Summer Vibes and Toy Piano Trios: Upcoming Concerts You Can’t Miss

by Peter Tracy

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.”

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Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. Coming up: American song cycles, the art of sound healing, and new music from around the world.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Songs from the Exotic
Emily Ostrom and Peter Nelson-King perform contemporary American compositions for voice and piano, including song cycles by Hale Smith, Judith Weir, and Aaron Kirschner, plus original compositions and rare works from the American song repertoire.
Fri, 8/2, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Northwest Film Forum: Puget Soundtrack
Archival footage of the Pacific Northwest forms the basis of Naer Vaer, a montage film accompanied by an original live score from local new music ensemble Postcard From the Badlands. Translating to “close-dwelling”, Naer Vaer explores our deep and often contradictory connections to each other and the natural world around us.
Sun, 8/4, 8pm, Northwest Film Forum | $13-$16

Live Music Project: A Trio of Trios
The Live Music Project connects you to classical concerts every day of the year—but this day is particularly special, because all proceeds from the concert (and the beer) benefit the important work of LMP in our community. Enjoy three trios for viola, double bass, and toy piano written specifically for LMP by Spencer Arias, Jessi Harvey, and Joyce Kwon and performed amid smiles and pizza at the Lagunitas Taproom.
Mon, 8/5, 5:30pm, Lagunitas Taproom | $5

Bassist Ariel Kemp, violist Ryan May, and (toy) pianist Tristan Greeno.
Photo by Shaya Lyon of the Live Music Project.

East Coast Meets West
Two trumpet players from opposite coasts come together to present a concert of contemporary works for trumpet and piano, including two world premieres by Seattle-based composer Peter Nelson-King.
Thurs, 8/8, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Inverted Space Ensemble
Local new music collective Inverted Space presents a unique concert of atmospheric works for violin, piano, and percussion by Brian Banks, Lou Harrison, and Bun-Ching Lam.
Fri, 8/9, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Symphony for Climate Change
Music, film, and poetry come together in a screening of composer and conductor Christophe Chagnard’s multimedia symphonic work Terra Nostra (“Our Earth”). Presented at the scenic lakeside Discovery Park, the piece aims to engage, educate, and inspire policy change to protect our planet.
Sat, 8/17, 4pm, Discovery Park | Free

Beetle Box
Experimental composer and keyboardist Beetle Box comes to Substation in Fremont for an ear-expanding evening of piano and electronics.
Wed, 8/21, 8:15pm, Substation | Free

Aaron Butler + Bonnie Whiting
Two innovative percussionists, Aaron Butler and Bonnie Whiting, come together in a concert of newly composed solos and improvised duets. Wide-ranging percussion works by Nick Zammuto, Brian Harnetty, and Rob Funkhouser are programmed alongside a long-lost piece for vibraphone solo by David Gibson.
Fri, 8/23, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Nash Naubert.

Nash Naubert: Music of Now
Originally from Seattle, Nash Naubert has spent the past two decades in India studying the bansuri (a bamboo flute used in Hindustani classical music). For this concert, he returns home to perform a collection of entrancing ragas with Aditya Kalyanpur on tabla.
Sat, 8/24, 8pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $24-$30

Good Vibes Only
An all-star lineup of local percussionists tackle a variety of groove-driven tunes for marimba, xylophone, and vibraphone, including works by Steve Reich, Ivan Trevino, and Marc Mellits.
Fri, 8/30, 8pm, Washington Hall | $25

Erin Jorgensen, Storm Benjamin, and Rebekah Ko perform in Good Vibes Only.

Emerald City Music: Tale Retold
The real-life stories of women battling to enlist in the U.S. military are retold in a world premiere by Seattle-based composer Angelique Poteat. Plus, a reimagining of Stravinsky’s iconic The Soldier’s Tale in a cross-disciplinary performance bringing together dance, drama, and music.
Fri, 9/13, 8pm, 415 Westlake | $45
Sat, 9/14 7:30pm, The Minnaert Center (Olympia) | $10-$43

Janaka Stucky and Lori Goldston: Ascend Ascend
Poet and performer Janaka Stucky spent 20 days secluded in the tower of a 100-year-old church, drifting in and out of a state of trance and writing a book of mystic poetry in the process. In this immersive, multidisciplinary performance, he presents his new work alongside Seattle cellist and composer Lori Goldston.
Fri, 9/20, 7:30pm, All Pilgrims Church (Seattle) | $18-$45

The Sound Ensemble: Reflections
The Sound Ensemble meditates on some big questions in this concert of works reflecting on who we are as a community and where we go from here. Structured as an introspective journey of sorts, the program includes a world premiere performance of Jerry Mader’s Zodiac for violin and chamber ensemble featuring violinist Marley Erickson.
Sat, 9/28, 7pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $15-$20

Aidan Lang on His Time at Seattle Opera: Friday, Aug. 2 at 8pm PT

Seattle Opera’s outgoing General Director Aidan Lang with Dramaturg Jonathan Dean.

Aidan Lang has kept pretty busy these past five years as the General Director of Seattle Opera.

Under his leadership the opera has quadrupled millennial audiences, introduced over 200 new opera artists to Seattle, launched bold new chamber operas in different Seattle neighborhoods, forged innovative collaborations with companies around the globe, and even moved into a sprawling new home at Seattle Center.

Before he heads to his new post as General Director of the Welsh National Opera, Aidan joins us for a special episode of NW Focus LIVE this Friday, Aug. 2 at 8pm PT on Classical KING FM 98.1.

Tune in as Aidan looks back on his favorite (and funniest!) moments at Seattle Opera in a conversation with Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean, KING FM’s Sean MacLean, and Second Inversion’s Maggie Molloy. We’ll talk about the creation and commissioning of new works, taking creative license with the classics, and finding the critical relevance of opera in the 21st century.

Click here to tune in on Friday, Aug. 2 at 8pm PT.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Teenages’ by Qasim Naqvi

by Peter Tracy

Photo by Smriti Keshari.

The mellow buzzing of synthesizers and electric organs has been used in popular music for decades now, but some of the first people to experiment with these instruments were classical and avant-garde composers. The mid-20th century saw a wide range of composers creating new works that mined the expressive potential of electronic instruments—a trend that is continually unfolding today.

On his new album Teenages, composer Qasim Naqvi shows us that a synthesizer can change and respond to its player just like any other more traditional instrument, creating a surprising and one-of-a-kind journey of an album in the process.

Teenages is played entirely on an analog modular synthesizer, which is a synthesizer made up of multiple synth units connected together without a playable interface like a keyboard. Essentially, the machine generates tones while the player guides it, turning knobs to change frequency, create rhythms, or add timbre filters. What makes Naqvi’s machine so special is that he built it himself over the course of two years, and the process of the instrument’s evolution is catalogued on the album. Reflecting on the process of learning his machine’s quirks, Naqvi found that it seemed to react to his impulses in surprising ways and to mature over time, which inspired the album’s title.

The first five tracks of the album were created in the year leading up to the title track. They give us a sense of the machine’s evolution, beginning with “Intermission,” an atmospheric and ambient track that starts from almost a single tone, expanding slowly to include pulsing sounds of different timbres and pitches.

“Mrs 2E” brings in some more recognizable material, with stuttering beeps and blips fluttering around the steadier rhythms of something resembling a melody and bassline. “Palace Workers” continues this progression, with a quirky but danceable percussion section keeping a steady beat. This is joined by a bouncy, repetitive synth line that starts to give a sense of harmony. By “No Tongue,” Naqvi and his machine have learned to work together to form what sounds like an ensemble of electronics featuring a bright, melodic hook, lively textured rhythms, and scattered beeps and clicks.

While “No Tongue” is animated and restless, “Artilect” takes us into deeper waters with a low, pulsing drone that makes you wonder what could be around the corner. This leads us finally into the main event, “Teenages,” an almost 20-minute track which brings together everything that came before. Multiple synth lines build steadily upward into rich harmonies to form what sounds like an electronic orchestra playing an oddly off-kilter sort of anthem. These chords are then warped and spun through different filters, with fluttering synths imitating and reacting to each other over time to create what feels like a journey through the mind of Naqvi’s machine.

For Naqvi, modular synthesizers feel almost alive in a way that he wanted to capture by treating Teenages like a live album: the title track, for instance, was recorded in a single take, with no edits or overdubs. Showcasing the sometimes-unpredictable behavior of the machine was a priority for the composer, and this makes for an album that is always evolving and transforming into something new.

In the end, it is both Naqvi turning the knobs and the machine interpreting his actions that come together to create something of a collaborative album between a man and his machine.

From Max Richter to Roomful of Teeth: Early Access to New Music at STG

by Maggie Molloy

From the pulsing minimalism of Max Richter to the visceral bite of Roomful of Teeth, the theatricality of modern music comes alive onstage during Seattle Theatre Group’s 2019-2020 season. We’re thrilled to partner with STG to offer Second Inversion listeners early access and a 15% discount on tickets to three of our favorite STG shows this season.

Click here to grab your tickets before they go on sale to the general public, and use the code SECONDINVERSION at checkout for 15% off and reduced service fees.

Bryce Dessner’s Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)
ft. Roomful of Teeth and photography of Robert Mapplethorpe

Wednesday, Oct. 9, 8pm | The Moore Theatre

Thirty years after Robert Mapplethorpe’s death, his controversial photographs remain radical and subversive. Working in New York City in the 70s and 80s, his portraiture was provocative in its classical, even statuesque portrayals of nudity, eroticism, queer identity, and BDSM. In this multimedia tribute featuring music by Bryce Dessner, poetry by Essex Hemphill and Patti Smith, and performances by the inimitable Roomful of Teeth, Mapplethorpe’s visceral images are displayed in unprecedented drama and scale.


Max Richter ft. ACME and Grace Davidson
Wednesday, Oct. 16, 7:30pm | The Moore Theatre

Max Richter is one of those very few classical composers whose fan base is comprised largely of non-classical concertgoers. Equal parts composer, performer, and producer, his music combines the sensitivity and nuance of classical music with the shimmering serenity of ambient and electronic. Hovering above a collection of keyboards and synthesizers, he builds electroacoustic sound worlds that are as introspective as they are immersive. For this concert, he performs them with soprano Grace Davidson and musicians of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.


Kronos Quartet: A Thousand Thoughts
Live Documentary by Sam Green and Joe Bini

Thursday, April 23, 7:30pm | The Moore Theatre

Over the past five decades the Kronos Quartet has explored just about every corner of contemporary music—from minimalism to microtonality, film scores to folk songs, and musical traditions from around the globe. They’ve also played a major role in championing new music, commissioning over 1,000 new works and arrangements to date. Their new live documentary A Thousand Thoughts, created by filmmaker Sam Green and writer Joe Bini, tells the story of the quartet’s groundbreaking career, featuring archival footage and interviews with collaborators like Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Laurie Anderson—all while the Kronos Quartet performs the live score.

Amanda Gookin Boldly Goes Forward (2.0)

by Dacia Clay

Amanda Gookin. Photo by Ryan Scherb.

In 2015, Amanda Gookin started a commissioning project called Forward Music Project. It premiered in 2017 at National Sawdust with seven pieces focused on issues that affect women and girls. Two years later, Gookin has returned with Forward Music Project 2.0.

True to its name, the project has taken big leaps forward. It now encompasses five new commissioned works that focus on more specific, personal issues for the composers, from body image to political oppression, sex positivity, and gender nonconformity. The performance includes electronics, video art by S Katy Tucker, and physically visceral cello playing from Gookin; the featured composers include Paola Prestini, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, Shelley Washington, Alex Temple, and Kamala Sankaram.

Forward Music Project 2.0 has an educational arm as well (Gookin is also a professor at Mannes and SUNY Purchase). Take a listen to find out more about the cellist’s latest step forward. To learn more about Forward Music Project 1.0, check out this episode of KING FM’s Classical Classroom podcast.