October Concerts You Can’t Miss

by Maggie Molloy

SI_button2

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! 

thvLYmNB

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, submit your event to the Live Music Project at least 6 weeks prior to the event and tag it with “new music.”

October 2018 New Music Flyer

 

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: atmospheric soundscapes, improvised noise, music inspired by historic women of Mexico, and more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Max Richter and ACME
There are few places more appropriate for the rainy day soundscapes of Max Richter than Seattle. Hear the prolific composer with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble as they perform Infra in its entirety, plus selections from The Blue Notebooks. Check out our interview with the composer for more details on what’s in store.
Tues, 10/2, 7:30pm, Moore Theatre | $35-$45

Photo by Wolfgang Borrs.

Leslie Odom, Jr. with the Seattle Symphony
Leslie Odom, Jr. launched into stardom when he originated the role of Aaron Burr in a little musical called Hamilton. Now he joins our own Seattle Symphony for an evening of jazz standards and Broadway hits.
Tues-Wed, 10/2-10/3, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $46-$103

SMCO: American Experiences
It’s rare to see the concertmaster of PNB on the same program as the rapper from Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”but then again, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra’s 10th anniversary is cause for boundary-bursting celebration. Michael Jinsoo Lim joins the orchestra for Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, Wanz performs Randall Woolf’s Blues for Black Hoodies, and masterworks by Leonard Bernstein and Jennifer Higdon complete the program.
Thurs, 10/4, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $15-25

Wanz guest stars in SMCO’s Tenth Anniversary concert.

The Esoterics: CŌNSŌLŌ
Requiems are reimagined in this concert exploring the sense of comfort found in the musical act of remembrance. Included in the program are new works from the three winners of last year’s POLYPHONOS competition: Anna-Karin Klockar, Sarah Rimkus, and Ily Matthew Maniano.
Fri, 10/5, 8pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church | $15-$25
Sat, 10/6, 8pm, Holy Rosary Catholic Church | $15-$25

OSSCS: The Bounty of the Earth
Orchestra Seattle and Seattle Chamber Singers launch a season-long celebration of the music of Lili Boulanger, performing her extraordinary setting of Psalm 24 (“The Earth Belongs to the Eternal One”). Also on the program is Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Haydn’s The Seasons, and a composition by the OSSCS’s new conductor, William White.
Sat, 10/6, 7:30pm, First Free Methodist Church | $10-$25

Earshot Jazz Festival: Amy Denio
Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Amy Denio brings her inimitable brand of politically-charged avant-jazz to Earshot, performing compositions and improvisations that color her four-octave vocal range with electronics.
Wed, 10/10, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$18

Kin of the Moon & Karin Stevens Dance: lily/LUNG
Kaley Lane Eaton’s 30-minute electroacoustic composition LUNG receives its world premiere by musicians from Kin of the Moon and Strange Interlude, with choreographed dance by Karin Stevens and Amelia Love Clearheart. Also on the program is Eaton’s chamber opera lily [bloom in my darkness], which tells the story of Eaton’s great-grandmother, an orphan who fled England at the start of WWI.
Thurs-Sat, 10/11-10/13, 8pm, Erickson Theatre | $20-$50
Sun, 10/14, 11am, Erickson Theatre | $20-$50

Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis.

Samantha Boshnack: Seismic Belt
Seattle-based trumpeter and bandleader Samantha Boshnack takes listeners on a sonic adventure into the Ring of Fire in Seismic Belt, her latest large-scale work scored for seven-piece band.
Fri, 10/12, 7:30pm, The Royal Room | $10-$20

Seattle Symphony: [untitled] 1
Enter the sparse and haunting sound world of Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee (“Snow”), an immersive, hour-long chamber work filled with ghostly canons and crystalline frost. Fellow Dane Thomas Dausgaard conducts.
Fri, 10/12, 10pm, Benaroya Hall | $16

ROCCA: Enescu, Bartók, Prokofiev
Romanian American Chamber Concerts and Arts presents an afternoon of scintillating masterpieces by George Enescu, Béla Bartók, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Sergei Prokofiev.
Sat, 10/13, 3pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $26

Music of Today: Mivos Quartet
The New York-based Mivos Quartet travels to Seattle for a performance of music by University of Washington School of Music faculty composers Huck Hodge, Joël-François Durand, and more.
Tues, 10/23, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$15

Jesse Myers & Leanna Keith: Lizée’s Hitchcock & Tarantino Etudes
Cult classic fans rejoice: pianist Jesse Myers and flutist Leanna Keith present two of Nicole Lizée’s etudes for glitch film. In her Hitchcock Etudes, the composer glitches and stitches together live piano music with scenes from Psycho, The Birds, Rope, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. For her Tarantino Etudes, a virtuosic bass flute solo flutters between scenes from Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill.
Fri, 10/26, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Earshot Jazz Festival: Allos Musica
Classical, jazz, and Middle Eastern musical strands are woven together in this improvising ensemble of clarinet, launeddas, accordion, oud, harmonium, and percussion.
Thurs, 10/25, 7pm & 9:30pm, The Royal Room | $10-$22

Emerging Artist: Joep Beving
Lose yourself in the delicate, melancholic melodies of Dutch advertising-executive-turned-composer Joep Beving in this solo concert of intimate piano music.
Fri, 10/26, 8pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $25-$30

Emerald City Music: Café Music
Be whisked away to the warmth of a quiet café in this program of 20th-century French Impressionist and American composers, including music by Jean Françaix, Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Paul Schoenfield.
Fri, 10/26, 8pm, 415 Westlake | $45
Sat, 10/27, 7:30pm, The Minnaert Center (Olympia) | $25-$45

The Politics of Music: Q&A with Max Richter

by Maggie Molloy

Max Richter writes a lot of music.

Music for film, music for ballet, music for rainy days and quiet reflection, music for political protesteven music for sleep. Drifting amid a collection of keyboards and synthesizers, Richter writes pensive melodies that sparkle with elusive subtleties of texture and timbre. His delicate electroacoustic sound worlds have unfolded across eight solo albums to date, and this coming Tuesday, you can hear music from two of them performed live in Seattle at the Moore Theatre.

Joined by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Max Richter will perform his album Infra in its entirety, along with selections from his 2004 album The Blue Notebooks, which was reissued earlier this summer with new arrangements, remixes, and a previously unreleased track.

We caught up with Richter by phone to talk about the world of sleep, the power of literature, and the politics of music.

Second Inversion: The Blue Notebooks has just been reissued after 15 years. How have you and your music changed during that time?

Max Richter: Re-encountering an old work is, in a way, meeting a previous version of yourself. Some things are different, some are the same. The central concerns are pretty much constant, but part of creativity is moving beyond what you know. There is a little pool of light that we inhabit, of things that we know, and each project is a step out of that and into the dark, into something different. So it’s interesting to re-engage with these pieces. Seeing them from the perspective of today, they feel fresh.

SI: You have said before that The Blue Notebooks was written as a protest album in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The music also draws from the writings of Franz Kafka’s The Blue Octavo Notebooks and Czesław Miłosz’s Hymn of the Pearl and Unattainable Earth. How are those literary works connected to the Iraq War in your creative mind?

MR: The catalyst really was my sense that our political processes were moving into the realm of fiction. Kafka struck me as somebody very appropriate to invoke at that time. Kafka is so much the patron saint of doubt, in a way, and his use of the absurd to critique power structures in the society around him felt very relevant. And then Czesław Miłosz, writing about another war at another time, but very beautifully—and also about the redeeming powers of art. That last text, which prefaces The Trees on the record, is really about what can creativity do to make the world in some way better?

SI: Do you consider your music to be political?

MR: Yes, I do. I think if we’re making a creative contribution to society, we’re taking part in the conversation that is society, then we are engaging in political action, just by default. I’m not against the idea that art should have a kind of a social use, a kind of a utility. It’s for something. Music is for dancing, it’s for getting married, it’s for being buried, it’s for all sorts of activities. And it can also be a tool for thinking, and for engaging with the issues of society.

SI: At this concert you’re also performing Infra in its entirety. What is the story behind that album?

MR: Infra comes from a ballet I made for the Royal Opera House in London with Wayne McGregor. The starting point for the ballet was really the 7/7 bombing attacks in London. Wayne was interested also in one of the texts from T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, as a kind of jumping off point.

From a musical standpoint, because these attacks happened during rush hour, the victims were travelers. Of course, there’s a big history of traveling music within classical music. My favorite traveling music is probably the Winterreise of Schubert, so I submerged elements of Schubert’s music in the texture of Infra. You hear echoes of Winterreise and other bits of Schubert floating around in the background.

SI: Storytelling is a big part of your work, especially considering the amount of music you have written for film and dance. Do you always have a narrative in mind when you’re writing music? What about your more ambient compositions, like the 8-hour Sleep?

MR: Well, Sleep is a bit different because all the usual dynamics of music performance are sort of upended, really. In the case of Sleep, the piece is really an accompaniment to something, rather than the thing itself. So when we perform Sleep, the theme is the experience of the sleeping listener. And when we play the piece, we very much have the impression that we’re accompanying what’s happening in the room. It is the polar opposite of the ordinary performance dynamic, where you’re trying to project a story or a text to the audience. So it’s a very, very interesting situation for us. Everything is topsy-turvy in the world of Sleep.

SI: Did you write Sleep at night?

MR: Yes, I write a lot at night anyway. When we had tiny children I became sort of nocturnal, because that was the only time I could get any quiet—and the habit stuck. My writing hours for years and years have been late night hours.

SI: Do you listen differently at night?

MR: Well, at night everything’s quiet. You have a different kind of a mental space. At nighttime, it’s not the fact that the phone doesn’t ring, but it’s the fact that you know it won’t ring. That’s what makes it special.

SI: What is the ideal listening environment for people to experience your music?

MR: The records are conceived as records—they’re not individual tracks. I would love people to experience them as a whole, if possible. But at the same time, I’m very interested in what people bring to it. The pieces themselves are really propositions—they’re “what if?” questions. I have ideas about The Blue Notebooks, I have ideas about everything that I’ve written, but actually it’s the encounter with the listeners that turns that theory into something real.

SI: Many of your fans are not traditional classical music concert-goers. What do you think it is about your music that attracts a broader audience?

MR: It’s partly to do with a deliberate decision of mine which I took way, way back. When I was a student, I was writing in a kind of new complexity style—very, very dense modernist music. Which is what you were supposed to be writing if you were a university composer at that time. I just became dissatisfied with the reach of that material. I felt like I was talking to a tiny, tiny group of specialist listeners, who were either composers or new music professionals. I felt like that was somehow selling the idea of what creativity could be—sort of selling it short.

So I deliberately set out to develop a language which was more direct and plainspoken—something that could convey ideas in a very straightforward way. That meant engaging with different musical cultures, with electronics in the studio, and all these different things. It was a deliberate choice on my part, to rebuild my language from the ground up and remove a lot of the intellectual baggage.

Photo by Wolfgang Borrs.

SI: Do you believe classical music should be made more accessible in general, or do you think there’s a place for more challenging music too?

MR: There are a lot of questions about what makes music accessible—it’s in part to do with the material itself. Schoenberg remarked that if it’s popular it’s not art. And that became a kind of badge of honor—who cares if you listen? That kind of idea, from Milton Babbitt. It’s not that I’ve got anything against that material. There is some amazing music within that tradition. But it is a rather totalitarian kind of a viewpoint, and I find it politically troubling.

I think we kind of have a hangover from that era. Of course things have changed a lot, and it’s a very lively scene now, but we still have a lot of work to do to recover a broader constituency which just went away after the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when these sorts of attitudes were more prevalent. Actually I think most people don’t have a sense of prejudging material, and there’s nothing in itself about atonal music which makes it difficult. After all, people very happily listen to all kinds of stuff while they’re sitting in the movie house and the orchestra is screeching away in a very atonal situation. And people quite happily sit there eating their popcorn and it’s great. It isn’t the sounds per se, but it is the cultural baggage around it which has made things very difficult in terms of just letting people in. I think that’s a great pity, but a more direct, inclusive aesthetic is certainly a good starting point.

SI: What influence did studying with Luciano Berio have on your music?

MR: When I went to Berio I had just finished at the Royal Academy of Music in London, so I was firmly embedded in the modernist project. My music was very, very complicated and kind of impenetrable. He basically just subverted all my expectations and deflated a few of my grander ideas, and tried to lead me back to the origins of what it was I was trying to say. I trusted that he knew what he was doing because I really admired his music, and I think his music has an extraordinary generosity toward music history in it. To an extent unusual amongst the modernists of that time, his work embraced other music. There wasn’t that sense of erasing the past that you find in Boulez or someone like that.

I engaged with his ideas about a coexistence of different musical traditions and these things sort of talking to one another. A piece like Recomposed is very much in the footsteps of Berio. When you think about his Sinfonia, what he does with the Mahler for example in the second movement—it’s “Mahler Recomposed”! So his influence is everywhere in my work, in some ways.


Max Richter and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble perform at the Moore Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 7:30pm. Click here for tickets and more information.

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.

From Concert Hall to Capitol Hill Nightclub: Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra’s SPARK

by Maggie Molloy

When it comes to classical music, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra likes to think outside the concert hall. This Saturday, Second Inversion is thrilled to sponsor the launch of SMCO’s new SPARK performance series: an immersive concert experience that presents classical music old and new in nightclubs and other unexpected venues.

“It’s every musician’s dream for their friends who have no experience with classical music to enjoy this incredible art form as much as we do,” said Geoffrey Larson, Music Director of SMCO. “I wanted to provide a space to enjoy classical music without any rules, real or perceived: where audience members could have a drink, get up and dance, applaud and scream and shout whenever they want. I wanted to show how music of the classical genre can be relevant to our lives today—whether it was composed 300 years ago or three days ago.”

The series launch, which takes place amid the neon lights of the Fred Wildlife Refuge on Capitol Hill, features music from both eras. The concert unfolds as a fully-produced, continuous musical experience that oscillates between guest artist DJ Suttikeeree’s electronic dance music sets and SMCO’s electrifying classical music performances.

Under Geoffrey Larson’s baton, SMCO pairs a Vivaldi chamber concerto with Max Richter’s modern recomposition of the Baroque master’s famous Four Seasons. The centerpiece of the evening is Mason Bates’ infectious and aptly-titled Rise of Exotic Computing for sinfonietta and laptop, and a world premiere of a new work for horns and orchestra by William Rowe—co-commissioned and performed by SMCO and the Skylark Quartet—rounds out the program. Electronic interludes from DJ Suttikeeree provide both dynamic contrasts and fluid connections between the evening’s wide-ranging works.

“Suttikeeree will be spinning his own brand of electro-hop, mixing in fragments of the orchestral music our audience will hear onstage and providing a heartbeat that ties together the different genres throughout the night,” Larson said.

The first of its kind in Seattle, the SPARK series was created with the guidance of composer and producer Gabriel Prokofiev, whose orchestral arrangement of Sir Mixalot’s “Baby Got Back” premiered to viral success with the Seattle Symphony in 2014. The grandson of legendary Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, Gabriel is also the founder of the Nonclassical record label and Club Night series based in London.

“Gabriel was extremely helpful in helping me strategize three things: what role the DJ should play in the event, how to structure the general ‘flow’ of the evening, and (to a lesser extent) what sort of music we should consider performing,” Larson said. “Through trial and error, Gabriel has come up with a pretty strong and unique concept for the flow of the larger Nonclassical Club Night events, and this sort of timing has been adapted into our plans for the SPARK series.”

Like Nonclassical Club Nights, the SPARK series aims to create immersive, cross-disciplinary performances that redefine the rules of classical chamber music, breaking away from the constraints of the traditional concert hall and sparking new and inspiring collaborations.


The SPARK series launch is this Saturday, May 20 at 8pm at the Fred Wildlife Refuge on Capitol Hill. Click here for tickets and more information.

ALBUM REVIEW: Max Richter’s Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works

by Geoffrey Larson

Three novels by Virginia Woolf, the British modernist writer living 1882-1941, shaped a choreographic work by Wayne McGregor created for The Royal Ballet in 2015—a triptych that Max Richter was given the risky task of scoring. These three works show the great variety in Woolf’s writing, each contrasting dramatically in subject matter and purpose. In his score, Richter has drawn on his own varying talents as a pianist, film composer, and electro-acoustic producer. But is this music worthy of its inspiration?

It’s worth mentioning that Richter is not the only living composer who has undertaken the task of creating a musical companion to Virginia Woolf’s writing. Philip Glass’ challenge of scoring the 2002 film The Hours was both different and similar: the story of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway was the key subject of the film, but the action took place in three different time periods. Glass’ aesthetic was successful at weaving together the different storylines, using the bare materials of pulsing, repetitive rhythmic patterns and simple harmonic changes to help the listener connect the dots. Perhaps minimalist music, the genre that both Glass and Richter subscribe to in different ways, is that which serves Woolf’s narrative style and subject matter the best. Apart from the most obvious fact that both phrases of minimalist music and sentences of Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness writing seem to go for pages, both artistic forms create magic out of seemingly basic, ordinary materials.

“Minimalist” music makes use of repeating simplicity (say, continuous groups of eighth notes) and fairly straightforward harmony, while Woolf looks to the realistic lives of everyday people for her subject matter. The first few pages of Mrs. Dalloway are a complete tour-de-force of narrative storytelling, creating something stunningly engrossing out of the doldrums of daily routine: Woolf takes an ordinary London street scene, and with great care delves into the thoughts and dreams of one random passerby after the next, looking past the mundane to essentially create something fascinating from nothing.

It seems perfect then that the Mrs. Dalloway section that begins Richter’s album starts with a sample of London street sounds: Big Ben, church bells, etc. Slipped in at the very beginning is the only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf herself, a BBC archive of her reading the essay “Craftsmanship” in 1937. As this gives way to a gentle piano line played by the composer himself, we immediately understand that this project is something deeply personal for Richter, who spent much of his early 20s with his nose in Woolf novels. The sound of Richter’s piano anchors the music of this part, and although it has clear emotional depth and a richness of sound flowing from the Deutsches Filmorchestrer Babelsberg under the baton of Robert Ziegler, there are a couple moments that sound so similar to Philip Glass that they could be mistaken for the other composer’s heavily piano-based score of the same Mrs. Dalloway subject matter. However, what follows next in Orlando is stunningly different.

Richter always seems at his best when he brings his skill as an electronic musician and producer to bear on the world of the orchestra, and when he is confronted with Woolf’s more unusual story of a fictional 16th-century male poet who transforms into a woman and lives to the present day, things get interesting. In “Modular Astronomy” he patches together a beat using a mosaic-like conglomeration of orchestral sounds, each of them bizarrely clipped. If you are a classical musician, you are either awed and fascinated by this effect or it gives you a conniption. Richter uses analogue modular synth, sequencing, digital signal processing, and computer-generated synth as he explores Orlando, sometimes eschewing the orchestra for exclusively electronic sounds. These tracks may be the most beautiful surprise on this album, although it’s hard to beat the breathtaking reference in “Love Song” to a famous theme that composers such as Rachmaninoff also couldn’t resist modernizing.

The final track is by far the longest, and is the sole selection dedicated to The Waves, a 1931 novel consisting of the soliloquies of six characters. The sound of waves at the outset seems to have a sort of triple-significance: beyond the allusion to this most experimental of Woolf novels and the current of the river that would ultimately take the author’s life in her suicide, we can feel the relentless weight of depression washing over her. A reading of her suicide note would have seemed cheap here if they had gotten a less-than-fantastic actor to record it; we’re lucky Gillian Anderson was given the chance to do such a poignant reading. High strains of violin in wide-open intervals begin to accompany the words in a heart-breaking progression, and when the orchestra and soloists are left alone at the conclusion of the letter, the music continues on with ever-deepening orchestration and intensity. We’ve been without a true emotional climax of great orchestral scale so far in this album, but the final track does not disappoint.

There’s something else to address here. Many a graduate thesis has been written on the subject of Virginia Woolf’s great subtlety: she masterfully leads us deeper into the lives of seemingly unimportant characters and pulls us in unexpected narrative directions without our knowledge, all while crafting language that makes use of colorful, existential references and imagery. Does the music of Richter’s score to Woolf Works possess a similar subtlety? The answer is a complicated yes and no.

Richter’s music is often disarmingly and purposefully simple, which for many makes it instantly accessible. Most listeners’ ears will easily absorb the trademark “cinematic” harmony and orchestration that create drama and emotion in a straightforward way, and in a sense, what you hear is what you get. Certainly, opening the album with a recording of the voice of Virginia Woolf herself is anything but subtle. However, poetic details in this music’s construction are hidden beneath the surface. Richter claims “asymmetries and trapdoors” in the rhythm and harmony of the music for Mrs. Dalloway, with the intention that this music is meant to feel “misremembered after a long absence.” The electronic creations of Orlando draw heavily on variations on a fragment known as La Folia, popular with a huge variety of composers starting in the 17th century. A ground bass is the backbone of this sort of music, and music to The Waves is also structured this way. A “suicide” theme in the final track connects to musical allusions to the shell-shocked character Septimus in “War Anthem” from the Mrs. Dalloway music. The subtlety of these details makes Woolf Works a richer musical offering, and is probably Richter’s greatest gift to the world of art influenced by the writing of Virginia Woolf.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

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

Missy Mazzoli: “Orizzonte” (Cantaloupe Music)
Performed by Lisa Moore

Missy Mazzoli’s “Orizzonte”—Italian for “horizon”—features gently undulating sine waves to create an audible landscape, over which pianist Lisa Moore plays a hypnotic line of understated landmarks.

During a residency at a squat in Amsterdam, the piano on which Mazzoli worked had been left to the elements for a year as part of an art installation, so some of the keys didn’t work. She wrote “Orizzonte” for that piano. The piece includes no bar lines, so the rhythm changes with each performance. It’s the perfect music for refocusing your mind as you watch power lines rise and fall through your car window. – Brendan Howe


Richard Carrick: “Sub-merge” (New World Records)
Performed by Richard Carrick with DZ4 Wind Quartet

Have you ever wondered what a wind quartet would sound like underwater? Richard Carrick did.

His two-part “Sub-merge” is written to sound like an ensemble under the ocean, illustrated through sinuous sonic distortions and contorted musical textures. Scored for winds and piano, at times you can actually hear the individual instruments being pushed and pulled away from one another in the currents, creating rich harmonies and microtonal echoes that sparkle like a sunken treasure.
 Maggie Molloy

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


Max Richter: Sleep: Path 5 (delta) (Deutsche Grammophon)

This Max Richter piece reminded me of the cravings for still, peace, and introspection which often seem to come as an involuntary reaction to prolonged stress and business.  In this track, I hear both the defensive, convalescent retreat and the hopeful, rejuvenating centering that come with sleep, often in the same night.  Taking in this small portion of the piece makes me want to investigate the larger (8 hours!) work, perhaps overnight.   Perhaps I should “sleep on it.” – Seth Tompkins

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


Allen Vizzutti: Snow Scenes for Trumpet and Orchestra (De Haske Records)
Performed with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jan De Haan

Vibrant and jazzy, Allen Vizzutti’s Snow Scenes for Trumpet and Orchestra is another effortless performance by this master trumpeter. Vizzutti, who has performed on hundreds of motion picture soundtracks and TV shows (as well as with Sinatra, Streisand, Prince, and on and on…), is a bonafide savant when it comes to the trumpet. Don’t believe it? Let countless YouTube videos of Vizzutti performing while rotating the trumpet, or playing it upside down, or just teaching “trumpet clinics,” make the case.  His talent is stupefying.
Rachele Hales

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


Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Memorial (Soundbrush Records)
Performed by the Canticum Novum Youth Choir

Here is a stunning work of music that cannot be ignored. Ellen Taafe Zwilich’s Memorial for the Victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre is scored for a regular SATB chorus that begins singing the Requiem aeternam text, and is then joined by a children’s choir with a heartbreaking task: reciting the names of the young victims of the school shooting.

Subject matter aside, the music is fascinatingly beautiful, with shifting colors and long, drawn-out suspensions. There is an enchanting interplay in the voices that only serves to heighten the power of Zwilich’s reaction to this tragedy, and makes this short work a must-hear.  – Geoffrey Larson

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

ALBUM REVIEW: Max Richter’s “From Sleep”

by Rachele Hales

ba608a27

From Sleep is an offshoot of Richter’s durational album Sleep, which clocks in at 8 hours – about the amount of sleeping time scientists recommend for adults.  While Sleep is intended as “a personal lullaby for a frenetic world” and meant to be listened while one is counting sheep and through the duration of the sleep cycle, From Sleep is a more modest 60-minute ambient daydream.  It’s a warm blanket of hazy, cozy sound.  Richter calls it his “manifesto for a slower pace of existence.”  The two albums share a common landscape, but with a much shorter run-time From Sleep is less of a political statement.

The album contains seven selections that sound different enough to be their own pieces but flow seamlessly together, enough so that it’s difficult to tell when one piece has ended and the next begins.  Richter has composed a delicate musical cocoon with no sharp edges.   From Sleep opens with “Dream 3 (In the Midst of My Life).”  The gentle, pulsing piano feels like a lone boat bobbing up and down in a vast ocean.  The vaguely aqueous feel continues into the next selection, “Path 5 (Delta),” which offers up synthesized vocals from soprano Grace Davidson that sound like they could have been recorded underwater.  As the song goes on her voice even begins to sound less human and more like a beautiful, sorrowful, looping whale song.

“Space 11 (Invisible Pages Over)” is a simple drone that serves as a bridge to “Dream 13 (Minus Even),” where we are again treated to Richter’s tranquil piano.  This time the piano is less pulsing and more like a lullaby with the cello taking its time to join in like a tranquil foghorn.  The fog begins to lift at about the halfway mark and you can almost feel the warm sun dappling the aural scenery.

The looping structure of the album mirrors the looping within the songs as we move from “Dream 13 (Minus Even)” to another bridging drone (“Space 21 (Petrichor)”), to more slow, precious, circular piano in “Path 19 (Yet Frailest)”, and finally return in “Dream 8 (Late & Soon)” to silky strings, moody organ, and Davidson’s lamenting vocals floating in and out like a zephyr.

Given its graceful serenity, From Sleep could be used as ambient background music for students, a meditative companion for yogis, or the soundtrack to a relaxing evening walk.  And yes, you can also use it as a sleep aid.  Hit play on this dulcet album in any situation where the end goal is to relax, open up the mind, and disengage from the busy whirring of everyday life.