From Octave 9 to Outer Space: Derek Bermel’s Adventures at the Seattle Symphony

by Maggie Molloy

As Composer-in-Residence with the Seattle Symphony this year, Derek Bermel kept pretty busy. Putting together multimedia performances in the brand new Octave 9 space, collaborating with local veterans through the Compass Housing Alliance, and nurturing the voices of young composers were just a few of his weekly activities.

He also wrote an immersive new piece about the Mars rover Curiosity, was featured as part of a 24-hour contemporary music marathon, and found an innovative new way to fit the full Seattle Symphony Orchestra within the intimate walls of Octave 9.

Learn about all this and more in our interview with the composer below.


Music in this interview is from Derek Bermel’s Hot Zone, performed by Alarm Will Sound. This interview originally aired on Classical KING FM’s Seattle Symphony Spotlight. Audio editing by Dave Beck.

Soprano Estelí Gomez Soars with Seattle Pro Musica

by Dacia Clay

Soprano Estelí Gomez performs with Seattle Pro Musica on May 18 and 19.

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.

Brainy Music: Getting Cerebral with the JACK Quartet

Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman of the JACK Quartet.

by Dacia Clay

Ever wonder what’s happening in our brains when we make or hear music? Composers and researchers from the University of Washington teamed up with the JACK Quartet to find out.

Over the course of a three-year residency at UW, the team studied the integration of brain and body signals in artistic performance. They outfitted the JACK Quartet with portable brain helmets and muscle sensors that detected brain activity while listening to, seeing, and performing music. Then, they harnessed these neuroscientific discoveries to create new art.

The culmination of this extended residency is a concert this Saturday night titled Human Subjects. Featuring original music by Richard Karpen and Juan Pampin (from the UW DXARTS Faculty), the concert combines the JACK Quartet’s sonified brain waves and neural sensors with music played live on their actual string instruments.

In this interview, we talk with violinist Christopher Otto and violist John Pickford Richards about new music, neuroscience, and what it’s like to be a human subject.


The JACK Quartet performs Human Subjects this Saturday, May 18 at 7:30pm at Meany Hall. For tickets and more information, click here.

The “Past” as Musical Prologue

by Dacia Clay

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Caleb Burhans. Photo by Alice Teeple.

Caleb Burhans was just 17 when he saw his father die. Yet even while struggling with immense grief and an eventual alcohol addiction, he racked up two degrees from Eastman, worked with artists from Yoko Ono and Arcade Fire to Steve Reich and Meredith Monk, helped found Alarm Will Sound, played with ACME, had his work performed by ensembles like the JACK Quartet, and released four studio albums (one of which—Evensong­—was named one of NPR’s Top 50 Albums of 2013).

Many of Burhans’ colleagues and friends didn’t make it out of alcohol and substance abuse. And now, after five years of sobriety, Burhans has come out with a very personal new album called Past Lives that reflects on “years lost to addiction and fallen friends.”

In this audio interview, Burhans talks about what creating is like now that he’s sober, the people behind the music on the album, his collaboration with guitarist and composer Grey Mcmurray, and the music itself.

Music in this interview from Caleb Burhans’ Past Lives.
Audio production by Dacia Clay with production assistance from Nikhil Sarma.


Caleb Burhans’ new album Past Lives is out now on Cantaloupe Music. Click here to learn more.

VIDEO PREMIERE: ‘Silver Lacquer’ by Julian Loida

by Maggie Molloy

Julian Loida hears music a little differently than most people. In fact, he actually kind of sees it.

Loida has synesthesia, a unique sensory phenomenon in which one sense (in this case, sound) triggers another sense (such as sight), at the same time. For him, music is a full-body experience, each sound evoking a different color, texture, or even taste.

The percussionist and composer explores the full spectrum of senses in Wallflower, his debut solo album of original works coming out this fall. Shimmering vibraphone melodies are textured with piano, voice, samples, and subtly processed sounds to create immersive sensory experiences.

We’re thrilled to offer an exclusive video premiere for Loida’s first single from the album, “Silver Lacquer.”


Julian Loida’s debut solo album Wallflower is out September 6. For more information, click here.