Cellist Seth Parker Woods: New Sounds, New Formats, New Faces

by Dave Beck

Performing on an instrument made of ice, introducing a high-tech concert hall, and taking musical inspiration from the worlds of dance and martial arts are all in a day’s work for cellist Seth Parker Woods.

He’s the first ever Seattle Symphony Artist in Residence at the new Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center in Benaroya Hall. A dedicated advocate of new music, Seth is also passionate about creating new opportunities for fellow African-American and Latinx musicians, woefully underrepresented in the world of “classical” music. Learn more in his interview with Classical KING FM’s Dave Beck on the Seattle Symphony Spotlight.

Seth Parker Woods performs a program titled That Which is Fundamental at Octave 9 on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 7:30pm. He will be collaborating with percussionist Bonnie Whiting.

Cellos, Carols, and Holiday Cheer: New Music for December

by Maggie Molloy

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! 

If you’d like to be included on this list, please submit your event to the Live Music Project at least six weeks prior to the event and tag it with “new music.”


Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. Coming up: aural rituals, sonic thresholds, and dark ambient music.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Cornish Presents: Scores of Sound
Fill up on new and experimental music in this three-day festival of student performances and premieres from Cornish College of the Arts.
12/4-12/6, 10am-10pm, Various locations | Free

Seattle Modern Opera Company: ‘Suor Angelica’
This modern-day adaptation of Puccini’s heart-wrenching one act opera reimagines the title nun as a teenager whose spiritual and social strength is put to the ultimate test at her Catholic boarding school.
Thurs-Fri, 12/5-12/6, 8pm, University Heights Center | $22

The Westerlies Holiday Bash
The Seattle-bred, New York-based brass quartet returns home for the holidays to present a concert of festive brass music and original arrangements. All proceeds from this special fundraiser support the ensemble’s ongoing commitment to access, education, and community outreach.
Thurs, 12/5, 7pm, The Knife Room | $30-$100

Phil Kline’s ‘Unsilent Night’
In this contemporary twist on holiday caroling, audience members each download one of four tracks of music which, when played together, comprise Phil Kline’s ethereal Unsilent Night. Participants meet up with boomboxes and speakers and each hit “play” at the same time—then walk through the streets of Capitol Hill creating an ambient, aleatoric sound sculpture.
Fri, 12/6, 6:30pm, Kerry Hall | Free

Portland Cello Project: Purple Reign
Prince reigns supreme in Portland Cello Project’s latest concert program. Joined by musicians who have collaborated with Prince in the past, Portland Cello Project celebrates the pop icon’s inimitable musical voice and extraordinary artistic legacy.
Fri, 12/6, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $40-$50

Portland Cello Project.

Inverted Space Ensemble
An introspective evening of works for solo voice with accompaniment ranging from piano to the adapted instruments of Harry Partch. Pianist Brendan Kinsella shares a program of original music alongside works by Frederic Rzewski and Luke Fitzpatrick, while Fitzpatrick and Charles Corey perform a selection of Partch’s microtonal musings.
Fri, 12/6, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

UW Composition Studio
There’s a whole lot of cutting-edge music coming out of the University of Washington, and this concert spans the gamut: hear new and unconventional sounds from students, faculty, alumni, and guests of the UW Composition program.
Sat, 12/7, 7:30pm, UW Brechemin Auditorium | Free

Ladies Musical Club: The Inspiring Words of Emily Dickinson
The immortal poetry of Emily Dickinson gives rise to many different musical interpretations by 20th and 21st century composers. Included in this program are settings by Aaron Copland, John Duke, Lori Laitman, Craig Urquhart, and more.
Mon, 12/9, 7:30pm, University House | Free

Cellist Seth Parker Woods.

Seth Parker Woods: That Which is Fundamental
The simplicity, complexity, and musicality of language inspired this program of works for cello, recorded voice, and everyday objects. Cellist Seth Parker Woods and percussionist Bonnie Whiting explore the fascinating textures and unexpected sounds of Julius Eastman, Anton Lukoszevieze, Tonia Ko, Vinko Globokar, and more.
Wed, 12/11, 7:30pm, Octave 9 | $35

Leanna Keith and Rachel Nesvig perform in High Right Now. Photo by Kelly O.

High Right Now
Drift into deeper consciousness during this evening of hypnotic minimalist music. Dreamed up by marimbist Erin Jorgensen, the sonic ritual brings together an all-star lineup of local musicians to perform the immersive musings of Brian Lawlor and Benjamin Marx.
Wed, 12/11, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $20

Emerald City Music: Jason Vieaux & Kristin Lee
From the sultry tango of Astor Piazzolla to the musical mosaics of Vivian Fung, this concert explores globe-spanning duets for violin and classical guitar. Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux and Emerald City Music Artistic Director Kristin Lee team up to explore this rich and underrated repertory.
Fri, 12/13, 8pm, 415 Westlake | $45
Sat, 12/14, 7:30pm, Olympia Ballroom | $23-$43

The Esoterics: Humility
Giving voice to verses from the Bible, a Mohawk prayer, a speech by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, and wide-ranging poetry, this expansive program explores the moments that bring us down to earth and fill us with empathy, wonder, and respect. Works by Gabriela Lena Frank, Stacy Garrop, Augusta Read Thomas, and more examine different forms of humility.
Fri, 12/13, 8pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (Laurelhurst) | $15-$22
Sat, 12/14, 8pm, Holy Rosary Catholic Church (West Seattle) | $15-$22
Sun, 12/15, 7pm, Christ Episcopal Church (Tacoma) | $15-$22

Neal Kosaly-Meyer: ‘Finnegans Wake’
Though most would consider James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake a work of literature, pianist Neal Kosaly-Meyer hears music in the words. He’s dedicating 17 years to learning and performing (by memory) this sprawling work—one chapter per year. This year is Chapter 6, performed as always with props, costumes, sound and lighting design, and acute musical detail.
Sat, 12/14, 7:30pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Seattle Pro Musica: Solstice
During the darkest part of the year, Seattle Pro Musica celebrates warmth and light with a program of joyous winter choral music from around the globe. R. Murray Schafer’s evocative Snowforms features a beautiful graphic score that sets Inuit words for different types of snow, while Morten Lauridsen’s O nata lux finds solace in eternal light. Plus: music of Seattle Pro Musica Artistic Director Karen P. Thomas and other Northwest composers.
Sat, 12/14, 3pm & 7:30pm, Bastyr University Chapel | $21-$38
Sat, 12/21, 3pm & 7:30pm, Seattle First Baptist Church | $21-$38

Opera on Tap: Annual Holiday Show
Grab your best ugly Christmas sweater for this annual holiday extravaganza as local singers belt out opera classics and carols alike.
Tues, 12/17, 7:30pm, Blue Moon Tavern | $5

Seattle New Music Happy Hour: Dec. 4 on Capitol Hill

We’re hosting New Music Happy Hour in a new neighborhood! Join us for casual drinks and conversation at Hillside Bar on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 5-7pm.

Hosted in collaboration with Live Music Project, our monthly happy hours are open to all curious listeners, casual music-makers, and professional musicians alike. Bring a friend, make a friend, and discover connections with music lovers from all over Seattle!

Click here to RSVP and invite your friends. Plus, sign up for alerts for future happy hour dates and day-before reminders so you’ll never miss a beer—er, beat.

ALBUM REVIEW: Caroline Shaw’s ‘Orange’

by Peter Tracy

Caroline Shaw. Photo by Kait Moreno.

It’s not often that we stop for a while to enjoy the simpler things in life: a juicy orange, for example, or a Haydn String Quartet. For composer, violinist, and vocalist Caroline Shaw, these moments taken to stop and reflect are important sources of inspiration. Even a sparse, elegant image of an orange can turn into “a celebration of the simple, immediate, unadorned beauty of a natural, every day, familiar thing.”

On her collaborative album with the Attacca Quartet, Orange, Shaw invites us to pause for a bit of thought about the familiar forms of both plants and string quartets, resulting in an album that is as vibrant and colorful as any garden.

Best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning composition Partita for 8 Voices, Shaw is something of a musical polymath: as a vocalist in Roomful of Teeth, violinist with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, award-winning composer, and wide-ranging collaborator, Shaw has proven herself to be an artist and musician who is wonderfully difficult to pin down.

This is certainly the case in her newest album collaboration, which consists of six works for string quartet written over roughly the past ten years. Here, you can find much of the same deconstruction of classical forms found in her Partita for 8 Voices, but using a musical language tailored to the quirks and traditions of the string quartet.

The album begins with Entr’acte, a warping extension of the traditional minuet and trio form. After opening with dramatically swelling and pulsing chords, the music seems to wind its way into some more unfamiliar territory, eventually growing to include harmonics, unpitched brushing of the bow, and pizzicato. Throughout, Shaw continues to weave in and deconstruct more traditional sequences, harmonies, and chord progressions in fresh and sometimes startling ways.

Rather than a classical form, the next piece celebrates the form of the humble Valencia orange. Bright, arpeggiated harmonics and pizzicato open Valencia, but the music quickly loses stability as glissandos and powerful chordal swells are added to the texture. Shaw describes her use of “somewhat viscous chords and melodies” in this brief work, which could find parallels in the bold tanginess of an orange’s taste. At its core, though, it is a celebration of the rounded, brightly colored curves of this simple and abundant food.

The longest piece on the album, Plan and Elevation (The Grounds of Dumbarton Oaks), is a five-movement meditation on a different natural landscape: the sprawling garden at Dumbarton Oaks, where Shaw spent time as a musician in residence. Here, Shaw draws inspiration from fixtures of the estate, such as a stately beech tree or the sunlit orangery. In the second movement, Shaw quotes passages from classic quartet repertoire, such as Ravel and Mozart, cutting out and reinterpreting this older material alongside segments of her own work much like you might arrange a bouquet of flowers. The final movement begins with strummed chords in the cello and chirping, high-pitched pizzicatos from the violins before growing to include dramatic sustained harmonies. Eventually, the rest of the quartet fades away to leave a violinist quietly strumming the same contemplative chords, like a bird singing at twilight.

Attacca Quartet.

In the next three pieces, Shaw continues to find inspiration in classic forms and music of the past. Punctum, which Shaw calls “an exercise in nostalgia,” is a winding, sequence-filled exploration of what happens when classical techniques and harmonic progressions are used in a fragmented, non-classical way. Her 16-minute string quartet Ritornello 2.sq.2.j.a deconstructs the classical ritornello form, in which a musical idea continues to return with little digressions in between. In Shaw’s reimagining, a simple musical idea begins the piece before being warped and spun through passages featuring the Attacca Quartet playing wild, fluttering harmonics and glissandos, striking the string with the wood of the bow, and droning on powerful, open chords.

Limestone and Felt finishes off the album by drawing inspiration from both the warm resonance and cold stone features of a cavernous gothic chapel, making for a piece that is by turns percussive and plucky or resonant and contemplative.

Much like the rest of Shaw’s wide-ranging work as a musician, Orange draws on a variety of techniques, traditions, and forms. Certain themes, though, continue to inspire and tie these pieces together, such as the order, simplicity, and beauty of nature or the forms and ideals of our musical traditions. On Orange, Shaw and the Attacca Quartet find elegance and charm in both the humble orange and the well-loved music of the past, inviting us to discover something new amid the familiar.

NW Focus Stories: Tales from Seattle’s Classical Music Luminaries

In addition to being a performer and commissioner of new music, Bonnie Whiting is the Chair of Percussion at the University of Washington School of Music.

Not all classical music unfolds onstage. Behind the scenes, there is an entire ecosystem of artists, audiences, administrators, educators, and innovators who bring classical music to life in the Pacific Northwest.

Second Inversion is thrilled to be a part of KING FM’s Northwest Focus Stories, a new show airing select Friday evenings at 8pm on KING FM. Join host Dacia Clay and your favorite KING FM announcers as we highlight the vibrant classical music community of the Pacific Northwest through in-depth interviews and audio stories built around people who create, curate, or contribute to classical music in a meaningful way.

Our first episode, which aired on October 18, highlights women leaders in Seattle’s music community, with special guests ranging from experimental percussionist Bonnie Whiting to Seattle Opera General Director Christina Scheppelmann, arts advocate Leslie Chihuly, music historian Melinda Bargreen, KING FM CEO Brenda Barnes, and Seattle Rock Orchestra Music Director Kim Roy.

Listen to the episode on-demand below:

Host and Executive Producer: Dacia Clay; segment producers and interviewers: Dacia Clay, Maggie Molloy, Nikhil Sarma, Marta Zekan, Mike Brooks, Dave Beck; audio engineering: Mike Brooks and Nikhil Sarma; theme music: “a storm of our own making,” by Daniel Webbon.

Music in Bonnie Whiting Segment:

Annea Lockwood: Amazonia Dreaming
Bonnie Whiting, percussion (recorded in studio)

James MacMillan: Veni, Veni Emmanuel (RCA Red Seal Records)
Evelyn Glennie, percussion; Scottish Chamber Orchestra

John Cage: 51’15.657” for a Speaking Percussionist (Mode Records)
Bonnie Whiting, voice and percussion

Yiheng Yvonne Wu: Violent Tender
UW Percussion Studio (recorded by Gary Louie; mixed by Mason Lynass)

Additional music performed by Bonnie Whiting in her studio and recorded by Nikhil Sarma.