Tones & Colors: Liza Stepanova on Art and Music

by Dacia Clay

Pianist Liza Stepanova says she structured her latest album, Tones & Colors (CAG Records), as if she were programming a recital. It’s divided into segments with names that sound like the rooms of an art museum: “Nature and Impressionism,” and “Conversations Across Time,” for example. Stepanova gave the album this structure because on it, she explores the relationship between visual art and music. In this interview, she talks specifically about two pieces from Tones & Colors—one by George Crumb, and one by György Ligeti—and the artwork that inspired them.

Music in this interview, from the album Tones & Colors (used with permission): “Adoration of the Magi” (from A Little Suite for Christmas, A.D.1979) by George Crumb and Infinite Column by György Ligeti.

LIVE BROADCAST: Third Coast Percussion Paddles to the Sea

by Maggie Molloy

Second Inversion presents a LIVE broadcast of Third Coast Percussion performing their original score for Paddle to the Sea, streaming worldwide this Thursday, Jan. 25 at 8pm PST. Click here to tune in.

A small wooden figure in a canoe is the protagonist of Holling C. Holling’s 1941 children’s book, Paddle to the Sea. Later adapted into an Oscar-nominated film, the story follows the epic journey of a small wooden boat that was 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.

This Thursday Third Coast Percussion performs their own original live score for Paddle to the Sea alongside a screening of the film at Meany Center for the Performing Arts. The music will be released as an album on Feb. 9—but you can get an exclusive first listen during Second Inversion’s LIVE broadcast of the performance this Thursday, Jan. 25 at 8pm PST. (Streaming worldwide! Click here to tune in.)

Third Coast’s film score 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 entire ocean of sounds ranging from pitched desk bells to skittering wood blocks, ceramic tiles, bowls of water, 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 performs Paddle to the Sea on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 8pm at Meany Center for the Performing Arts. Click here for tickets and additional information.

LIVE VIDEO STREAM: A Far Cry on Friday, January 19 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

by Maggie Molloy

England across the ages is the theme of tonight’s A Far Cry concert, poetically titled Albion after the oldest known name for the island of Great Britain. Join us Friday, Jan. 19 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a LIVE video stream of the Boston-based chamber orchestra as they perform music by a handful of England’s most iconic classical composers.

Internationally acclaimed tenor Nicholas Phan joins the orchestra for Benjamin Britten’s timeless Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, Op. 31. Composed during World War II, the piece sets six poems by British poets on the subject of night, in all its darkness and splendor. Also on the program is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 1950 Concerto Grosso for string orchestra, plus a Baroque throwback to the music of Henry Purcell, Matthew Locke, and Nicholas Lanier.

Visit this page tonight, Friday, Jan. 19 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a LIVE video of A Far Cry’s Albion, streaming right here:

Check out the full program below, and click here for program notes.

Henry Purcell
Overture and Air from King Arthur
Sweeter Than Roses
She Loves and She Confesses Too (arr. René Schiffer)

Matthew Locke
Lilk and Curtain Tune from The Tempest

Nicholas Lanier
No More Shall Meads be Deck’d with Flowers (arr. René Schiffer)

Matthew Locke
Prelude to Act V from The Fairy Queen
Evening Hymn (arr. René Schiffer)

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Concerto Grosso

INTERMISSION

Benjamin Britten
Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, Op. 31
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Hazel Dean Davis, horn

To learn more about our live-streaming video broadcasts of A Far Cry, click here.


A Far Cry’s Albion performance streams live on this page on Friday, Jan. 19 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET. For more information about the orchestra, please click here.

Music for Troubled Times: SMCO Performs Gabriela Lena Frank

by Maggie Molloy

Music is one of the great unifiers of our humanity, particularly in times of political division and social unrest. This Saturday, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra reflects on today’s troubled times with a message of hope and a program of music that unites traditions old and new, near and far.

The concert, titled “Journeys of Discovery and Hope,” begins with a composer whose life and music embodies her own cross-cultural heritage. Born to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Gabriela Lena Frank’s music draws from her extensive travels in South America, her studies of Latin American folklore, and her background in the Western classical music tradition.

“In our day and age it’s important that classical music is not seen as an aged art form that is reserved for people who occupy a certain stereotype: white, affluent, elderly,” said SMCO Music Director Geoffrey Larson. “Gabriela Lena Frank’s music makes a compelling statement that this genre belongs to all people and cultures, and is alive with great variety and diversity.”

Under Larson’s baton this Saturday, SMCO performs Frank’s Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout for string chamber orchestra. Mixing elements of Western classical with Andean folk music traditions, the piece draws on the concept of mestizaje as envisioned by the Peruvian writer José María Arguedas, where cultures can coexist without the subjugation of one by the other. Across its six short movements, Leyendas uses Western classical instruments to emulate the rich timbres and harmonic textures of Andean instruments such as the panpipe and the tarka—and also to depict the vibrant characters of Andean history and folklore.

“With the influence of her own heritage, Frank creates music with fierce Peruvian-derived rhythms and fascinating allusions to traditional instruments,” Larson said. “She brings a vibrant palette of colors to her music that broadens audience conceptions of what an ensemble can sound like, and what classical music can be.”

For Saturday’s program, Frank’s vividly illustrated Andean walkabout is paired with something a bit more traditional but every bit as timely: Haydn’s Mass for Troubled Times, for which the orchestra will be joined by Choral Arts Northwest and soloists Tess Altiveros, Julia Benzinger, Brendan Tuohy, and Charles Robert Stephens.

“Journeys of Discovery and Hope” is the second concert in SMCO’s 2017-2018 season, which is dedicated to celebrating diversity and honoring voices that have been too often marginalized—or worse, silenced—throughout the classical music tradition.


“Journeys of Discovery and Hope” is Saturday, Jan. 20 at 8pm at Plymouth Congregational Church. For tickets and additional information, please click here.

The Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival in Seattle and Beyond

by Maggie Molloy

The Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival is lighting up stages around Seattle this month with performances by the likes of Ashley Bathgate, Sandbox Percussion, The City of Tomorrow, and more.

Founded this year by composer Scott Anthony Shell, the festival begins in Seattle with a string of performances spanning from January 19 through February 1, with festival artists also touring through Portland and Eugene, Oregon, and cellist Ashley Bathgate continuing on down the California coast.

“I want this festival to be a performer-centric model rather than composer-centric, in that the performers can program their own repertoire and showcase music they are most comfortable performing,” Shell said. “I also wanted a wide range of genres to be represented within the field of contemporary classical music.”

The festival lineup features Delgani String Quartet, Orlando Cela, Hub New Music, Iktus Duo, Sandbox Percussion, the City of Tomorrow, and Ashley Bathgate. Many of the featured artists are prominent players from New York and the broader East Coast new music scene, and musically they span the gamut from contemporary classical to experimental and avant-garde.

“There are plenty of East Coast transplants and open-minded people on the West Coast so I think there is a receptive audience for new music, even by those unfamiliar with it,” Shell said.

This year’s event features composers ranging from 20th century greats like Lou Harrison, György Ligeti, and Alan Hovhaness to some of the 21st century’s top composers like Andy Akiho, Laura Kaminsky, Steve Reich, and Andrew Norman. And this year is only just the beginning.

“I want the festival to contribute towards the awareness and appreciation of this amazing art form through live performances of these incredible musicians,” Shell said. “I hope it can be an annual event where I would be able to also incorporate other educational tools with a focus on community outreach and community building.”

Let’s meet this year’s performers:

*Please note, dates listed below are for Seattle performances. Click here to explore dates for other cities on the festival tour.

Delgani String Quartet
Friday, Jan. 19, 8pm | Good Shepherd Chapel
This Northwest quartet performs a new work by Benjamin Krause inspired by the Oregon Cascade Range, from the ghostly lava fields to the glorious trees, craters, and crevices. Works by Alan Hovhaness and György Ligeti round out the program.


Orlando Cela
Sunday, Jan. 21, 3pm | Youngstown Cultural Arts Center
Orlando Cela is a Boston-based, Venezuelan-born flutist specializing in contemporary and experimental flute repertoire. For this performance, he explores every timbre and extended technique of the instrument through a virtuosic program featuring music by Roger Briggs, Bryan Ferneyhough, Jean-Patrick Besingrand, Mac Waters, and Robert Dickplus, one of his own original improvisations using Indian Classical music form.


Hub New Music
Monday, Jan. 22, 7:30pm | 18th & Union
With a unique instrumentation of flute, clarinet, violin, and cello, this Boston-based ensemble makes its Seattle debut at Spontaneous Combustion. Their program features a world premiere performance of Robert Honstein’s Soul Horse
, along with Laura Kaminsky’s The Full Range of Blue, a visceral work written in response to the aftermath of 9/11. The program finishes with David Drexler’s Forgotten At Dawn, a winner of the Spontaneous Combustion International Call for Scores.


Iktus Duo
Thursday, Jan. 25, 8pm | Good Shepherd Chapel
Flutist Hristina Blagoeva and percussionist Chris Graham team up for a dynamic program exploring an eclectic mix of styles within the contemporary classical genre, from the Eastern-inspired works of Lou Harrison to the wide-ranging musical musings of Joseph Pereira, Adam Vidiksis, James Romig, and Washington-based composer Bruce Hamilton.


Sandbox Percussion
Saturday, Jan. 27, 7pm | Music Center of the Northwest
A leading proponent of contemporary percussion music, Sandbox Percussion performs pivotal 20th century works and experimental 21st century works alike. For this performance, they lend their mallets to music by Steve Reich, Andy Akiho, Victor Caccese, Jonny Allen, Elliot Cooper Cole, and Thomas Kotcheff.


The City of Tomorrow
Tuesday, Jan. 30, 7:30pm | The Royal Room
The City of Tomorrow is an avant-garde wind quintet that performs contemporary classical and experimental music rooted in environmentalism and humanism. This particular performance explores spatial relationships through music, featuring custom lighting design by Alex Deahl and a graphic score by Seattle-based composer John Teske that is based on topographical maps, which the quintet will use as a basis for improvisation and movement.


Ashley Bathgate
Thursday, Feb. 1, 8pm | Rainier Arts Center
Perhaps best known as the cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Ashley Bathgate is also an extraordinary soloist in her own right, constantly pushing the boundaries of traditional cello repertoire with her performances of contemporary, avant-garde, and experimental works. For this performance she plays works with and without electronics by Steve Reich, Andrew Norman, and many more. For a sneak preview of her playing, check out our in-studio video below of Bathgate performing Michael Gordon’s Light is Calling for cello and audio playback.


The Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival is in venues across Seattle January 19 through February 1. Click here for tickets and more information on other festival dates and locations down the West Coast.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, January 12 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Angélica Negrón: La Isla Mágica (Innova Recordings)
Eleonore Oppenheim, double bass

Brimming with whimsy and wistful nostalgia, Angélica Negrón’s La Isla Mágica combines punchy, video game-worthy electronics with double bass, percussion, and ambient vocals. Performed here by Eleonore Oppenheim on her debut solo album Home, her bass swings, sways, and dances amid a swirl of technicolor electronics. At times it sounds almost as though she’s in the middle of a theme park, playing among the neon signs, the colorful carnival games, and the translucent stars above. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 1pm hour today to hear this piece.


Gabriela Lena Frank: Danza de los Saqsampillos (Naxos Records)
Alias Chamber Ensemble

I seriously can’t get enough of these works by Gabriela Lena Frank, with all their vibrant colors and stunning rhythmic character. Gabriela was born in the US to parents of Peruvian/Chinese and Lithuanian/Jewish ancestry, and much of her music is influenced by her heritage. Danza de los Saqsampillos is inspired by the Peruvian “saqsampillo,” a rambunctious jungle-dweller with a characteristic jumping two-person dance. This performance from the Alias Chamber Ensemble album Hilos is the version for two marimbas.
– Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 3pm hour today to hear this piece.


David Bowie: “Ashes to Ashes” (arr. Bischoff)
Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff

David Bowie once said that “Ashes to Ashes” represented his own feelings of inadequacy about his work not having much importance.  Until “Ashes to Ashes” was released in 1980, much of Bowie’s music was cloaked in concept and personas so the vulnerability and maturity of this song was, among other things, his way of closing that chapter and moving on. In this version, from an album recorded just two weeks following Bowie’s death in 2016, the harsh textures, edginess, and synthesized guitars of the original are replaced with softer melancholy strings and sultry nightclub vocals.  Bowie is celebrated here, not emulated, and that’s what makes this tribute shine.
 Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear this piece.


David Crowell: “Waiting in the Rain for Snow” (New Amsterdam Records)
NOW Ensemble

This is exactly what waiting in the rain for snow sounds like.

NOW Ensemble’s flute, clarinet, double bass, oboe, piano, and electric guitar combine the excitement and anticipation of dramatic, beautiful flakes drifting from the sky, with the anxious desire to stay dry while the undesirable in-between phase of sleet insistently pounds the pavement in front of you. – Brendan Howe

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece.

NUMUS Celebrates New Music in the Northwest

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Jim Holt.

You like new music? Then you’re going to love NUMUS Northwest.

Now in its second year, NUMUS Northwest is a day-long event dedicated to the creation, performance, and experience of new music in Seattle and beyond. Join us Saturday, January 20 from 8:30am-9:30pm at Cornish College of the Arts’ Kerry Hall for a full day of new and experimental music. Click here to RSVP.

NUMUS is created and curated under the direction of six new music luminaries: Kevin Clark (New Music USA), James Falzone (Cornish College of the Arts), Jim Holt, Shaya Lyon (Live Music Project), Kerry O’Brien (Cornish), and Maggie Stapleton (Jensen Artists). This year’s event features everything from workshops on audience cultivation to live performances of music for electric kitchen appliances. Plus, Second Inversion’s own Maggie Molloy and Seth Tompkins will lead a panel on new music in the media.

Check out the full schedule below:

8:30-9:00am: Registration, coffee, & bagels

9:00-9:15am: Welcome

9:30-10:30am: New Music Speed Dating

It’s the fastest way to meet everyone in the room! All NUMUS attendees are paired up in groups of two, switching partners every 60 seconds until everyone is acquainted.


11:00-11:50am: The Other Side of the Inbox: Media Perspectives on New Music

Leah Baltus, City Arts Magazine Editor-in-Chief
Maggie Molloy, Second Inversion Editor
Sarah Zwinklis, Relevant Tones Producer (WFMT Radio)
Seth Tompkins, 98.1 Classical KING FM Program Director

Radio and print media professionals in Seattle and Chicago discuss the media’s perspective on new music and offer tips, tricks, and strategies for how to pitch new music to local and national media organizations.


12:00-12:50pm: Where the Wild Things Are: The New Age of Organizations and Audiences

Andrew Goldstein, Emerald City Music Executive Director

Emerald City Music Executive Director Andrew Goldstein explores methods for building an organization, attracting an audience, and elevating engagement in classical and new music, providing real-world examples from his experience co-founding Emerald City Music.


1:00-2:30: Lunch Break | Ask a Fundraiser | Piano in Perpetual Progress

A leisurely lunch break allows time to set up an appointment with professional fundraiser and musician Rose Bellini, or drop by Neal Kosaly-Meyer’s long-form piano improvisation which studies the very slow evolution from one note to two to three or more.


2:30-3:30pm: Afternoon Concert: Younge, Arias, Molk, Akiho

An afternoon of experimental percussion music featuring electric junk, spoken text, field recordings, digital playback, and more.

Program:
                                                               

Bethany Younge – Electric Speak! Junk for Me! (10′)
Melanie Sehman, voice and percussion

Spencer Arias – Other Cities (20’)
Chris Sies, percussion

David Molk – hope (6.5′)
Melanie Voytovich, glockenspiel

Andy Akiho – Stop Speaking (6’)
Storm Benjamin, percussion


4:00-4:50pm: Why Are Women Composers Stuck Talking About Being Women Composers?

Lily Shababi, Cornish music student

In this homage to Pauline Oliveros, third-year Cornish student Lily Shababi takes a look back on the historical lack of women composers on concert programs and a look forward toward how we can dismantle the patriarchal systems at play in classical music.


5:00-5:50pm: Funders on Funding

Irene Gómez, Office of Arts & Culture Project Manager
Charlie Rathbun, 4Culture Arts Program Manager
Kevin Clark, Moderator
Additional panelist(s) TBA

Leadership from 4Culture and the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture discuss the arts funding process in a session moderated by philanthropy consultant and composer Kevin Clark.


6:00-7:30pm: Dinner Break


8:00-9:30pm: Evening Concert: Eaton, Soper, Furrer, Lang, Mazzoli, Triptet

NUMUS Northwest ends with an evening concert of solo and chamber music that combines acoustic instruments and live electronics.

Program:

Kaley Lane Eaton – karma repair kit (6′)
Kate Soper – Only the words themselves mean what they say (12′)
Stack Effect Duo

Beat Furrer – Voicelessness, The Snow Has No Voice (11′)
David Lang – Cage (6′)
Missy Mazzoli – Orizzonte (5′)
Missy Mazzoli – Isabelle Eberhardt Dreams of Pianos
Jesse Myers, piano

Triptet – Slowly, Away (20′)
Triptet


NUMUS Northwest is Saturday, Jan. 20 from 8:30am-9:30pm at Cornish College of the Arts’ Kerry Hall. Click here for tickets and more information.