Music of the Great Outdoors: Saturday, May 23 | 10pm

Photo by Erin Anderson.

by Maggie Molloy

From ocean to desert, forest to tundra, composers have always found music in nature. The rhythm of waves, the rustling of leaves, the song of the mountain—or the colors of the wind.

On this Saturday’s episode of Second Inversion, we’ll explore music of the great outdoors. We’ll hear the pulse of the Amazon River, a duet with the Moab Desert, field recordings from the Pacific Crest Trail, and even music made from living plants.

To listen, tune in to KING FM on Saturday, May 23 at 10pm PT.


A selection from Third Coast Percussion’s Paddle to the Sea is among the music featured in this week’s episode.

Music for Dreamers, Schemers, and Curious Listeners: Your April Concert Guide

by Maggie Molloy

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! 

Keep an eye out for our flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. 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.”

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: dynamic collaborations, deep ecology, and sounds from the end of the world.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Seattle Symphony: Trimpin, Stiefel, & More
Equal parts composer and sound sculptor, Trimpin creates sonic installations at the intersection of music and visual art. Hear his work Solo Flute, Eight Pottery Wheels and Assorted Vinyls alongside music of Andrew Stiefel, Leonardo Gorosito, Rafael Alberto, and Igor Stravinsky.
Tues, 4/2, 7:30pm, Octave 9 | $20

Emerald City Music: Dreamers’ Circus
Classical music meets Nordic folk song in this globe-trotting Scandinavian trio. Comprised of violin, piano/accordion, and cittern (a lute with a flat back), the trio brings together the warmth and nostalgia of acoustic folk music with the subtle complexities of the classical tradition.
Fri, 4/5, 8pm, 415 Westlake | $45
Sat, 4/6, 7:30pm, The Minnaert Center (Olympia) | $20-$25

Dreamers’ Circus. Photo by Kristoffer Juel Poulsen.

James Falzone: The Already & The Not Yet
Reflecting on his past three years living in Seattle, composer and clarinetist James Falzone offers a meditation on his long-running solo work, Sighs Too Deep for Words. Plus: new music composed for Tao Trio featuring Falzone alongside pianist Wayne Horvitz and bassist Abbey Blackwell.
Sat, 4/6, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Third Coast Percussion: ‘Perpetulum’
Philip Glass’s first and only piece for percussion ensemble receives its Pacific Northwest premiere in the capable hands of Third Coast Percussion, who commissioned the piece last year. A handful of the ensemble’s own original Glass-inspired works complete the program.
Sun, 4/7, 6pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $22

Third Coast Percussion.

Harry Partch Ensemble: ‘Daphne of the Dunes’
The ancient Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo is reimagined through the primal rhythms and eerie microtones of Harry Partch’s handmade instruments. His sprawling Daphne of the Dunes (originally composed as a film score) is performed alongside microtonal art songs of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Tues, 4/9, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | $10

Harry Partch Ensemble: ‘The Bewitched’
Music, theatre, and ritual merge in Harry Partch’s radical dance satire The Bewitched. Written as a reaction against the rigidity of modern civilization, the piece explores how we might ultimately find a sense of rebirth through a discovering our ancient past. The tale unfolds across 12 scenes played out on Partch’s collection of handmade microtonal instruments.
Sat, 4/13, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | $10

Harry Partch’s Chromelodeon. Photo by Maggie Molloy.

Music of Today: Performing with the Brain
Performers can create music without movement thanks to a new brain computer music interface developed at the University of Washington. Patients with motor disability improvise with professional musicians in this performance led by composers Juan Pampin and Richard Karpen and neuroscientist Thomas Deuel.
Fri, 4/19, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | FREE

Seattle Symphony: ‘Surrogate Cities’
Man, machine, and the modern metropolis are the major themes behind Heiner Goebbels’ new multimedia work Surrogate Cities. Like the city itself, the music is a sprawling blur of human and machine-made sounds enhanced with striking visual effects. Get a sneak preview of Goebbels’ immersive chamber works performed in Octave 9, and hear Surrogate Cities in the main hall over the weekend.
Mon, 4/22, 7:30pm, Octave 9 | $25
Thurs, 4/25, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $22-$122
Fri, 4/26, 8pm, Benaroya Hall | $22-$122

Philip Glass: ‘Hydrogen Jukebox’
The pulsing minimalism of Philip Glass and the countercultural activism of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg combine in Hydrogen Jukebox, a 1990 chamber opera reflecting on issues of war, peace, social equity, and sustainability. The UW Vocal Theatre Workshop performs the Northwest Premiere under the direction of Cyndia Siden, Dean Williamson, and Deanne Meek.
4/26-4/27, 7:30pm, Meany Studio Theater | $10

Ladies Musical Club: Northwest Composers
Pacific Northwest composers are celebrated in this wide-ranging concert of chamber music featuring works by Karen P. Thomas, Alex Shapiro, Sarah Mattox, and many more.
Sat, 4/27, 7pm, Music Center of the NW | FREE

Seattle Symphony: American Horizons
Composer-in-Residence Derek Bermel curates an evening of music ranging from Steve Reich to Mary Kouyoumdjian, with world premieres by Kaley Lane Eaton and Bermel himself composed specifically for the immersive new Octave 9 space.
Sun, 4/28, 6pm, Octave 9 | $35

Seattle Symphony Composer-in-Residence Derek Bermel.

Seattle Modern Orchestra: ‘Coming Together’
Frederic Rzewski’s hypnotic classic Coming Together uses text adapted from a prison letter written by Sam Melville, an anarchist bomber who was killed during the Attica Prison uprising in 1971. The harrowing piece is performed here alongside politically-charged works by Christian Wolff.
Sun, 4/28, 7:30pm, The Royal Room | $10-$20

Paul Taub: Landscape with Birds
Flute music from across three continents is presented in this program exploring the instrument’s wide range of techniques and influences. Paul Taub, who recently retired from nearly four decades of teaching at Cornish, performs music of Pēteris Vasks, Toru Takemitsu, Bun-Ching Lam, Robert Aitken, Janice Giteck, and more.
Tues, 4/30, 7pm, Folio | $20

Sneak Peek Audio Leak: Daníel Bjarnason’s ‘Collider’

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Börkur Sigthorsson.

Daníel Bjarnason’s music is at its most potent when he’s writing for symphony orchestra. He has a masterful way of balancing the cavernous depths of a large ensemble against moments of shimmering near-silence, often within a matter of seconds. 

His luminous orchestrations are on full display in his forthcoming album Collider, a collection of three works that glisten with timbral detail. Bjarnason conducts the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in the lively, interlocking textures of “Blow Bright” before transitioning to the haunting three-part work “The Isle is Full of Noises,” a setting of three monologues from Shakespeare’s The Tempest featuring the ethereal vocals of the Hamrahlid Choir.

“Collider” unwinds a bit more slowly, moments of eerie stillness gradually building into an eruption of restless energy that pulls the listener deeper and deeper into a shifting sound maze. We’re thrilled to premiere the title track from the brand new album ahead of its October 26 release date. Click below to hear Bjarnason’s “Collider.”


Daníel Bjarnason’s Collider comes out October 26 on Bedroom Community. Click here to pre-order the album.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Third Coast Percussion’s Paddle to the Sea (Act II)

by Maggie Molloy

Third Coast Percussion performs an entire ocean of sounds in their new film score for the 1966 classic Paddle to the Sea. From skittering wood blocks to water-filled wine glasses, each instrument adds its own unique shimmer to the sound of the sea.

We’re thrilled to premiere a video of the group performing Act II of their original score, which was co-commissioned by Meany Center for the Performing Arts and performed there earlier this year.

(Click here to watch our video for Act I, which we premiered in May 2018.)

The Oscar-nominated film Paddle to the Sea is based on Holling C. Holling’s 1941 children’s book of the same name, which follows the epic journey of a small wooden boat that is carved and launched by a young Native Canadian boy.

“I am Paddle to the Sea” he inscribes on the bottom of the boat. “Please put me back in the water.”

Over the course of the film, the boat travels for many years from Northern Ontario through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway out to the Atlantic Ocean and far beyond—and each time it washes ashore, a kind stranger places it back in the water.

Third Coast’s new film score (recently released as an album on Cedille Records) is inspired by and interspersed with music by Philip Glass and Jacob Druckman, along with traditional music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. All of the music in the score is inspired by water, with Third Coast performing an array of sounds ranging from pitched desk bells to bowls of water, glass bottles, sandpaper, and one particularly special instrument: the mbira.

The mbira is a thumb piano that plays a leading role in the Shona music from Zimbabwe. In fact, one of the pieces on the album, Chigwaya, is a traditional song used to call water spirits in the Shona religion—a song which was taught to Third Coast by their mentor Musekiwa Chingodza. By incorporating elements of their Western classical training with their study of the traditional music of the Shona people, Third Coast weaves together their own epic musical journey.

And in the spirit of Holling’s original story, the music itself becomes the small wooden boat: rather than keep it for themselves, the musicians add what they can and send the story out into the world again for others to discover.


Third Coast Percussion’s Paddle to the Sea is now available on Cedille Records. Click here to purchase the album.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Mark Applebaum’s ‘Aphasia’

by Maggie Molloy

Mark Applebaum’s Aphasia is scored for a singer that doesn’t sing. Instead, the singer performs an elaborately choreographed set of hand gestures synchronized to a pre-recorded tape.

Yet there is still an element of voice: the tape itself is an explosion of warped sounds comprised exclusively of pre-recorded, digitally transformed vocal samples. On stage, the live performer of the piece is completely silent, singing through the inaudible yet piercing music of gesture alone.

This year percussionist Michael Compitello took Applebaum’s Aphasia into his own hands for a new video we are thrilled to premiere right here on Second Inversion. This video was created by Four/Ten Media.

So, how exactly does a percussionist go about playing a silent vocal piece? Learn more in our Q&A with Michael Compitello:

Second Inversion: What are some of the unique challenges of performing a piece without making any sound?

Photo by Matt Fried.

Michael Compitello: What I love about Aphasia is that the performer’s hands are able to represent the character of both attack and sustain in the tape part. Some gestures peter out, while others end sharply. Some sounds require a more resistance in the air, and others float buoyantly. For me, this is a challenge. Percussionists in general tend to think a lot about how our notes begin, and less so about how they end. “Let ring” is a fairly common notation in scores, and without a tremolo, it’s rather difficult to play with the sustain on a marimba or xylophone. 

With this piece there’s also nowhere to hide! Most of the time, I appear on stage with a lot of stuff. Marimbas alone are as large as sofas. One becomes accustomed to the security which a large instrument provides, and learning to sustain an audience’s focus with just a chair is frightening at first.

You’re also playing chamber music with a relatively stubborn partner. I came to Aphasia after playing Mark Applebaum’s Straitjacket, a four-movement work for solo percussionist and quartet. One movement of Straitjacket uses the same gestures as Aphasia, except they are accompanied by Foley sounds from the quartet. While percussion quintets are able to engage in very flexible chamber music, the sonic portion of Aphasia is fixed. Learning to follow the timing in the tape while appearing to create the sounds took a lot of practice, especially in the piece’s opening, where “centurion greeting” and “turn key” pierce long and varied silences.

SI: How does performing this piece relate to your experiences playing percussion music?

MC: As percussionists, much of what we do is theatrical as a matter of course, ranging from the impressive spectacle of drumlines to the graceful ballet of a single performer attending to a gigantic battery of instruments. Striking, scraping, and shaking objects seems to evoke inherent theatrical undertones, and what’s fun about percussion is the way in which great percussionists exist at the intersection of sonic poetry, visual drama, and athletic exertion.

There exists quite a significant strain of “concert” percussion music which concerns itself with the theatrical. These works range from the amplification and foregrounding of the physical gestures required to play percussion instruments to full-blown stage dramas with percussionists as the protagonists. 

The most immediate parallel to learning and performing Mark Applebaum’s works is the “instrumental music theatre” of Mauricio Kagel and his spiritual descendants: the body of work created by the pioneering Trio Le Cercle in France in the 1970s and 1980s, including wonderful pieces by Georges Aperghis and Vinko Globokar.

In particular, Kagel’s works for percussion are similar to the types of execution required in Aphasia. Kagel’s music expresses a what he calls “exaggerated protest against the mechanical reproduction of music” and a move towards “an enjoyment of music with all senses.” (They’re also devastatingly funny—a sly criticism of the overt and sometimes opaque complexity and ritualistic spectacle of his peers at Darmstadt in the 1960s). In Match, the two cellists compete in a musical tennis match, with the percussionist acting as a referee. And in Dressur, three percussionists present a staged drama for wooden instruments. 

As a performer, I love that Kagel’s works mobilize classical musicians’ most innate skills—closely and diligently following instructions, appearing serious, and creating a ritualistic spectacle of aesthetic abstraction. For me, Mark Applebaum’s works demand similar skills from their performers: a rigorous attention to detail without imbuing a personalization of gesture. 

Photo by Matt Fried.

Similarly, the indelible works of Belgian filmmaker, composer, and sound designer Thierry De Mey (b. 1956) are also wonderful preludes to Aphasia. De Mey’s long-term collaborations with choreographers Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Wim Vandekeybus have engendered works which foreground the physicality and gestures inherent in performance, what he calls “the music of music.” In Musique de Tables (1987), he invents a vocabulary of gestures that directly mirror dance figures. Three performers sit at amplified tables, tapping, scraping, sweeping, flicking, and plié-ing through a percussive Grand Divertissement where the constituent sections—overture, rondo, fugato, gallop, etc—emphasize a witty unity of visual and sonic gesture.

In Silence Must Be! (2002), the apparatus of sound-making is removed, creating an ethereal, magical plane. Rather than a ballet of the hands, this is a ballet of the air: a single figure creates various gestures, mostly moving in silence but eventually evoking the once-imagined sounds. Moving from gestures of a conductor to balletic figurations in the air, De Mey eventually fuses his visual vocabulary with speech, spelling out the piece’s name (an anagram for long-time collaborators Ictus Ensemble) on a flat plane for the audience to read.

Lastly, I’d say that life as a percussionist imbues one with a particular kind of attitude—a willingness to try new things, an enjoyment of being a beginner, and immunity to looking silly on stage. We really exist at corner of rigor and absurdity. Even though Aphasia does not require the performer to make sound, I feel that a lifetime of ripping paper, breaking glass, hoarding styrofoam, and other pursuits gets one in the mood.