Musical Chairs: Maggie Molloy on Classical KING FM

Maggie Molloy likes listening to strange music. Lucky for her, she gets to do it for a living.

Since joining the Second Inversion team in 2014, Maggie has written over 300 articles on new, experimental, avant-garde, and otherwise unconventional music. In her current role as Second Inversion Editor, she curates our music library and programs all of the music you hear on our 24/7 online stream—and she also serves as an on-air host.

This Friday, Maggie is the guest on Classical KING FM’s Musical Chairs with Mike Brooks, where she will share just a handful of her favorite recordings from across her musical career. She’ll share memories from her week as a journalist covering the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, her summer spent studying experimental music composition at the IRCAM in Paris, her performances at the John Cage Musicircus and the Harry Partch Festival, her big break into the world of radio, and the composers who left her starstruck.

Musical Chairs airs this Friday, Oct. 12 at 7pm PT on Classical KING FM. Tune in at 98.1 FM, listen through our free mobile app, or click here to stream the interview online from anywhere in the world!

Late Nights in the Lobby: Seattle Symphony’s [untitled] Season

by Maggie Molloy

On just a handful of Friday nights each year, an intimate crowd of curious listeners gathers in the Grand Lobby of Benaroya Hall for concerts that are not confined by time period or tradition—or even titles, for that matter.

Now in its seventh season, the Seattle Symphony’s [untitled] series presents contemporary and experimental chamber works in a late-night, no intermission concert setting. Performances are held in the lobby, the musicians and audiences framed by floor-to-ceiling windows that look out across the sparkling lights of the city.

On any given [untitled] evening, you might hear music ranging from an Andy Warhol “popera” to Russian avant-folk songs, immersive arctic soundscapes, or even a piano that plays itself. This season, you can hear the icy windstorms of Hans Abrahamsen, the modernist masterworks of Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio, and the reorchestrated love songs of Reinbert de Leeuw.

[untitled] 1: Hans Abrahamsen
Friday, October 19, 2017 | 10pm

The sparse sound world of Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee builds and melts like a haunting snowfall. Whispering winds, ghostly canons, and shifting timbres coalesce into a meditation on time itself, the music moving at once forward and backward, swirling through chilling storms before evaporating into an eerie and unsettling silence. Thomas Dausgaard conducts.


[untitled] 2: Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio
Friday, March 22, 2018 | 10pm

Three pianos, three harps, three percussionists, and approximately three zillion notes comprise Pierre Boulez’s restlessly virtuosic Sur Incises. The chaotic colors of his 40-minute musical frenzy are balanced against the haunting dreamland of Luciano Berio’s Circles, a dramatic setting of three poems by E. E. Cummings. Soprano Maria Männistö sings the tempestuous role originally written for Berio’s wife, Cathy Berberian, with Ludovic Morlot conducting.


[untitled] 3: Reinbert de Leeuw
Friday, June 7, 2018 | 10pm

The elegant songs of Schubert and Schumann are reimagined with the rawness of early 20th century cabaret in Reinbert de Leeuw’s pastiche song cycle Im wunderschönen Monat Mai. Its title taken from the opening line of Schumann’s beloved Dichterliebe, the piece transforms Romantic lieder into 20th century melodrama—passionate, theatrical, and uninhibited. Sarah Ioannides conducts this riveting cabaret starring soprano Maria Männistö.


For tickets and more information on the Seattle Symphony’s [untitled] series, please click here.

Mark Abel Gains Perspective with ‘Time and Distance’

by Dacia Clay

Composer Mark Abel has been a lot of things in his life: a classical musician, a denizen of the post-punk music scene in New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s, a newspaper journalist, and a classical musician and composer again. All of these things have a home in his creative glossary. As with much of Abel’s music, his latest album, Time and Distance, uses the centuries-old vehicle of art song to engage with contemporary issues—both the global and the personal.

In this interview, I speak with Mark about what art song is, why it’s his musical form of choice, and what he’s doing to bring it into the 21st century. We also talk about the pieces on his new album which deal with everything from Medusa and the #MeToo movement to his own personal “disgruntlements,” and his first go at making a music video.

Plus, check out his music video for “Those Who Loved Medusa” below:

At the Edge of the World with A Far Cry: Friday, Sept. 21 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

Composer Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol.

This Friday’s A Far Cry concert takes audiences to the edge of the world for a world premiere: Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol’s A Gentleman of Istanbul. Join us Friday, September 21 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a LIVE video stream of the Boston-based chamber orchestra as they perform Sanlıkol’s new symphony.

Scored for strings, percussion, piano, oud, ney (an end-blown flute), and tenor, A Gentleman of Istabul is inspired by the expansive travelogue of Evliya Çelebi, a 17th century Ottoman explorer. Born in Instanbul in 1611 and educated in the Ottoman court, Evliya’s travelogue is among the longest ever written, its pages filled with bold colors and vivid descriptions of his adventures.

Through its four movements, Sanlıkol’s symphony depicts the gentleman of Istanbul as an observer, an epic storyteller, a novelist, and a historian. Like Evliya’s travelogue, the symphony traverses vast musical territory, drawing from classical music, jazz ballads, African polyrhythms, Koranic chant, and various types of Turkish music. Plus, the composer himself performs with A Far Cry on piano, oud, ney, and voice parts.

Also on the travel itinerary are John Corigliano’s poignant Voyage, Jean-Philippe Rameau’s mythical Suite from Les Indes galantes, and Claude Vivier’s visceral Zipangu.

Visit this page on Friday, September 21 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET for a LIVE video stream of A Far Cry’s Edge of the World concert, streaming right here:

Check out the full program below, and click here for program notes.

John Corigliano: Voyage
Jean-Philippe Rameau: Suite from Les Indes Galantes
Claude Vivier: Zipangu
Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol: A Gentleman of Istanbul (World Premiere)


A Far Cry’s Edge of the World performance streams live on this page on Friday, Sept. 21 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET. For more information about the orchestra, please click here.

Jerry Hunt (1943–1993): From “Ground” to Legacy

by Michael Schell

Other Minds has just released an attractive little album devoted to composer Jerry Hunt—and this one is personal. Jerry, you see, was a collaborator, friend, and key influence of mine, as well as being one of the most eccentric musical minds that America has produced.

A lifelong Texan who lived with his partner on a central Texas ranch, Jerry is best known for a his solo performances which combined intense electronic music (emanating from homemade interactive instruments) with physical movements, gestures, and vocalizations suggestive of shamanism. That this spectacle was being delivered by one of the most mundane-looking individuals in American music history—bald, slender, fidgety, usually bedecked in an unironed dress shirt and tie, the sort of fellow you’d imagine doing crowd control at some dusty county fair—only added to the mystique. It was like peeping in on the secret ritual of a crypto-electric Skoal-chewers sect.

Jerry Hunt performing at Roulette, New York, 1983.

Seeing Jerry in action was something that you never forgot, but the music was remarkable in its own right, as evinced by from “Ground” and its single half-hour track. It’s taken from a 1980 studio recital at Berkeley’s KPFA-FM where Jerry used tape playback (inexpensive samplers being still a year away), an assortment of small rattles and bells, and his trademark vocal sounds.

The performance divides into three equal sections. The first features distorted high-pitched sounds that seem to originate from a guitar with a fuzz box and a cheap amp. These eventually transform into a haze of trills, accompanied by rattling and obsessive stuttering on words like “mortgage” and “occasionally” (taken, according to liner notes contributor David Menestres, from George Eliot’s novel The Mill on the Floss). Ten minutes in, all this subsides, to be replaced by a new soundscape based on softer sustained sounds, mostly filtered loops of string orchestra playing. As before, there’s plenty of ritualistic rattling and high frequency chirping, but now the vocalizations are non-verbal. At 21 minutes, the sustained sounds fade out, setting up the final section, which features hand clapping and irregular, percussive synth bounces. Jerry’s vocalizations here are mostly whispers, eventually returning to Fluxus-style stammering on George Eliot texts as we heard in the opening.

I wrote about Jerry in the years just after his early death, comparing him to Harry Partch (both were gay, fascinated by ritual, built custom instruments, remained tied to their native milieus far from America’s cultural mainstream) and inventorying his direct influence on musicians like Shelley Hirsch who emphasize sound layering and theatricalized performance.

Now, two decades hence, listening to this first new album of Hunt material since 2004, I see that he has also become an important link between the earliest pioneers of live electronic music (Stockhausen, Cage, the Sonic Arts Union, etc.) and today’s denizens of noise music (everything from Merzbow to Paul Lytton to Seattle’s own Driftwood Orchestra). Without video footage to convey his unique performance style, an audio recording such as from “Ground” will always be an incomplete document—somewhat like looking at a black and white photo of a Chagall or Matisse. But an imperfect record is better than none at all, and it’s great to see that the work of one of America’s most heterodox musical mavericks is still remembered and relevant today.

Westerlies Weekend in Seattle: Sept. 20-23

by Gabriela Tedeschi

The Westerlies are a Seattle-bred brass quartet that has gained national acclaim for their genre-defying chamber music. Now, they’re giving back to the community that raised and inspired them with Westerlies Fest: a four-day music festival in Seattle featuring student workshops and concert collaborations with local artists.

The New York-based quartet is made up of Riley Mulherkar and Chloe Rowlands on trumpet with Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone. Mulherkar, Clausen, and de Koch are childhood friends from Seattle, and Rowlands (their newest member) was also born in Western Washington.

“The festival, for us, is an opportunity to feature all of the elements of what we do in their purest form as we envision them,” de Koch said. “Of course Seattle, being our hometown, seemed like the perfect place to bring together everything that we’ve gleaned from living in New York and traveling around the country performing.”

The festival runs Thursday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 23. During the day on Thursday and Friday, the Westerlies are speaking and performing in schools around Seattle, with an emphasis on teaching in underserved areas. On Saturday and Sunday, they are leading a workshop for high school and college age musicians at Seattle Pacific University.

All four evenings, the Westerlies are performing at different venues around Seattle with a diverse group of collaborators ranging from spoken word poets to jazz singers and music students of all levels and instruments. Learn more about the concerts below:

Poets Troy Osaki (left) and Azura Tyabji (right).

Troy Osaki and Azura Tyabji with The Westerlies
Thursday, Sept. 20, 7:30pm, Wing Luke Museum

In partnership with Youth Speaks Seattle, the Westerlies are inviting local spoken-word poets to perform alongside them. Music will be interspersed between poetry performances, and the quartet will also accompany two poems with original compositions.

“[This performance includes] a lot of exciting young voices from Seattle that we wanted to hear and we wanted to give a platform to,” Mulherkar said.

One poet is Troy Osaki, a friend of the Westerlies from Garfield High School who now serves as a Youth Speaks mentor. Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Azura Tyabji will also perform original works, as will Zora “Rainchild” Seboulisa and Esther Eidenberg-Noppe. Emphasizing identity and examining areas of inequality, these young artists use poetry as a tool for inspiring change in the world.


TORCH with The Westerlies
Friday, Sept. 21, 7:30pm, Nickerson Studios at Seattle Pacific University

Friday’s performance is really two concerts in one: a set from the Westerlies and a set from the Seattle-based chamber ensemble TORCH.

The group is comprised of trumpeter Brian Chin, clarinetist Eric Likkel, double bassist Steve Schermer, and percussionist Ben Thomas (who also plays vibraphone and bandoneon). Like the Westerlies, TORCH is known for combining the intellectual rigor of classical music with a genre-meshing sound. Chin is also the founder and artist director of the nonprofit arts organization Common Tone Arts, a partner for the festival.

“That night really features some of the best of Seattle’s contemporary classical scene,” Mulherkar said. “This is really an opportunity for us to bring what we got from New York and present it right alongside all the amazing music that’s going on in Seattle.”


Kate Davis (left) and Theo Bleckmann (right; photo by Lynne Harty).

Theo Bleckmann and Kate Davis with The Westerlies
Saturday, Sept. 22, 7:30pm, First Free Methodist Church

The Westerlies are joined by two acclaimed guest artists from New York: contemporary classical and jazz singer Theo Bleckmann and singer-songwriter Kate Davis.

The core of Bleckmann’s set will be “Songs of Refuge and Resistance,” a project that the Westerlies and Bleckmann developed this June while in residency at Yellow Barn, an international center for chamber music in Vermont. The project combines songs of refuge and protest pieces to highlight both music’s integral role in resistance movements and its ability to provide solace in the midst of turmoil.

Davis will perform a set of original works showcasing her warm, velvety vocals and inventive lyrics—including a Westerlies collaboration on her song “St. Joseph,” arranged by de Koch.


The Westerlies with Workshop Students
Sunday, Sept. 23, 4pm, Nickerson Studios at Seattle Pacific University

Sunday’s performance will serve as the culmination of the two-day student workshop the Westerlies are hosting for young musicians of all levels, styles, and instruments. The workshop will give students insight into the Westerlies’ unique approach to composition, improvisation, and ensemble practice.

“One thing that we’ve grown to be passionate about as an ensemble is improvising in a way that isn’t idiosyncratic to any genre,”  de Koch said. “The goal is to be able to introduce improvisation in a way that isn’t inhibited by any of the trappings of particular styles of music.”

The Westerlies also want to push young musicians to explore unusual instrument combinations, and to allow creative compatibility to overtake conventional ideas about ensemble work. Given their own history, the Westerlies know that good chemistry can lead to great music with any instrumentation.

“When we formed as a band, we didn’t form with the intention of being a brass quartet,” de Koch said. “We formed because we got along well as friends and admired one another’s personalities and musical tastes.”

At the concert on Sunday, students will perform in ensembles with the Westerlies, playing the music they create themselves through improvisation exercises.


Westerlies Fest runs Sept. 20 through Sept. 23. Thursday and Sunday’s performances are free, but reservations are recommended to guarantee admission. Student discounts and festival passes are available for Friday and Saturday’s concerts. For tickets and more information, click here.

ALBUM REVIEW: Marc Mellits’ ‘Smoke’ ft. New Music Detroit

by Gabriela Tedeschi

“Moderately funky” is not usually a tempo marking you see on a classical music score—unless it’s the music of Marc Mellits.

Mellits has a gift for animating his chamber music with funky grooves and driving beats. Sometimes called a miniaturist, he frequently uses small, contrasting sections to create one large, dynamic work with a rich emotional palette.

In his newest album, Smoke, all of this works together to create lively and diverse additions to the classical genre. Featuring the adventurous ensemble New Music Detroit, the album unfolds across 23 tracks, most just short movements of one to three minutes each. As a collection of diverse musical snippets, Smoke creates the effect of meandering through a city of street performers and finding yourself captivated by the wide range of musical worlds.

Encompassing eight short movements, the title piece is scored for saxophone, guitar, marimba, and percussion. Smoke explores the timbral possibilities of the ensemble as it traverses through wide-ranging genre influences: funky saxophone grooves, distorted electric guitar, circling marimba motives that create a soundscape ambience. This makes for a piece that is dramatic, complex, at times jarring, but always accessible.

The same could be said for Red, a six-movement piece for two marimbas. The intricate interlocking patterns—impressively complex for just two players—create a colorful array of harmonies and textures. While it’s no surprise that the bright, gentle timbre of the marimba lends itself well to a peaceful aura, Mellits also manages to generate suspense and mystery with dark harmonies and driving rhythms.

New Music Detroit.

Mellits’ String Quartet No. 3 is subtitled Tapas and, like Spanish appetizers, each of its eight movements offers a quick burst of distinct flavor. Though this piece harkens back to traditional classical influences more so than the rest of the album, Tapas also finds ways to subvert expectations. Starting with simple motifs, it rearranges and layers these patterns to create intriguing composite rhythms and lush harmonies. The quartet introduces different bowing and plucking techniques over time to create unusual timbres, adding to the rich texture. Like the rest of the album, Tapas is highly emotional, but difficult to interpret: as it alternates between dark and hopeful themes, distinctions begin to blur, yielding a powerful and bittersweet combination.

Prime—scored for bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, two percussionists, and piano—unfolds in one long movement that traverses through wildly different sound worlds. Percussion and baritone saxophone take the lead in the beginning with a suspenseful, funk-influenced theme, but the piece transitions on a dime into a soft, slow, and melancholy piano interlude. Mellits bounces back and forth between the disparate musical styles but eventually, the ideas begin to integrate; the sultry sax and clarinet mingle with the delicate, gloomy piano and percussion theme to create a beautifully unorthodox mix of moods and timbres.

Smoke is a fascinating experiment in construction and integration, piecing together works with short, contrasting movements and diverse musical influences. Yet each unique flavor unites to create a delectable whole: the complete and complex palette of Marc Mellits.