STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, June 15 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Andy Akiho: Vick(i/y) (New Amsterdam)
Vicky Chow, piano

Andy Akiho is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting movers and shakers in the contemporary music world, and his piece for prepared piano Vick(i/y) is one of my favorites. The piece doesn’t limit itself to the usual prepared sounds of clanging and crashing and twanging, but uses normal piano sound as a sort of through-line to tell its story. Andy says that this alternation of prepared sounds and conventional sounds represents a “consistent, yet fading image of a forgotten dream.” Andy is a percussionist, and it’s the percussive sounds of Vick(i/y) that define the piece. There is also a really cool music video that transports the piano into natural locations, and features an Andy Akiho cameo. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 11am hour today to hear this piece.


John Cage and Sun Ra: Empty Words and Keyboard (Modern Harmonic)
John Cage, voice; Sun Ra, synthesizer

A near-mythic musical encounter happened on Coney Island in the summer of 1986. Two of the 20th century’s most iconoclastic musical philosophers, John Cage and Sun Ra, came together for a concert. For one night only, two artists from opposite ends of the avant-garde shared the same stage.

That fateful day has been immortalized on a record that is best listened to from front to back, as the two artists tend to trade off soloing. Empty Words and Keyboard offers a rare exception: Cage’s sparse, wordless vocal improvisations are echoed by Sun Ra’s even sparser synth accompaniment, the two intertwining in a delicate meditation on sound, silence, and the music in between. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 12pm hour today to hear this piece.


Nico Muhly: Comfortable Cruising Altitude (Cantaloupe Music)
Bang on a Can All-Stars

As many people look toward a summer filled with long-distance travel, it’s nice to know that even the experience of riding inside the cabin of a commercial airliner has been used as fuel for new music.  Nico Muhly’s Comfortable Cruising Altitude opens with a field recording taken from inside an airliner cabin.  The piece explores the many layers that make up a typical airline trip, including complex contemplative feelings, the anxiety of waiting, and even a crying child.  This work encapsulates the commercial air travel experience with striking poignancy, especially given its relatively short duration.
– 
Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 4pm hour today to hear this piece.


Matt Marks: “I Don’t Have Any Fun” (New Amsterdam)
Matt Marks and Mellissa Hughes

Matt Marks called the album that this song is from (The Little Death: Vol. 1) his “post-Christian nihilist opera.” This almost spastically poppy track is poking fun at a mutually destructive relationship dynamic. In this case, a guy is placing a woman on a ridiculously high pedestal, telling her that he doesn’t have any fun on his own, that he needs her, and in his final appeal, that she is like a god to him. The more he entreats her, the meaner she gets, and the meaner she gets, the more desperate his attempts become.

Marks captures the nuances of this variety of romantic behavior so well, so hilariously, and so succinctly, you might even think he was That Guy at one point in his life—that maybe he was making fun of his own emotional tendencies. Or maybe he was illuminating how in a post-Christian nihilist world, God is sometimes replaced with other gods in the human race’s ongoing quest to annihilate the Self. Matt Marks died this past month, and people close to him describe him as being both really serious and really funny. This song is that exactly. – Dacia Clay

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear this piece.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, May 11 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Pauline Oliveros: “Pauline’s Solo” (Innova Recordings)
Pauline Oliveros, accordion

“Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening,” Pauline Oliveros said in her 1998 keynote address at the ArtSci98 symposium.

Twenty years later, those words have come to encapsulate the astonishing legacy left behind by the late composer, who passed away in 2016. An artist, accordionist, and pioneer of experimental and electronic art music, Oliveros is remembered for her revolutionary tape experiments, her poetic and aleatoric musical scores, her groundbreaking musical philosophies, and above all, her unwavering devotion to the exploration of sound.

“Pauline’s Solo” embodies that legacy. It is an intimate, improvised accordion solo that explores not melody so much as the music of sound—the clattering keys, wavering dissonances, swelling drones, and fluttering breaths of the instrument easing the listener into musical hypnosis. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 2pm hour today to hear this piece.


No Lands: “Icefisher” (New Amsterdam)
Michael Hammond, electronics

Michael Hammond’s recording project No Lands opens it’s album Negative Space with a confusingly-titled track. Despite being titled “Icefisher,” this piece brings a distinct sense of warmth. The slow, bendy chords are reminiscent of surf rock, while the heavy electronic static might be a sonic translation of the sensation of relaxing outdoors on an evening that is too hot. The end result? This track makes me want immediate access to a cold drink and a lawn chair. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 4pm hour today to hear this piece.


William Brittelle: Hieroglyphics Baby (New Amsterdam)

If you’re looking for some Friday night grooves, William Brittelle’s got the tune for you. “Hieroglyphics Baby” is a colorful art-pop-meets-classical mashup from his full-length, lip-synched (when live) concept album Mohair Time Warp. Tongue-in-cheek lyrics spiral through Technicolor melodies in this art music adventure that splashes through at least six musical genres in the span of three minutes. See if you can keep up. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear this piece.


György Ligeti: Lux Aeterna (EMI Records)
Groupe Vocal de France

It’s always fascinating for me to hear the atonal landscape of György Ligeti applied to vocal works—for me, it magnifies the majesty and magic that is a somewhat lesser characteristic of his instrumental compositions that I know and love. Lux Aeterna is a highly difficult work for 16-part mixed choir that uses constantly shifting rhythms and high notes for all vocal parts to create a floating, ethereal feeling. Stanley Kubrick was attracted to its celestial sound, using it in his film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Latin text comes from the Catholic Requiem Mass, and translates to:

“May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord, with thy saints in eternity, for thou art merciful. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them.”

 Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, March 23 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Max Richter: Shadow 4 (Deutsche Grammophon)
Max Richter, electronics

I’m listening to this piece again as I write. It sounds like spring in a meadow on a parallel planet—one that’s a lot like ours, with all of the sweetness of plants and animals waking up from long winter’s naps, but with none of the Rite of Spring madness. It’s bright and peaceful and hopeful, and also brief, like having a flash of realization that the world is amazing when it wants to be. The piece comes and goes that quickly. I like this piece even more knowing that Max Richter’s impetus for writing the album was that he was trying to regain the appreciation he’d once had for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by digging into the work, recomposing it, and interpreting what he found at its heart. The idea that you can breathe life into things in your world which have become familiar and dull by reframing your own point of view is a powerful one. Plus, I’m a sucker for music with bird calls. – Dacia Clay

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 12pm hour today to hear this piece.


Christopher Cerrone: South Catalina (Cedille Records)
Eighth Blackbird

It’s always a joy when you encounter an instance of an artist putting forth a very specific idea with which you connect, especially if that idea is one that has made you feel isolated in the past. I had this perpetually rare and delightful experience as I discovered Christopher Cerrone’s South Catalina this week. Specifically, I have a long-running and deep personal connection with a feeling Cerrone outlines as an inspiration for this piece: the strange mix of enchantment and oppression that a consistently sunny climate can catalyze in people unfamiliar with that type of environment. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 1pm hour today to hear this piece.


Joan La Barbara: Cathing (Lovely Music Records)
Joan La Barbara, voice

Joan La Barbara spoke up for experimental vocalists everywhere with her witty response to mezzo-soprano Cathy Berberian’s scathing critique of avant-garde vocal music. Berberian, who interviewed La Barbara during the intermission of one of her concerts, dismissed extended vocal techniques as at best “research” and at worse the work of “freaks” who can’t actually sing.

In response, La Barbara composed “Cathing,” a piece which takes electronically manipulated samples from the interview and weaves them into a scintillating sound-off of vocal techniques: shrieks, squeaks, whispers, wails, moans, drones, and a slew of sounds you didn’t know humans could even make. The result is eight minutes of pure vocal virtuosity—with a bite. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 5pm hour today to hear this piece.


Valgeir Sigurðsson: 1875 (Bedroom Community)
Reykjavik Sinfonia

Valgeir Sigurðsson’s 2017 album is titled Dissonance, something that as a musical device can have many purposes and characteristics. Dissonance can be harsh and clashing in a way that is shocking and uncomfortable, or it can be soft and subtle, adding a strange beauty to the music it colors. It can be short and punctuated, or it can be long and sustained.

1875, the three-part final work on the album, actually uses dissonance sparingly, but to dramatic effect. Its long, lingering textures have the atmospheric sounds that are typical of Sigurðsson’s palette: deep, sometimes electronically-augmented chords; twinkling string tremolo and scattered Pollock-esque pizzicato; and long, slowly-unfolding string melodies. However, the opening of 1875, a piece that details the first arrival of Icelanders in the frozen landscape of Winnipeg, Manitoba in the late 19th century, uses dissonance in a way that immediately makes a stunning impression. The grandeur of the dissonance in that first orchestral introduction with its imposing wall of sound makes the work worth hearing all on its own. Other interesting ideas are realized throughout the three movements (Waterborne, In Dead of Winter, Displaced), including bell tones that ring out not through the use of percussion instruments, but the use of orchestral strings and brass.
– Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7pm hour today to hear this piece.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, January 12 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Angélica Negrón: La Isla Mágica (Innova Recordings)
Eleonore Oppenheim, double bass

Brimming with whimsy and wistful nostalgia, Angélica Negrón’s La Isla Mágica combines punchy, video game-worthy electronics with double bass, percussion, and ambient vocals. Performed here by Eleonore Oppenheim on her debut solo album Home, her bass swings, sways, and dances amid a swirl of technicolor electronics. At times it sounds almost as though she’s in the middle of a theme park, playing among the neon signs, the colorful carnival games, and the translucent stars above. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 1pm hour today to hear this piece.


Gabriela Lena Frank: Danza de los Saqsampillos (Naxos Records)
Alias Chamber Ensemble

I seriously can’t get enough of these works by Gabriela Lena Frank, with all their vibrant colors and stunning rhythmic character. Gabriela was born in the US to parents of Peruvian/Chinese and Lithuanian/Jewish ancestry, and much of her music is influenced by her heritage. Danza de los Saqsampillos is inspired by the Peruvian “saqsampillo,” a rambunctious jungle-dweller with a characteristic jumping two-person dance. This performance from the Alias Chamber Ensemble album Hilos is the version for two marimbas.
– Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 3pm hour today to hear this piece.


David Bowie: “Ashes to Ashes” (arr. Bischoff)
Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff

David Bowie once said that “Ashes to Ashes” represented his own feelings of inadequacy about his work not having much importance.  Until “Ashes to Ashes” was released in 1980, much of Bowie’s music was cloaked in concept and personas so the vulnerability and maturity of this song was, among other things, his way of closing that chapter and moving on. In this version, from an album recorded just two weeks following Bowie’s death in 2016, the harsh textures, edginess, and synthesized guitars of the original are replaced with softer melancholy strings and sultry nightclub vocals.  Bowie is celebrated here, not emulated, and that’s what makes this tribute shine.
 Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear this piece.


David Crowell: “Waiting in the Rain for Snow” (New Amsterdam Records)
NOW Ensemble

This is exactly what waiting in the rain for snow sounds like.

NOW Ensemble’s flute, clarinet, double bass, oboe, piano, and electric guitar combine the excitement and anticipation of dramatic, beautiful flakes drifting from the sky, with the anxious desire to stay dry while the undesirable in-between phase of sleet insistently pounds the pavement in front of you. – Brendan Howe

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, December 8 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

John Luther Adams: Among Red Mountains (Cantaloupe Music)
Lisa Moore, piano

I love Christmas music. I really do. However, that is not to say that I can make it through the whole holiday season without some sort of respite from the unrelenting positivity parade that is Christmas music. That’s where music like John Luther Adams’s Among Red Mountains comes in. This blocky, atmospheric piece reminds me of the amorality and complexity of outdoor spaces that exist a million miles from the sometimes-suffocating saccharine sparkles of the holiday season.
– Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 1pm hour today to hear this piece.


Mohammed Fairouz: Jebel Lebnan (Naxos Records)
Imani Winds

Jebel Lebnan is one of my favorite woodwind quintets written in the last 50 years. Few works for wind quintet approach it in seriousness of tone, making it a very welcome addition to a chamber music genre that is full of a lot of bright and cheerful music.

Mohammed Fairouz was born in the United States in 1985, and his music reflects an informed view of the cultures and political forces of his Arabic heritage. The quintet’s title means “Mount Lebanon,” and the piece chronicles events in the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War, starting with the stark Bashir’s March, marked “intense and relentless with no compassion or tenderness.” An interlude features the solo flute in a plaintive, far-off Arabic melody, and then we experience the funereal Ariel’s Song followed by a sort of spring-like reawakening and a finale invoking the Lebanese patron saint Mar Charbel. Powerful emotions abound throughout, making it a must-listen for those looking to discover new perspectives in the unique woodwind quintet genre. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 3pm hour today to hear this piece.


Bora Yoon: Semaphore Conductus (Cantaloupe Music)
Young People’s Chorus of New York City; Francisco Núñez, conductor

If ever there was a piece meant for radio, this is it!  Sound-artist/composer Bora Yoon’s alluring and avant-garde “Semaphore Conductus” is an exploration of communication, sound, and the language of audio signals.  Surrounding the rise and fall of harmonious vocals is a rich blend of audio transmissions plucked from time: Morse code, radio signals, heartbeats, and cellphone noises.  Because this piece was recorded in surround-sound it is highly recommended that you listen via headphones if possible to ensure maximum delight. – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 8pm hour today to hear this piece.


Olga Bell: “Primorsky Krai” (New Amsterdam Records)

“God’s too high for us/Moscow far too distant,” Olga Bell laments in Russian in her piece “Primorsky Krai.”

Bell pays homage to her impressions of her native Russia’s Primorsky Krai, or Maritime Frontier, the far southeastern finger of the country bordering China, North Korea, and the Sea of Japan. It’s one of nine territories in which Bell explores dizzy, confusing questions of identity in her 2014 album, Krai. She combines polyrhythmic percussion with melodic vocal lines, blistering in their diction and timbre, and brings all the wild, raw drama of the home region of most of the world’s Siberian tigers.
– Brendan Howe

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece.

Staff Picks: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, October 20 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Trimpin: Above, Below, and In Between (Seattle Symphony Media)
Seattle Symphony; Ludovic Morlot, conductor

With the use of found objects and immersive technology, Trimpin’s sculpture-composition eloquently weaves pieces of an old pump organ, secondhand chimes, and a Microsoft Kinect in the expansive work of Above, Below, and In Between.

The title of this piece is not only indicative of the wall of sound that is layered between soprano, orchestra, and robotics, but also the immersive quality of the installation.  Having taken place in the lobby of the Seattle Symphony, audience members were intermingling with reedhorns and prepared piano. Its one-time debut is immortalized in the recording you can hear today on Second Inversion. – Micaela Pearson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 2pm hour today to hear this piece.


Igor Stravinsky: Ebony Concerto (RCA Victor)
Richard Stoltzman, clarinet; The Thundering Herd

Stravinsky’s dabbles and experiments with African-American music began at the close of WWI and reached peak success with his 1945 Ebony Concerto, paying admirable homage to the music of Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, and guitarist Charles Christian.

Composed for jazz clarinetist Woody Herman and his original big band, the First Herd, the concerto is by turns rambunctious, bluesy, and rhythmically ahead of its time (it would be another ten years before Dave Brubeck began exploring time signatures in jazz other than the ubiquitous 4/4). This particular 1987 recording features clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and a later iteration of Woody Herman’s band, the Thundering Herd.

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear this piece.


David Sanford: “Una Notte all’Opera” (Oxingale Records)
The Pittsburgh Collective

The Pittsburgh Collective is just an insanely good band, and this is an insane track. Some of our favorite Italian operatic melodies are thrust into the world of the big band with “Una Notte all’Opera,” with some really fun results. We get a solo trumpet screaming out arias, a reed section carving through fast unison runs, and a massive drum break in the middle. I’m not sure how the drum solo is opera-inspired, but it ends with a nice quote of the chorus from the Consecration Scene in Act I of Verdi’s Aida, simultaneously beautiful and hilariously out of place. The ending is just the icing on the cake, highlighting Sanford’s creativity and comedy in this chart.
– Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear this piece.


Quentin Sirjacq: “Aquarius” (Karaoke Kalk)
Quentin Sirjacq, piano/percussion/synth

From French composer Quentin Sirjacq, we last year received the album Far Islands and Near Places, a musical response to the islands of Japan. In the track “Aquarius,” the simple melodic structures combined with mixed meter encourage reflection. But don’t get me wrong—there is levity here, too; the tiny slides in the piano are completely charming. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9:30pm hour today to hear this piece.

Staff Picks: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, October 6 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Michael Gordon: Timber (Cantaloupe Music)
Remixed by Ikue Mori

Michael Gordon could make music out of just about anything. His piece Timber, composed for six percussionists playing 2×4 planks of wood, is not just good—it’s so good  it spurred an entire album of remixes by 12 different electronic artists.

This particular remix by Ikue Mori slows down the texture and explores the space between the notes, with the music slowly oscillating up and down, side to side, from one headphone to the other and back again. With an echoing, almost ritualistic pulse, Mori’s version feels ghostlier than the original. It’s almost as though the wooden planks were cut from haunted trees—evoking a spookier interpretation of the title Timber. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 2pm hour today to hear this piece.


Julia Wolfe: Lick (Cantaloupe Music)
Bang on a Can All-Stars

This is an intense piece in many ways. It’s rhythmically difficult, aggressively pounding, and relentless throughout; it features no sound softer than a determined forte until possibly the very end. Generally I would abhor something like this, but the Bang on a Can All-Stars are able to give it a truly fascinating showcase: raucous and full of indomitable character.

It’s the first piece that Julia Wolfe wrote for the ensemble, hoping they would “go over the top” with the work’s “intense energy” born of the body-slamming rhythms of Motown, funk, and rock music of Julia’s childhood. I think it worked. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 3pm hour today to hear this piece.


Florence Price: Dances in the Canebrakes (MSR Classics)
William Chapman Nyaho, piano

William Chapman Nyaho: Asa is the second of five volumes curated by Ghanaian-American composer and pianist William Chapman Nyaho. All five volumes feature a fascinating and impressive collection of music of Africa and the African diaspora.  This second volume is focused on dance music, and Nyaho certainly shines as he dances his hands across the keys of his piano with striking expertise.

In Florence Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes, Nyaho treats the listener to three movements that feel like a courtly cakewalk.  Price, I should note, was the first black woman in the US to be recognized as a symphonic composer and to have her work performed by a major American orchestra. Price was a pioneer and is perfectly at home in this anthology of musical unity. – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7pm hour today to hear this piece.


Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Ségal: “N’kapalema” (No Format Records)

I’m currently going through a months-long phase of discovering West African music, which started with Peter Gabriel’s collaborations with Youssou N’Dour and then led me through to Toumani Diabaté and Rokia Traoré. (Give them a listen!)

It looks like Ballaké Sissoko will carry the torch next. In “N’kapalema,” a collaboration with cellist Vincent Ségal for Sissoko’s album Musique de nuit, the composer plucks precise, intricate melodies on the kora while Ségal overlays the cello’s husky voice. For me, it evoked an image of a lot of families in their homes at dusk, all saying prayers before a candlelit dinner. – Brendan Howe

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece. Plus, catch the duo in Seattle when they perform as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival on Oct. 22.