Celebrating Women’s Voices: Saturday, March 13 | 9pm

by Maggie Molloy

Reena Esmail, Nathalie Joachim, and Caroline Shaw are featured in this week’s episode.

March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate women’s achievements—and also a time to think critically about what all of us can do to create a more equitable world.

On this Saturday’s episode of Second Inversion, we’re celebrating women’s voices. We’ll hear music from women who have helped shape, inspire, and expand the world of classical music. From the modal musings of Hildegard von Bingen to the ear-expanding experiments of Pauline OIiveros and the vibrant, cross-cultural folk songs of Nathalie Joachim, we’ll hear music from women who have made a mark on classical music history. Plus, we’ll talk about why women composers have been historically underrepresented in classical music—and what you can do to help.

To listen, tune in to KING FM on Saturday, March 13 at 9pm PT.

Finding the Groove: Saturday, Jan. 2 | 10pm

by Maggie Molloy

Eighth Blackbird is among the featured artists in this week’s episode.

Classical music can be a little stuffy; you don’t typically see a lot of classical concertgoers movin’ and groovin’ along to the music in their seats.

But in the 21st century, composers have taken a cue from funk, jazz, folk, and the blues—and they’re learning some new moves. On this week’s episode of Second Inversion, we’ll hear music you can groove to. Tune in for toe-tapping, finger-snapping tunes from today’s top composers.

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

Heavenly Voices: Saturday, Dec. 12 | 10pm

by Maggie Molloy

Reflection is an important part of any spirituality or faith, whether that takes the form of prayer, meditation, or—for many people—music.

On this Saturday’s episode of Second Inversion: heavenly voices. We’re exploring sacred and spiritual works from contemporary composers. From the strum of the harp to the ringing of bells, we’ll hear songs of the angels and visions of divine. Plus, one composer’s “postcard” from heaven.

To listen, tune in to KING FM on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 10pm PT.

Music for Meditation: Saturday, Aug. 15 | 10pm

by Maggie Molloy

Pauline Oliveros, Philip Glass, and Ravi Shankar are featured in this week’s episode.

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, August 15 at 10pm PT.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Reena Esmail’s Piano Trio

We are thrilled to present the premiere of Reena Esmail’s Piano Trio, performed by violinist Kristin Lee, cellist Joshua Roman, and pianist David Fung. This video was recorded at Town Hall Seattle.

Program notes by Aaron Grad:

“I wish I could live in India and America at the same time,” says Reena Esmail, the daughter of Indian immigrants who has become one of the most respected young composers in the United States; “I wish they shared a border, and I could build a little home right in between them. I know I can’t do that in the physical world, but this is where I live every day in my music.”

Esmail’s compositions straddle two of the world’s most sophisticated musical traditions. On one side is the art music of Europe and its system of tonal harmony that developed over the last 400-plus years, and on the other, Hindustani classical music from North India, organized around collections of tones known as raags that go back many centuries further. Studies at the Juilliard School and the Yale School of Music grounded Esmail in the practices of the West’s classical music, including its precise system of notation that allows performers of any background to interpret unfamiliar nuances. As a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar, she was able to spend a year in India studying the classical music of her ancestors, absorbing the oral tradition built on complex patterns and pitches that often can’t be categorized within Western norms.

Composer Reena Esmail.

Writing a Piano Trio has fulfilled one of Esmail’s oldest ambitions as a musician. Growing up as a talented pianist, trios with violin and cello were her favorite form of chamber music, and she won a life-changing competition that resulted in her performing Mendelssohn’s Second Piano Trio with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She also counts Ravel’s Piano Trio as an all-time favorite work, noting, “So much of what I’ve learned about color and texture in my writing comes from Ravel.” After three years of work and a pile of sketches that is up to 300 pages and counting (with less that three weeks to go before the premiere), Esmail is still polishing off this substantial score that reckons with the rigorous tradition of the four-movement piano trio. 

Authentic raags appear in each movement of the trio, including the monsoon season raag known as Megh that informs a chorale from the strings and other gestures in the first movement. In a tempo marked “Ephemeral,” the smooth modal phrases and long slurs highlight Esmail’s affinity with Ravel, who also looked outside the Western canon to expand his shimmering soundscapes. Flutters, slides and harmonics continue in the slow movement, creating a sense of improvisatory freedom while the music slips in and out of time.

By casting the quivering third movement as a scherzo, Esmail acknowledges her debt to Mendelssohn (the king of those elfin, lighter-than-air diversions), but moments of manic hilarity and sheer muscle recall a more subversive master of the piano trio, Shostakovich. In the finale, a singing string melody supported by “luminous” piano filigree surges to a droning climax marked “powerful, broad, intense.” When the unhurried ending arrives with glimmering harmonics and crystalline chords, this work completes an arc that places it squarely within the storied lineage of the “classical” piano trio—while making it clear just how irrelevant such boundaries truly are.