LIVE VIDEO STREAM: A Far Cry on Friday, May 26 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

A Far Cry and members of Silk Road premiere Vijay Iyer’s “City of Sand.”

by Maggie Molloy

New and familiar works from all corners of the globe come together this Friday night at A Far Cry’s concert collaboration with members from Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. And although the concert itself is in Boston (and also completely sold out), you can still hear every minute of this musical tour de force right here on Second Inversion during our live video stream of the performance this Friday, May 26 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET.

Joined by Silk Road members Kinan Azmeh (clarinet), Sandeep Das (tabla), Haruka Fujii (percussion), Joseph Gramley (percussion), and Wu Man (pipa), A Far Cry explores music from across the ages and around the world, ranging from Bartók’s famous Romanian Folk Dances to a brand new world premiere of Vijay Iyer’s City of Sand.

The world-ranging program features composers and music from about a dozen different countries, including India, Iran, China, Syria, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, America, Japan, and more. Check out the full program below, and click here for program notes.

Kayhan Kalhor: Gallop of a Thousand Horses
Zhao Jiping: Sacred Cloud Music
Kinan Azmeh: Ibn Arabi Postlude
Béla Bartók, arr. Arthur Willner: Romanian Folk Dances
Kojiro Umezaki: For Zero
Vijay Iyer: City of Sand (World Premiere)
Sandeep Das, arr. Jesse Irons: Tarang
JPP and Marin Marin, arr. Karl Doty & Erik Higgins: Finnish and Swedish Fiddle Tunes
Kinan Azmeh: Bass Duo
Sapo Parapaskero, arr. Ljova & Osvaldo Golijov: Turceasca

Visit our website on Friday, May 26 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET to watch the sold-out performance LIVE. To learn more about our live-streaming video broadcasts of A Far Cry, click here.

A Shared Lesson

by Joshua Roman

Roman_15There’s something about stretching the limits, pushing the boundaries, that turns me on. When it’s a shared experience, the reward is greatly magnified. I recently had the honor of working with young musicians in a setting that kept all of us on our toes. In partnership with my series at Town Hall Seattle, the Seattle Youth Symphony called on some of their lovely players and alumni to join me and a few colleagues acting as mentors for a concert of 20th and 21st century string ensemble music.

It’s important to demonstrate to young musicians that ours is a tradition of innovation and creativity. Classical music is a living, breathing thing, not stuck in the past. The same discipline used to bring a Beethoven Symphony to its peak form can be turned to the task of helping birth a new work, and share a new idea. One of the most fruitful ways of passing along a teaching is to lead by example, and I’m ever so grateful to my friends from the Seattle Symphony and other orchestras who played in our ensemble as mentors. Sitting alongside their future colleagues, working together to prepare a very challenging program and present it in a few short days was not an easy task. Through Town Hall Seattle’s partnership with Second Inversion and KING FM, we also gave these aspiring musicians a chance to participate in a video recording session, the results of which are now viewable online.

The program: the world premiere of Running Theme by Timo Andres, which was commissioned by Town Hall. Then, John AdamsShaker Loops; and lastly, Béla Bartók’s Divertimento. The schedule: 6 rehearsals including the recording session and the dress rehearsal, from a Wednesday to a Saturday. A chance for the young musicians to have a glimpse of the condensed and intensive experience professional musicians are often faced with.

The diversity of style within the program was integral to its success in creating a powerful experience for the students. The Divertimento is a fantastically fun work that retains much of Bartok’s folk influence, while delving into more chromatic and idiosyncratic ideas in the slow movement. It’s a difficult work, and there are many solos, another opportunity for our mentors to lead by example. Shaker Loops has long been one of my favorite works, and to me represents minimalism at its most exciting and transportive. To see musicians who had never played this kind of music learn to embrace and inhabit a new way of feeling musical structure and phrasing over a few short days was very cool.

Perhaps the best part was the way they rose to the challenge of putting together Running Theme, an entirely new piece of music for which they could not sit and study previous recordings or hear in concert before taking on the responsibility of presenting it to the world for the first time. Every piece in the canon had a birth, every composer in history has counted on musicians and audiences to give them a shot at leading into the unknown. The evolution of one’s feelings as moments begin to be recognized, form really takes shape, and the conviction borne of seeing both the big picture and feeling the importance of subtlety is a beautiful process, one that for me is so integral to how we then share our hearts with the audience.

What’s the value of this experience? Hopefully, for the protégés, a glimpse of what it takes to be a professional musician. To learn to be prepared at rehearsals, on the ball and focused regardless of the familiarity of the music. To be inspired by the level of the mentors, and of course hear the little tips that come along the way. And to be empowered by the notion that they can be a part of the amazing lineage of classical music and its creation, by working directly with an exciting – and in this case young – composer.

For the mentors, to see the growth and feel the energy of youth, and be challenged to lead by example. Also, to be reminded of the wonder they felt sitting in such a group for the first time when they were that age, and the confidence that develops as something unknown becomes a familiar tool in now capable hands.

For me, the incredible joy of seeing the chemistry between musicians, mentor and protégé. And the honor of leading the team as we work together to the best of our ability to convey something that will transport an audience to a place where the impossible becomes possible, and our inner selves are given a common voice.

Fiona Apple – Tidal (album)
Timo Andres – Shy and Mighty (album)
Olivier Messiaen – Fête des Belles Eaux – performed by Ensemble d’Ondes de Montreal (2008)

Shifting Gears

by Joshua Roman

Follow Joshua on Facebook, Twitter, and see his schedule at


Dear Reader:

Is it really May, already? It’s such a cliché, but I really do feel sometimes that the calendar must be lying. April was a more typical month for me, with multiple concertos and recitals. Mostly traditional repertoire: Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, Haydn’s C Major Cello Concerto, Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations, Bach Suites… there were a few newer pieces mixed in as well, including my own “Riding Light”. In fact, that particular performance was one of the few in my life where my Cstring has had the audacity to snap during a juicy moment. Audiences seem to love that, although for me it’s just a pain to have to go grab another one and retune, then decide where to start again.

Along with all of that, April is also of course tax season, and every self-employed Musician knows just how long that can take. So between all of these things, plus other random tasks, I did not get as much done on my upcoming cello concerto as I’d like. Luckily, this month is dedicated to producing notes on paper!

One thing that I’ve always been curious about: where do ideas come from? I know much has been written on the subject, both in the form of studies and also from the notes and journals of creative types. Among my composer friends, the variety of work habits is astonishing. Some are night owls and do the bulk of their creative work after the sun goes down. Others do it first thing in the morning. And this is not always where the genesis of an idea occurs! I’ve been encouraged to carry a notebook around with me everywhere, and this has been immensely helpful, as many times ideas will strike at the most inopportune moment. Often, for me this happens on airplanes, or on the elliptical machine (I hate that thing. My excuse: knee injury). Sometimes, it’s a response to something I hear in a concert, or on the radio. Usually, I’ll hear a composer do something structurally, or turn a phrase or color on its head in an interesting way, and wonder to myself: “would I do that? Or would I do the opposite? Or something in between?”

Which brings me to an exercise I want to share with all of you musicians out there. Perhaps you’ve tried this in the past, but it’s something I don’t think it hurts to revisit. As you’re practicing whatever piece it is you’re playing, take one of the more obviously interesting (okay, that’s subjective, but that’s kind of the point so just go with your gut) passages and play through it a few times. As you do, try to pinpoint what the underlying idea is, what led the composer to the notes they chose. Is there an increase in tension? Is there a moment where something breaks away? Anything will do for these purposes. Then, forget for a moment that the piece was written by someone else. Take the idea, and begin with the same note the composer does, but modify the phrase as if you are composing it yourself. Try different notes and rhythms, dynamics and accents, colors, everything. What would it sound like if YOU had written the notes to achieve the emotional/structural impact the composer did?

This can take a while, especially if you’ve not improvised before. Be patient. Explore, and don’t judge what you’re doing. Just observe! Notice how many options you come up with, and what makes them different from what the composer did. Perhaps some of them may even be equally effective in their own way! In the end, you’ll see a little bit of what distinguishes this composer’s voice from your own, and others. Bonus points: change the phrase to create the same effect in the voice of other composers. Even more bonus points: see if you can keep as much the same as possible, but achieve the opposite emotional impact.

So what’s the point? Interpretation. Interpretation depends on our relationship to a composer, and our understanding of their voice. It helps to have insight into what having a voice means in the first place, and that comes very strongly through improvisation, composition, and other means of creative exploration. This is something I’ve been playing with a lot. There’s much more to try, and to share, but for now I’ll leave you with that bit of nerdy fun and open up the score to my own piece, which is calling out for attention from the top of my keyboard. Had a few good ideas during my workout today, now it’s time to see whether they pan out.

Music On Rotation

Bela Bartok: Divertimento for Strings (buy)
Peteris Vasks: Vox Amoris (buy)
Amon Tobin: Foley Room (buy)