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.

A Celebration of American Composers: Video Edition

In celebration of July 4th, we have compiled some of our favorite videos by American Composers. Thanks to all of the artists and composers for sharing their music and performances with us!

ALBUM REVIEW: Dreamfall by NOW Ensemble

by Maggie Molloy

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If you’re looking for the latest in contemporary classical, it doesn’t get any more current than NOW Ensemble. The dynamic seven-member group is committed to pushing the boundaries of the classical chamber music tradition, often crossing into new genres and artistic media.

True to their name, NOW ensemble infuses traditional Western art music with contemporary music styles such as indie rock, jazz, pop, and minimalism—bringing classical music to new audiences in the here and now.

The foundation for their one-of-a-kind sound is their eclectic instrumentation: electric guitar, flute, clarinet, double bass, and piano. Currently in their 10th year as a group, the ensemble is comprised of artistic director and guitarist Mark Dancigers, flutist Alexandra Sopp, clarinetist Sara Budde, double bassist Logan Coale, pianist Michael Mizrahi, and composers Patrick Burke and Judd Greenstein.

So NOW, what’s the latest?

The ensemble just released their fourth full-length album, an eclectic new music mash-up titled “Dreamfall.” The expansive new release features works by seven remarkable composers of contemporary music: Scott Smallwood, Mark Dancigers, John Supko, Nathan Williamson, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Andrea Mazzariello, and Judd Greenstein.

“It is a state of immense freedom,” Dancigers said of the album’s title. “The sounds on this record reflect this freedom, this sense of something a little out of our hands, and, beyond all else, the practice of making music that is NOW Ensemble.”

Scott Smallwood’s “Still in Here” is the first piece on the album, and it begins with low, grumbling piano trill—in fact, the graphic score denotes a “slow, drunken piano trill” throughout. The piece is atmospheric and dark, even apocalyptic at times. It swells in dynamics, periodically highlighting the unique texture of each instrument above a blur of musical vibrations. Listen for the soft crinkling of a foil stove burner liner amidst the ambiance. (According to Smallwood, “the handi-foil type 302 liner is a good candidate” if you’re looking to perform this one at home.)

The title track, written by Dancigers, showcases a more expressive side of the ensemble. The three-movement work explores an eclectic collection of melodic fragments, similar to a dreamland—one moment here and the next somewhere completely different. “Dreamfall” showcases the ensemble’s full range of timbral and textural possibilities, capturing the ever-shifting moods and melodies that we experience once we finally let go and start dreaming.

Speaking of dreams, John Supko’s “Divine the Rest” is nothing short of a mesmerizing daze. It immerses the listener in an ambient electroacoustic soundscape, with calm narration whispering over sparse instrumentation. Each and every note gently rings over the surrounding static to create a slowly shifting musical landscape.

The listener is abruptly awoken from this trancelike state with an audacious piano slide introducing the next piece on the album, Nathan Williamson’s vivacious “Trans-Atlantic Flight of Fancy.” Harmonies sprawl across the keyboard with rhythmic verve, restlessly pushing forward beneath bold and brash woodwind melodies.

The ensemble again switches gears for Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “Pale as Centuries,” a musical collage which combines diverse, distinctive, and sometimes even mismatched melodic fragments into a single cohesive image.

Andrea Mazzariello’s “Trust Fall” has a somewhat more linear development, growing gradually in drama and expressivity, from its sparse and simple introduction to its climactic close. However, one thing remains a key focus throughout: lush, dolce melodies.

The album ends with Judd Greenstein’s “City Boy,” a colorful musical depiction of a free and fearless young boy, his eyes twinkling as he playfully explores the world around him. The piece moves rapidly from one melodic idea to the next, switching from a jazzy guitar groove to a circling piano motive to a flowing clarinet melody within a matter of minutes.

The piece serves as a reminder of the major themes present throughout NOW Ensemble’s musical ventures: experimentation, innovation, and above all, a genuine enthusiasm for pursing curiosity. NOW that’s what I call contemporary classical!

(NOW Ensemble’s November 2014 visit to our studios)

NEW VIDEOS: NOW Ensemble

NOW Ensemble visited Seattle earlier this month for the TownMusic at Town Hall series and Second Inversion spent some quality time with them here in our studios!

For more in-studio sessions, including videos of Joshua Roman & Friends and ETHEL, visit our Video page.

To hear the archive of NOW Ensemble’s performance at Town Hall, visit our Live Concert Recordings page.

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: November 1, 5, 6

by Maggie Molloy

Whether you’re looking for an otherworldly saxophone quartet, a genre-bending septet, or an avant-garde piano soloist, this week’s music calendar has something for everyone.

Battle Trance at the Earshot Jazz Festival

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The Earshot Jazz Festival has no shortage of talented saxophonists; however, this weekend one group of musicians is taking saxophone to a new level. Battle Trance is a tenor saxophone quartet that combines the best of contemporary classical music, avant-garde, jazz, black metal, ambient, and world music.

The result is a surprisingly spiritual soundscape that immerses its listeners in dense textures and whirling musical motifs. Through techniques such as multiphonics, circular breathing, ethereal melodies, and innovative articulation, Battle Trance seeks to erase the barrier between audience and music, transporting their audience into a new musical world where the listener and the sound are intricately linked.

Battle Trance will be performing this Saturday, Nov. 1 in the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. The concert begins at 8 p.m.

NOW Ensemble at Town Hall

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If you’re looking for the latest in contemporary classical music, what could be more current than an ensemble titled NOW? True to their name, NOW ensemble is a dynamic seven-member group committed to pushing the boundaries of the classical chamber music tradition, often crossing into new genres and artistic media.

With an eclectic instrumentation of flute, clarinet, electric guitar, double bass, and piano, the ensemble is unlike any septet you have heard before (though admittedly, there aren’t very many septets out there to begin with). The group cements its status as a unique and innovative ensemble by infusing their sound with elements of indie rock, rap, hip hop, jazz, pop, minimalism, and other musical genres.

NOW ensemble will perform at Town Hall next Wednesday, Nov. 5 as part of the Town Music series. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

….and you can listen LIVE on Second Inversion! Partial funding for this broadcast is made possible by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

Nils Frahm and Dawn of Midi at the Showbox

Nils Frahm

Berlin-based contemporary composer Nils Frahm is a classically-trained pianist with a musical approach that is anything but traditional. The experimental composer has made a name for himself internationally as an introspective composer, a captivating performer, and an imaginative improviser. His music has captured the ears and minds of many fans with its gentle, calming soundscapes and soft melodies.

Next week, he will perform in Seattle in promotion of his new live album, “Spaces.” Unlike most live albums, “Spaces” was filmed over the course of two years in different locations and on various mediums including old reel-to-reel recorders, cassette tape decks, and more. The recordings were then pieced together into an album, capturing the magic, spirit, and distinctiveness of each location.

dawnomNils Frahm will be joined by Dawn of Midi, a Brooklyn-based trio composed of bassist Aakaash Israni, pianist Amino Belyamani, and percussionist Qasim Naqvi. Their minimal, acoustic music is strikingly rhythmic, fully immersing the listener in each groove and each carefully-crafted sonic landscape.

Nils Frahm and Dawn of Midi will perform next Thursday, Nov. 6 at the Showbox Market as part of Decibel Festival. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the concert begins at 9 p.m.

NOW Ensemble: Live Broadcast on Wednesday, November 5!

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Our next live broadcast on Second Inversion’s 24/7 stream is Wednesday, November 5 at 7:30pm, featuring the NYC-based NOW Ensemble presented by Town Music at Town Hall performing:

Derek Bermel: Interval Training (World Premiere!)
Judd Greenstein: Folk Music
Missy Mazzoli: Magic with Everyday Objects
Patrick Burke: All Together NOW
Mark Dancigers: Dreamfall

Join the Facebook event and invite your friends!!

Partial funding for this broadcast is made possible by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture

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Stay tuned for news on more live broadcasts from Town Hall, in-studio recordings, and broadcasts of pre-recorded concerts throughout the year!