The Bang on a Can Marathon: Social Distancing Edition

by Peter Tracy

Members of the Bang on a Can All-Stars are among the performers in Sunday’s marathon. From left to right: Robert Black, Ken Thomson, Ashley Bathgate, Vicky Chow, Mark Stewart, and David Cossin.

Since its idealistic beginnings in 1987, the Bang on a Can Marathon has attained something of a legendary status among fans and creators of contemporary classical music. With early performances featuring well-loved figures like John Cage, Steve Reich, and Pauline Oliveros alongside music by up-and-coming composers, the yearly marathon has continued to be a welcoming and community-oriented festival that breaks down the barriers between composers, performers, audience, and genre. 

Given the circumstances this year, Bang on a Can is livestreaming the yearly marathon this Sunday with over six hours packed with adventurous music of all shapes and sizes. Returning this year is the ever-popular minimalism of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, as well as John Adam’s cinematic China Gates performed by Bang on a Can All-Star pianist Vicky Chow. Also coming your way are performances by genre-defying performers like jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer and flautist, vocalist, and composer Nathalie Joachim, whose recent album Fanm d’Ayiti explores music from the women of Haiti.

It’s hard to sum up just how much innovative music is on offer this Sunday, with musicians from around the world and from a wide variety of musical traditions coming together in one back-to-back celebration of sonic experimentation and community. As it’s always done, the Bang on a Can Marathon continues to show that supporting the artists and audiences of new music is a mission that doesn’t stop at the doors of the concert hall.

You can stream the full marathon right here on Sunday, May 3 from 12-6pm PT, 3-9pm ET.


For more details on the Bang on a Can Marathon, including the full performance lineup, click here.

String Quartets from Four Corners of the Globe: Saturday, May 2 | 10pm

Gabriela Lena Frank, Lei Liang, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, and the Danish String Quartet are among the featured artists in this week’s episode.

by Maggie Molloy

The string quartet is basically the pinnacle of chamber music. It’s an ensemble that just about every composer writes for at some point in their career. Two violins, one viola, one cello—and an entire world of possibilities.

Robert Schumann described the string quartet as a conversation among four people. Like any good conversation, a good string quartet is one where each voice contributes—where the players listen to one another, exchange ideas, and share a bit of their own personalities.

As we’ll hear on this Saturday’s episode of Second Inversion, the string quartet can also serve as a conversation between different musical cultures. This weekend, we’ll explore string quartets from four different corners of the globe. Tune in for music inspired by the mountains of Peru, the shamanic rituals of Mongolia, the musical modes of Azerbaijan, and the folk songs of Sweden.

To listen, tune in to KING FM on Saturday, May 2 at 10pm PT.


Check out our in-studio video of the Danish String Quartet.

Sneak Peek Audio Leak: Alex Mincek’s ‘Glossolalia’

by Peter Tracy

The Wet Ink Ensemble’s new album is out May 1. Photo by Alexander Perrelli.

For many of us, music is synonymous with community, collaboration, sharing, and play. For the Wet Ink Ensemble, this spirit of collaboration is behind everything they do, from the writing process to performance itself. The composer-performer collective is breaking new ground on their forthcoming album Glossolalia/Lines on Black, which features works by ensemble members Alex Mincek and Sam Pluta that make wildly creative use of electronics, voice, and off-the-wall playing techniques.

Mincek’s contribution to the album, Glossolalia, is named after the phenomenon known as “speaking in tongues,” in which people speak words that are apparently in languages they are entirely unfamiliar with. On first listen, it’s easy to see why: the piece’s third movement, titled “Thread 2,” features a shifting drone over which ensemble members violently interrupt to create a chaotic chatter reminiscent of the piece’s namesake. Aggressive piano lines and a fluttering saxophone mimic ensemble member Kate Soper’s off-kilter and lyric-less vocalizations to create a unique and wonderfully unpredictable musical texture.

We’re excited to share a preview of “Thread 2” ahead of the album’s May 1 release date.


The Wet Ink Ensemble’s new album Glossolalia/Lines on Black is out May 1 on Carrier Records. For more details, click here.

Music for Meditation: Saturday, April 25 | 10pm

by Maggie Molloy

Pauline Oliveros, Philip Glass, and Ravi Shankar are among this week’s featured artists.

In times of chaos and uncertainty, music can help us find solace, comfort, and clarity.

On this week’s episode of Second Inversion, we’re exploring quiet and introspective sounds from our own backyard and around the globe. From gong vibrations to moonlit meditations, we’ll hear music that invites us to slow down, center ourselves, and just listen deeply.

To listen, tune in to KING FM on Saturday, April 25 at 10pm PT.

Music of Mother Nature: 5 Works Inspired by the Great Outdoors

Photo by Erin Anderson.

by Maggie Molloy

The Emerald City is famously green—and not just in terms of plant life. Last year Seattle was rated among the top 10 most environmentally sustainable cities in the U.S.

Today is Earth Day: a worldwide event dedicated to education and awareness around issues of environmental protection and sustainability. But here in Seattle, every day is Earth Day; every day, we strive to take care of our planet and work toward a sustainable future.

Photo by Erin Anderson.

So in celebration of our beautiful planet—both today and every day—we’re sharing some of our favorite pieces inspired by plants, animals, and the overwhelming magnificence of nature:

Mamoru Fujieda: Patterns of Plants

We experience plant life through a variety of senses: sight, taste, touch, smell. But have you ever wondered what plants sound like? Japanese post-minimalist composer Mamoru Fujieda decided to find out.

He spent 15 years of his career creating music based on the electrical activity in living plants. Using a device called a “Plantron,” he measured electrical fluctuations on the surface of plant leaves and converted that data into sound. Fujieda then foraged through the resulting sonic forest for pleasing musical patterns, which he used as the basis for his magnum opus: a bouquet of piano miniatures blooming with ornamented melodies and delicate details.


Meredith Monk: On Behalf of Nature

Meredith Monk likes to think outside the box—the voice box, that is. Famous for her groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument and a language in and of itself, her music speaks volumes without ever using words.

Monk’s multidisciplinary performance piece On Behalf of Nature is a wordless poetic meditation on the environment; an exploration of the delicate space where humans coexist with the natural and spiritual world. The result is an almost ritualistic soundscape of extended vocal techniques dancing above a hypnotic and at times eerie instrumental accompaniment.


John Luther Adams: Become Ocean

Just about everything in John Luther Adams’ musical oeuvre qualifies as Earth Day ear candy, but we Seattleites are partial to his Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece Become Ocean, commissioned and premiered by our own Seattle Symphony in 2013.

Inspired by the spectacular waters of the Pacific Northwest and composed in reaction to the imminent threats of global warming, Become Ocean is a literal ocean of sound—a sparkling seascape that immerses the listener in beautiful washes of color. Harmonies ebb and flow with the fluidity of the tide, cresting into bold, climactic waves amid misty and melodic winds.

“As a composer, it’s my belief that music can contribute to the awakening of our ecological understanding,” Adams said. “By deepening our awareness of our connections to the earth, music can provide a sounding model for the renewal of human consciousness and culture.”


Nat Evans: Coyoteways

Seattle composer Nat Evans spent many a night listening to the lonely howl of the coyote as he hiked the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail. So many, in fact, that the animal became the inspiration (along with the writings of Beat poet Gary Snyder) for an album that explores the mythological role of the coyote as a cunning trickster and schemer.

Coyoteways evokes the vast and expansive landscapes of the American West by layering field recordings from Evans’ travels brushed with long, sweeping guitar lines and occasional whispers of saxophone and percussion. The result is an ambient soundscape that echoes with the simple splendor of the great outdoors and the stealthy gaze of the coyotes that watch over it.


Whitney George: Extinction Series

Our planet is currently in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals—the worst wave of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs over 65 million years ago. Composer Whitney George is fighting to change those numbers.

George’s Extinction Series is an ongoing collection of somber and introspective miniatures for various solo instruments, each one composed as a musical obituary to an extinct animal on the rapidly-growing list. The sheer volume of this indeterminate series serves as commentary on mankind’s careless destruction of our planet—and it also poses a direct challenge to Earth’s inhabitants: in order for the series to ever be completed, we must first fundamentally change how we interact with our environment.


This article was originally published in 2017.