Seattle Symphony’s Tuning Up! Festival

by Maggie Molloy

The Fourth of July is almost upon us, and you know what that means: parades, picnics, and barbeques abound! And while hot dogs, fireworks, and flag-covered clothing are a (somewhat) relevant expression of American independence, our county has a whole lot more than just cured meats and corny t-shirts to be proud of.

Tuning Up!Which is why this summer, the Seattle Symphony is turning off the barbeque and turning up the music with Tuning Up!: a two-week festival celebrating American musical creativity in the 20th and 21st century. This star-spangled celebration features nine concerts which traverse America’s vast musical landscape, from jazz to Broadway, avant-garde to minimalism, classics to Hollywood, and much more.

So whether you crave the jazzy grooves of George Gershwin or the swinging blues of Duke Ellington, you can hear it all during the Tuning Up! Festival. Maybe you prefer the massive soundscapes of John Luther Adams, the hypnotic minimalism of Philip Glass, or the movie magic of John Williams—the festival has all that too!

Suffice it to say, Second Inversion is all over this festival. Come visit us at the KING FM table in the lobby at the following events for music, magnets, and other free swag!


Stage & Screen: From Appalachian Spring to the Red Violin
Thursday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m.

From stage to screen to concert hall, these giants of American music transcended borders and paved the way for generations to come. Among them is Florence Beatrice Price: the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer. The Seattle Symphony pays tribute with a rousing orchestral rendition of her ragtime classic, Dances in the Canebrakes. Plus, dancers take to the stage alongside the Symphony for a performance of Aaron Copland’s famous folk-inspired and Pulitzer Prize-winning Appalachian Spring.

The program also features Leonard Bernstein’s elegant Divertimento for Orchestra, poignant movie music from Schindler’s List and The Red Violin, and a heartwarming tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch who, among his many accomplishments in music, served as the Principal Pops Conductor at the Seattle Symphony from 2008 until his death in 2012.


The Light that Fills the World: A Meditation in Sound & Light
Thursday, June 30 at 7:30 p.m.

In the face of trauma and political turmoil around the world, Seattle Symphony offers an intimate meditation in sound and silence, light and dark. Julia Wolfe’s My Beautiful Scream, written after the events of 9/11, opens the program with a slow-building and softly illuminating agony. What follows is utter silence: John Cage’s famous 4’33”.

The program also features Pulitzer Prize-winner John Luther Adams’ immersive, Arctic-inspired soundscape The Light That Fills the World, the delicate breath of Morton Feldman’s Piano and Orchestra, and Philip Glass’ scientific salute, The Light.

Plus, the Symphony invites you to submit your own Glass-inspired photographs to be featured during the performance. Deadline for submissions is this Friday, June 24.


In the White Silence: John Luther Adams’ Alaskan Landscapes
Friday, July 1 at 10 p.m.

To say that composer and environmentalist John Luther Adams is inspired by nature would be a bit of an understatement. He spent much of his life composing from a 16×20 ft. one-room cabin in the Alaskan woods, creating large-scale soundscapes which blur the line between nature and man-made instruments.

In 2013, the Seattle Symphony commissioned and premiered John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean, a 42-minute meditation for large orchestra which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award.John Luther Adams

And now, during this special late-night concert, the Symphony revisits one of Adams’ earlier explorations into sonic geography: the 75-minute soundscape In the White Silence. The piece unfolds slowly and patiently, translating the vast horizons of the frozen far north into a musical landscape of clean, radiant harmony and subtle transformation.


Looking for more in American music? Check out the Seattle Symphony’s Tuning Up! Festival Map below:

Tuning Up! Visual Guide

ALBUM REVIEW: Maya Beiser’s “Uncovered”

by Jill Kimball

Maya Beiser Uncovered

One of classical music’s worst faults is its superiority, all too often on display. Many of those who perform and listen to classical music believe there is nothing more beautiful, more sacred. Some even believe everything else is noise.

Perhaps that’s why cellist Maya Beiser felt guilty and a little dirty after she heard rock music for the first time. As a child growing up in Israel’s Galilee Mountains, she listened to classical music and practiced on her cello diligently. But “the first time I heard Janis Joplin I felt shaken to the core,” she told her recording label, Innova. “Somehow her unique, raw expression snuck its way into the inner shrine where, until then, only the likes of Bach and Schubert were allowed to enter. It felt so sacrilegious that I was giddy with guilt.”

It was that feeling that inspired the cello diva’s latest album, “Uncovered.” It’s ten tracks of beautifully deconstructed classic rock songs, as spectacular a find for die-hard Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd fans as it is for those who know absolutely nothing about classic rock.

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Beiser has never shied from experimental music and has in fact made cross-cultural genre-bending her mission. She’s worked with the likes of Philip Glass, Tan Dun, Brian Eno and Steve Reich on new compositions. She’s the founding cellist of New York’s Bang on a Can. Her hometown was a cultural melting pot of Christians, Jews and Muslims, and she was born of a French mother and Argentinian father. With that kind of background, it’s no wonder her music resonates with people all over the world. (Her TED talk has been translated into 32 languages.)

“Uncovered” is another excellent chapter in Beiser’s genre-defying book, proof positive that traditionally classical instruments don’t always have to sound prim and polished. In the Nirvana cover “Lithium,” for example, Beiser’s cello scrapes rudely across the strings to channel Kurt Cobain’s gritty, slightly out of tune singing voice. She bends the notes perfectly to capture Jimi Hendrix’s essence in “Little Wing.” And she does a hell of a good AC/DC electric guitar impression on “Back in Black.”

Channeling, rather than imitation, is really what she’s going for in this album, and thank goodness: straight-up covers are often mocked, panned and condemned for their lack of creativity. The covers that everyone remembers are those that shed completely new light on a song, like Janis Joplin’s bluesy take on the Gershwin classic “Summertime.” That track inspired Beiser’s own cover, where she shreds and wails on the cello to create a melody that so accurately imitates Joplin’s raspy vocals.

Other tracks seek to imitate the mood of the original song rather than the vocal quality, such as the balladic “Wish You were Here,” a Pink Floyd cover, and the mournful “Epitaph,” by King Crimson.

In short, the cello diva has done it again. Without giving up her own originality, cellist Maya Beiser captures every rasp, every scream, every bit of edginess and ugliness…everything that made these rock songs so legendary. “Uncovered” is the ultimate homage to the perfect imperfection of rock music.