You may know Estelí Gomez as the soaring soprano of the
Grammy-winning vocal troupe Roomful of Teeth. She’s also a globe-trotting
soloist, performing alongside collaborators ranging from the Seattle Symphony
to Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble.
This weekend, she’s in town as a soloist performing alongside
the singers of Seattle Pro Musica. The concert is Passion and Resurrection, titled
after the program’s centerpiece by Ēriks Ešenvalds. A dramatic masterwork for
choir, soprano soloist, and string orchestra, the piece is unique in
highlighting the voice of Mary Magdalene as the female soloist and narrator. The
program also includes Frank Martin’s luminous Mass for Double Choir and
the world premiere of Panta rhei, a new work by Seattle Pro Musica’s
conductor, Karen P. Thomas.
In this interview, we talk with
Gomez about her study of wide-ranging vocal traditions, the musical intricacies
of Ēriks Ešenvalds, and the value of the human voice.
Music in this interview from Karen P. Thomas’s Panta rhei. Audio production by Dacia Clay.
Estelí Gomez and Seattle Pro Musica perform Passion and Resurrection on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19 at 8pm at St. James Cathedral. For tickets and more information, please click here.
The duo Muriel & Blazquez, comprised of Lizzy Joyce and Lily Moharrer, is an emerging classical-inspired group based in Leeds, England. Drawing from Impressionist colors and a pop music sensibility, the duo’s piano-driven lullabies are at once haunting and hypnotic. Their latest single, “Moonbeam,” just dropped on Spotify and Soundcloud earlier this month—a follow-up to “Skin/Veil Me” and “Skin/Veil Me Pt. 2.”
In this audio interview, Lizzy and Lily talk about music, feminism, finding their voices, and prioritizing their creative vision.
Audio production by Dacia Clay with production assistance from Nikhil Sarma.
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, we’re featuring a 24-hour marathon of women composers on Second Inversion. Tune in all day long to hear works by over 200 women who have helped shape, inspire, and expand the world of classical music.
Why women composers?
For much of classical music history, socially-prescribed gender roles excluded women from participating in composition. Women were denied access to musical resources, financial patronage, art and music networks, and performance and publication opportunities.
It had far reaching effects: what we now consider the Western classical music canon solidified around the music of white men, and even in the 21st century concert programs are still overwhelmingly dominated by the music of male composers. According to a survey of 89 American symphony orchestras, women composers accounted for only 1.7 percent of the total pieces performed in the 2015-2016 concert season.
Second Inversion is working to help balance the scales. We’re proud to feature music by women composers today and every day on our 24/7 online stream and web publication.
Franghiz Ali-Zadeh: Music for Piano (Nonesuch Records)
Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh performs this solo piano piece, but with some prepared piano sorcery she manages to create the illusion of a duet. Just before sitting down to record, she draped her necklace over the middle range of the piano strings, making it sound like a string instrument called a tar (similar to a lute) that her father played. Music for Piano is a bold fusion of the traditional music of her homeland and adventurous experimental music of the present. The way she draws from her culture adds a philosophical and mysterious tinge to this lovely piano composition. – Rachele Hales
Pauline Oliveros: Suiren (New Albion Records)
“Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when
you are not listening,” Pauline Oliveros said in her 1998 keynote address at
the ArtSci98 symposium. Over 20 years later, those words have come to
encapsulate the astonishing legacy left behind by this pioneer of experimental
and electronic art music.
During today’s marathon I’m excited to share Suiren, a piece of hers that was created and recorded in a massive cistern on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula here in Washington. Using nothing but their voices, a garden hose, and the cistern’s famous 45-second reverb, Oliveros and her Deep Listening Band craft a quiet, meditative soundscape that lulls you straight into sonic hypnosis. – Maggie Molloy
I lived in Houston for most of my life, and one of my favorite places there was the Rothko Chapel. The peace of the Chapel is thick and indifferent—an atmosphere created in large part by the giant Rothko paintings on all of the walls. For lots of reasons, it’s a place a I love and return to.
When Madeleine Cocolas moved to New York City, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was that kind of place for her—a place she loved and found herself returning to. Her album Metropolitan is a tribute to the museum. She took her nine favorite pieces from the Met and used software to analyze those visual works and turn them into sound. She then incorporated the sounds generated by the software into her compositions. For Rothko, No. 16, she represents the four major colors in Rothko’s piece with four chords, and the pitch of each note in her piece is determined by the intensity of the color.
Cocolas’s Rothko, No. 16 is happy and bright and weird and full of life. I love it and plan to return to it often. – Dacia Clay
Second Inversion’s 24-Hour Marathon of Women Composers is streaming worldwide all day on Friday, March 8. Click here to listen.
My late night listening this week has come courtesy of Cecilia Lopez, whose work draws on the drone and noise music traditions while incorporating techniques from the field of sound installation.
Originally from Argentina, Lopez studied at Bard College and Wesleyan University in the U.S. before joining the cadre of New York artists associated with Phill Niblock’s Experimental Intermedia Foundation. Her new double CD is from the latter’s house label, XI Records, and features two inventive electroacoustic projects.
The first piece, Red, isn’t about colors, but is the Spanish word for web or network—in this case an array of miniature loudspeakers and contact microphones that are suspended by wires, allowing the components to swing toward and away from each other, producing variable feedback. Synthesizer drones reinforce some of the feedback frequencies, while other tones slide up and down or fade in and out. The ambiguity between chance and intention in the sound production is a key part of the listening experience.
The other piece, Machinic Fantasies, features complex synthesized drones played through loudspeakers wrapped in homemade baffles that are then inserted into 55-gallon steel drums. These contraptions are rotated by two performers, creating an effect like a guitarist’s phaser pedal, but less predictable (you can see them in action here). Long tones from a trumpet and a trombone add emphasis to individual pitches, producing a soundscape notable for its simultaneous sense of movement and stasis. It reminds me of Deep Listening Band, including the way that the physical resonance of the performance venue is allowed to shape the overall sound.
Machinic Fantasies, which lasts 73 minutes, has a written score, but like the multiple tracks that comprise Red, it feels less like a determinate composition than a sonic environment whose streams flow languidly along their natural currents. Lopez calls these works “performed installations”, as if to emphasize that her input happens mainly during their design phase. They demonstrate that despite all the portable and inexpensive digital tools available today, one can still make relevant music with such crudities as oscillators, cables, and speakers.
On this week’s Seattle Symphony Spotlight, Dave Beck speaks with the youngest composer ever to win a Pulitzer Prize in music: Caroline Shaw.
Caroline is in Seattle this weekend for the world premiere of Watermark, her new orchestral work written in response to Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto. The idea for the piece was suggested to her by pianist Jonathan Biss, who performs both pieces with the Seattle Symphony this weekend, conducted by Ludovic Morlot. The program opens with Shostakovich’s Symphony No.1, a piece that brought the young composer international acclaim at the age of 19.
All of the works on the program represent strikingly original creations by composers in the early years of their careers. In this interview, Caroline talks with us about the inspiration, the writing process, and the meaning behind the title Watermark.
Caroline Shaw’s Watermark premieres at the Seattle Symphony Jan. 31-Feb. 2. Click here for tickets and more information.