Healing Modes: Behind the Scenes with Brooklyn Rider

by Dacia Clay

Brooklyn Rider was recently in Seattle touring their new performance project, Healing Modes. The concert program, which is focused on the power of music to heal in many ways, was inspired by Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132—specifically the third movement. It was a piece that Beethoven wrote during a period of recovery in his own life.

Brooklyn Rider has commissioned five new works for the project—by Reena Esmail, Caroline Shaw, Du Yun, Matana Roberts, and Gabriela Lena Frank—to pair with the Beethoven on the program (and, eventually, on the album). Learn more about Healing Modes in this audio excerpt. To hear the full interview with Brooklyn Rider, listen to the latest episode of the Classical Classroom podcast.

Audio editing for this excerpt by Nikhil Sarma.

New Year, New Music: Your January Concert Guide

by Maggie Molloy

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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! 

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Keep an eye out for our flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. Feel free to download, print, and distribute it yourself! 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.”

January 2019 New Music Flyer

 

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: film scores, sonic purges, banjo improvisations, and an orchestra of driftwood.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Gretchen Yanover: Cello Loops
Classical music meets contemporary technology in Gretchen Yanover’s performances for solo cello and loop pedal. Playing and layering her melodies live on stage, Yanover crafts instrumental atmospheres that draw from her classical training as well as her African-American and Russian Jewish heritage.
Tues, 1/8, 7pm, Slavonian Hall (Tacoma) | FREE

Seattle Symphony: ‘JANE’
Philip Glass’ buoyant score frames this stunning National Geographic documentary about Jane Goodall, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. See the film on the big screen while the Seattle Symphony performs the score live.
Tues, 1/8, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $35-$85

Ahamefule J. Oluo & Scrape
Seattle trumpet legend Ahamefule J. Oluo offers a sneak peek of the score for his new film, Thin Skin (an adaptation of his experimental pop opera Now I’m Fine). Joined by the Scrape music collective, Oluo performs excerpts from this dark comedy about the meaning of family.
Thurs, 1/10, 8pm, Good Shepherd Center | $5-$20

Portland Cello Project
Equally at home in rock clubs and concert halls, Portland Cello Project is an ensemble known for pushing the boundaries of the classical cello tradition. For this string of performances, they play music from Radiohead’s OK Computer alongside classics by Coltrane and Bach.
Fri, 1/11, 7pm, Admiral Theatre (Bremerton) | $18-$56
Sat, 1/12, 7:30pm, Rialto Theater (Tacoma) | $29-$49
Sun, 1/13, 3pm, Mount Baker Theater (Bellingham) | $22-$42

Jesse Myers: Glass Half Full
You’ll want to bring a pillow and blanket to Jesse Myers’ performance of Philip Glass’ famous Piano Etudes. Instead of sitting in chairs, the pianist invites listeners to lie on the floor as they experience the music alongside immersive light projections that dance across the ceiling and walls of the performance space.
Fri, 1/11, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$15

Bern Herbolsheimer Musical Memorial
In honor of the late Bern Herbolsheimer’s passing three years ago on this day, Seattle musicians come together to perform a concert of the beloved local composer’s chamber works.
Sun, 1/13, 7:30pm, PONCHO Concert Hall | FREE

Opera on Tap: Park and Bark!
Nothing goes better with opera tunes than beer and tacos. Local singers perform operatic masterpieces and hidden gems alike in this casual brewery concert benefiting Emerald City Pet Rescue.
Mon, 1/14, 6pm, Lagunitas Brewing Company | $25

Seattle Modern Orchestra: Sounds of Echoes
The book-lined walls of the Seattle Athenaeum form the perfect setting for this concert of chamber works presented in the round. Poetry-inspired pieces from George Crumb and Toru Takemitsu are paired with works by Seattle composers Angelique Poteat and Tom Baker.
Fri, 1/18, 7pm, Folio | $20-$25

The Sound Ensemble: Local Wonders
From Kaley Lane Eaton’s dynamic Sacred Geometry to Carly Ann Worden’s majestic San Juan Sinfonietta, this concert is dedicated to exploring chamber works by local women composers. Also on the program are new premieres from Angelique Poteat and Sarah Bassingthwaighte.
Sat, 1/19, 7pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $15-$20

Thalia Symphony Orchestra
A third stream concerto for electric bass, vibraphone, and orchestra is among the highlights of this concert, composed and performed by friends and childhood neighbors Dan Dean (bass) and Tom Collier (vibes). Works by Jacques Offenbach, Carl Nielsen, Rebecca Clarke, and Arturo Marquez complete the program.
Sat, 1/19, 7:30pm, St. Stephen’s Church | $18-24
Sun, 1/20, 3pm, Nordic Museum | $18-24

SCMS Winter Festival
Seattle Chamber Music Society’s annual Winter Festival features a variety of classical music performances from across the centuries, including 20th century works by Janáček, Kodály, Martinů, Hindemith, Shostakovich, and Britten.
1/18-1/27, Various times, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $20-$65

Ólafur Arnalds: All Strings Attached
The ambient sound worlds of Icelandic composer  shimmer to life in this performance featuring the pianist alongside a uniquely wired ensemble of string quintet, drums, and two Disclaviers. The concert features past, present, and brand new material from his forthcoming album.
Sat, 1/26, 8pm, The Moore Theatre | $28

Seattle Symphony: Celebrate Asia
The 11th annual Celebrate Asia concert highlights music and musicians from across the continent, with conductor Shi-Yeon Sung leading the orchestra in contemporary (and traditional) music by Korean, Thai, and Taiwanese composers. Featured soloists include soprano Kathleen Kim and pianist Seong-Jin Cho, and the concert is framed by spectacular pre- and post-concert festivities in the lobby.
Sun, 1/27, 4pm, Benaroya Hall | $31-$97

Seattle Symphony: Soundbites
Grab a drink and unwind with fellow music lovers at this casual performance featuring Seattle Symphony musicians performing wide-ranging chamber works.
Mon, 1/28, 7pm, The Collective | $10

Second Inversion’s Top 10 Albums of 2018

Cheers to another year of new and experimental music on Second Inversion! Our hosts celebrate with a list of our Top 10 Favorite Albums of the Year. From a quiet ocean of percussion to the shimmering orchestras of Iceland and the bold harmonies of Beijing, our list celebrates musical innovation within and far beyond the classical genre.

Michael Gordon: The Unchanging Sea
Released Aug. 2018 on Cantaloupe Music

It’s easy to get lost in the haunting majesty of Michael Gordon’s The Unchanging Sea, the sheer force of its rolling waves echoing across the piano in the hands of Tomoko Mukaiyama with the Seattle Symphony. Gordon’s ocean of sound swells to overwhelming proportions, each wave cresting higher and higher, surging and submerging you in its growling depths. Though originally conceived with an accompanying film by Bill Morrison—a gritty collage assembled from deteriorating film reels and historic footage of Puget Sound—the piece’s sonic imagery is equally vivid on its own.

It’s paired on this album with Gordon’s shimmering Beijing Harmony, a work inspired by Echo Wall at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, where sounds reverberate from one side of the structure to the other. In performance, the wind and brass players are spread out across the stage—and when you listen with headphones, the music echoes from left to right and back again, all around and through you. – Maggie Molloy


Ken Thomson: Sextet
Released Sept. 2018 on New Focus

Clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer Ken Thomson is known primarily for his work with the Bang on a Can All-Stars. But as it turns out, he’s been living a sort of musical double life as a jazz musician for, basically, ever, much like Ron Swanson as Duke Silver. Unlike Swanson, Thomson has decided to let his alter ego run free. I hear strains of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue in Thomson’s Phantom Vibration Syndrome, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out in the time signatures, maybe even a little Charlie Parker when the improvisation builds to a frenzy. Thomson brings the complex compositional structures—the details of which I will not pretend to understand—of new music and improvisation together on this album in a way that can only be described as fun. – Dacia Clay


Nils Frahm: All Melody
Released Jan. 2018 on Erased Tapes

Nils Frahms’ latest solo album is striking in its simplicity—the compositions distilled down to their most potent melodies. The album features the composer himself on his usual keyboard collection of pianos, synthesizers, and pipe organs—but here expanded to feature an ethereal choir of vocalists along with subtle strings and percussion. The resulting tracks are an ambient mix of minimalism, mid-tempo dance grooves, and broad, synth-laden washes of sound. Though each song is expertly crafted in iridescent detail, the individual pieces also fit together into a larger whole, the album unified in its wistful harmonies and muted colors. Understated but immersive, it reminds us of the simple pleasure and the intimate perfection of a good melody. – Maggie Molloy


The Hands Free: Self-Titled Debut
Released May 2018 on New Amsterdam

Over the course of the past decade, the four composer-performers who make up the Hands Free have performed together in a variety of contexts. They found that what they loved doing the most was holding informal late-night jam sessions—which is what led to the quartet’s inception. Comprised of violin, accordion, bass, and guitar (plus the occasional banjo), the ensemble likes to perform unamplified, sit in a circle, and integrate a mix of genres ranging from folk music to jazz and improvisation. Their resulting debut album features a beautifully eclectic mix of sounds that depict an immense variety of places and emotions—all while maintaining the warmth and spontaneity of an impromptu jam session.  Gabriela Tedeschi


Anna Thorvaldsdottir: AEQUA
Released Nov. 2018 on Sono Luminus

Anna Thorvaldsdottir finds inspiration in nature—her music is its own ecosystem, the nuanced textures shared, traded, and transformed among individual instruments over the course of her works. The delicate balance of nature is at the heart of AEQUA, a collection of chamber works (plus one solo piano piece) performed by musicians of the International Contemporary Ensemble. Like the stunning natural landscapes of her native Iceland, Thorvaldsdottir’s compositions echo with the full subtleties of timbre, the music expanding and contracting, breathing and humming and vibrating like the earth. – Maggie Molloy


Éliane Radigue: Œuvres Électroniques
Released Dec. 2018 on INA GRM

This beautifully-produced 14-CD set documents Radigue’s career as the mother of dark ambient music. Laboring humbly and hermetically with an ARP 2500 synthesizer and some tape recorders, Radigue spent the 70s, 80s, and 90s perfecting her brand of dense, slow-changing drone music. The works from that time are often inspired by descriptions of states of consciousness in Tibetan Buddhism, bearing such titles as Death Trilogy or Elimination of Desires. They’re best confronted in darkness, without distractions, allowing the mind and ear to absorb their long timeframe (from 17 minutes to well over an hour) and complex sonorities. – Michael Schell


Third Coast Percussion: Paddle to the Sea
Released Feb. 2018 on Cedille Records

Paddle to the Sea was a book that was made into a movie that was made into a live show and album by Third Coast Percussion. In Holling C. Holling’s original 1941 children’s book, a First Nation boy in Ontario carves a wooden canoe and on its side, he writes “Please put me back in the water. I am Paddle-to-the-Sea.” He puts the boat into the Great Lakes where it begins its adventure, and the book follows it on its journey. (Spoiler alert: years later, the boat winds up in a newspaper story that ends up in the hands of the boat’s original creator, who is by then a grown man.) The film, which was released in 1969, added a focus on water pollution to the original story.

Third Coast Percussion composed a new score to perform live alongside the film, including existing works by Philip Glass and Jacob Druckman, plus traditional music from Zimbabwe. Third Coast broadens the focus of the story a little more, asking us to think about our relationship to water and waterways on a grander scale. Their addition to the story doesn’t moralize; it instead draws listeners’ attention to the fact that the water is us—we are Paddle to the Sea. – Dacia Clay


Nordic Affect: He(a)r
Released Oct. 2018 on Sono Luminus

“Hér” is the Icelandic word for here. That idea of being present—of listening, of connecting here and now through music is at the heart of Nordic Affect’s newest album. He(a)r is a collection of seven world premiere recordings penned by women composers and performed by women musicians. Wide-ranging sound worlds from Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, Mirjam Tally, and Hildur Guðnadóttir comprise the album, each offering a distinct perspective on the ways in which we hear and create sound—our individual voices and the ways in which they interact. – Maggie Molloy


Invisible Anatomy: Dissections
Released March 2018 on New Amsterdam

Drawing inspiration from the experiments of Leonardo da Vinci, facial polygraphs, and more, Invisible Anatomy’s Dissections uses medical metaphors to explore the risks and joys of opening yourself up to others. The avant-rock ensemble combines the theatricality of performance art with the drama of jazz and classical music, creating haunting songs of danger, intimacy, and dissection.

Fay Wang’s vocals layer and weave into intricate composite melodies and eerie disonances, asking powerful questions about the ways humans interact. With its thought-provoking text and complex, dramatic texture, Dissections is an impressive, hauntingly beautiful debut. Gabriela Tedeschi


My Brightest Diamond: A Million and One
Released Nov. 2018 on Rhyme & Reason Records

Few artists inhabit both pop and classical worlds so freely and convincingly as Shara Nova, the operatically-trained singer and composer behind the art rock band My Brightest Diamond. A Million and One tilts further into electronic and pop worlds than her previous albums, her lustrous voice dancing above synth-laden backdrops and pulsing drumbeats. While the drama and dynamic range of the songs hint at her operatic background, the vulnerability of the lyrics and the sheer danceability of the tracks bring a pop music immediacy to her work. The resulting album is visceral, unconventional, and free—emblematic of the modern day dissolution of genre. – Maggie Molloy

ALBUM REVIEW: Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s ‘AEQUA’

by Gabriela Tedeschi

Photo by Saga Sigurdardottir.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir treats each of her works as an ecosystem. Musical materials—motifs, harmonies, textures—are passed from performer to performer through her pieces, constantly developing and transforming. Like different species in an ecosystem, these elements sometimes coexist peacefully and sometimes compete or clash.

In her new album AEQUA, Thorvaldsdottir works with performers from the renowned International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) to create a variety of musical ecosystems of different sizes, featuring both large and small chamber ensembles. The album captures the beautiful chaos of the natural world, the individual voices evolving and intertwining across each piece.

AEQUA’s small ensemble works—“Spectra,” “Sequences,” “Reflections,” and “Fields”—are characterized by the integration of slow, lyrical string melodies into dense, unwieldy sound worlds. As the materials are passed around the ecosystem of instruments, the melodies—calm and plaintive—rise to prominence in some moments and at others descend into the eerie whirl of sound created by sustained, clashing harmonies, percussive bursts, and darker permutations of the melody itself.

There is a constant ebb and flow throughout the chamber works as the performers crescendo, then decrescendo, join in energetically all at once to form an intricate texture, then fade away to leave only a gentle melody or quiet sustained tone. This consistent pattern of rising and falling intensity gives a cyclic quality to the pieces, as though the musical ecosystem is transforming across life cycles and seasons.

The circle effect is also used in Thorvaldsdottir’s large ensemble works, “Aequilibria” and “Illumine.” Running chromatic motifs create wild spirals of sound, the cyclic rise and fall unfolding rapidly and with greater intensity. There are moments of calm when the chaotic texture gives way to lyrical melodies and gentle sustained tones, but forceful percussion and chromatic outbursts quickly interrupt the peace.

The album’s only solo piece, “Scrape,” performed by ICE pianist Cory Smythe, manages to capture this complex interplay of different species in an ecosystem with just one instrument. While the piece is largely situated in the lower register of the piano with heavy, thudding rhythms and a rich, dark timbre, there are clear, piercing runs in the higher register that interrupt and play off of the low sounds. Moments of silence are incorporated, building anticipation for the looming rise in intensity and playing into the cyclical nature of AEQUA.

In its own way, each piece on the album feels as though you’re walking through the forest or staring into the depths of the ocean, observing the peaceful and violent ways creatures and plants coexist. The complex interplay of melodies, harmonies, and rhythms as they develop—both working together and clashing—creates a kind of beauty that, like the natural world, is at times unsettling and overwhelming, but endlessly captivating.

Phil Kline’s ‘Unsilent Night’ Rings Twice this Season in Puget Sound

by Maggie Molloy

Whether you’re the world’s biggest Santa-fan, a grouchy Ebenezer Scrooge, or even just an avant-garde enthusiast looking to expand your holiday music horizons, Phil Kline’s got just the carol for you—and you’ve got two chances to experience it this year in the Puget Sound region.

Kline’s Unsilent Night is a contemporary twist on holiday caroling that is celebrated annually around the globe. But don’t worry, there’s no singing involved. In true 21st century fashion, all you have to do is download an app.

This nontraditional holiday carol is an electronic composition written specifically for outdoor performance in December. Audience members each download one of four tracks of music which, when played together, comprise the ethereal Unsilent Night.

Countless participants meet up with boomboxes, speakers, or any other type of portable amplifiers and each hit “play” at the same time. Then they walk through the city streets creating an ambient, aleatoric sound sculpture that is unlike any Christmas carol you have ever heard.


Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night takes place in Seattle this Friday, Dec. 14 starting at 6pm at Cornish College of the Arts’ Kerry Hall. Click here for more information.

The Tacoma rendition is Friday, Dec. 21 starting at 6:30pm at Mason United Methodist Church. Click here for more information.

Duo Noire: Revolution Classical Style Now

by Dacia Clay

Christopher Mallett (left) and Thomas Flippin (right). Photo by John Rogers.

Duo Noire is made up of two dudes—Thomas Flippin and Christopher Mallett—but their new album is made up entirely of female composers’ music.

As the story goes, way back in 2015, before the #MeToo movement, Thomas’s wife, Rev. Vicki Flippin brought his attention to issues she was having at work. Around that same time, a major classical guitar society came out with their season announcement—and not a single woman on the program.

“I could not believe it,” Flippin said. “I guess you could say that it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was just like, I can’t believe it’s 2015, Obama’s been elected, and someone green-lighted them playing this season of all men playing all male music.”

That’s when the idea for Duo Noire’s latest album, Night Triptych, was born. Not only did Flippin and Mallett, the first African-American guitarists to graduate from the Yale School of Music, commission works by exclusively women for their new album—they also made sure to include women from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Hear the rest of the album’s story, and the story of how the two former SoCal punk rock guitarists came to do what they do today.

Musical Chairs: Leanna Keith on Classical KING FM

by Maggie Molloy

Leanna Keith is not your average flutist.

Sure, she can breathe beautiful, delicate melodies through her instrument—but she can also speak into it, sing, hum, or beatbox through it, clatter its keys, bend its pitches, make its melodies vibrate, flutter, shimmer, and soar.

Keith is a flutist and composer specializing in contemporary classical and experimental sounds. She explores the furthest reaches of her instrument’s range, both in music and in performance. On any given evening in Seattle you might catch her performing in new music ensembles ranging from the experimental chamber troupe Kin of the Moon to the Japanese drumming collective Dekoboko Taiko. Next Friday, she’s performing Nicole Lizée’s etudes for glitch film on a concert with pianist Jesse Myers.

And this Friday, Oct. 19 at 7pm PT, she’s in the Classical KING FM studios as the special guest on Musical Chairs with Mike Brooks, where she will share a handful of her favorite recordings from across her musical career, plus details about her upcoming performances.

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!