of Antigonae and the opening of Partch’s Revelation.

But Orff’s instrumentarium uses conventional 12-tone tunings, inhabiting a sound world established by Stravinsky in Les Noces, whereas Partch’s inventions reflect his legacy in the American tradition of percussion music (to which he was directly linked through his friendship with Lou Harrison), which emphasized an individualistic, build-your-own ethic.

Synthesis

Vaughan Williams said that art, like charity, should begin at home. And it’s when Partch drew from his own scraggly biography that he created his most admired works. The apogee of “hobo Partch” comes in The Wayward, a personal portrait of Depression-era Americana that includes the compositions Barstow, The Letter, San Francisco, and U.S. Highball, and which will comprise the centerpiece of the Harry Partch Festival’s evening concerts.

The Wayward masterfully combines borrowed concepts of the sort we’ve seen above with ideas that only Partch could have come up with: the custom tuning system and instruments obviously, but also the dialogue, themes and sonic evocations of a particular subculture that he had uniquely assimilated.

Partch’s ability to integrate both Classical and vernacular elements—to bridge, so to speak, the highest of the high and the lowest of the low, may be what most deeply defines his legacy. However wide one’s influences may range, it’s often the intimacy of authentic experience that produces the most compelling art.


The Harry Partch Festival is May 11-13 at the University of Washington’s Meany Theater. For tickets and additional information, please click here.