New Year, New Music: Your January Concert Guide

by Maggie Molloy

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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! 

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

January 2019 New Music Flyer

 

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electroacoustic music, and sonic experiments. This month: film scores, sonic purges, banjo improvisations, and an orchestra of driftwood.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Gretchen Yanover: Cello Loops
Classical music meets contemporary technology in Gretchen Yanover’s performances for solo cello and loop pedal. Playing and layering her melodies live on stage, Yanover crafts instrumental atmospheres that draw from her classical training as well as her African-American and Russian Jewish heritage.
Tues, 1/8, 7pm, Slavonian Hall (Tacoma) | FREE

Seattle Symphony: ‘JANE’
Philip Glass’ buoyant score frames this stunning National Geographic documentary about Jane Goodall, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. See the film on the big screen while the Seattle Symphony performs the score live.
Tues, 1/8, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $35-$85

Ahamefule J. Oluo & Scrape
Seattle trumpet legend Ahamefule J. Oluo offers a sneak peek of the score for his new film, Thin Skin (an adaptation of his experimental pop opera Now I’m Fine). Joined by the Scrape music collective, Oluo performs excerpts from this dark comedy about the meaning of family.
Thurs, 1/10, 8pm, Good Shepherd Center | $5-$20

Portland Cello Project
Equally at home in rock clubs and concert halls, Portland Cello Project is an ensemble known for pushing the boundaries of the classical cello tradition. For this string of performances, they play music from Radiohead’s OK Computer alongside classics by Coltrane and Bach.
Fri, 1/11, 7pm, Admiral Theatre (Bremerton) | $18-$56
Sat, 1/12, 7:30pm, Rialto Theater (Tacoma) | $29-$49
Sun, 1/13, 3pm, Mount Baker Theater (Bellingham) | $22-$42

Jesse Myers: Glass Half Full
You’ll want to bring a pillow and blanket to Jesse Myers’ performance of Philip Glass’ famous Piano Etudes. Instead of sitting in chairs, the pianist invites listeners to lie on the floor as they experience the music alongside immersive light projections that dance across the ceiling and walls of the performance space.
Fri, 1/11, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$15

Bern Herbolsheimer Musical Memorial
In honor of the late Bern Herbolsheimer’s passing three years ago on this day, Seattle musicians come together to perform a concert of the beloved local composer’s chamber works.
Sun, 1/13, 7:30pm, PONCHO Concert Hall | FREE

Opera on Tap: Park and Bark!
Nothing goes better with opera tunes than beer and tacos. Local singers perform operatic masterpieces and hidden gems alike in this casual brewery concert benefiting Emerald City Pet Rescue.
Mon, 1/14, 6pm, Lagunitas Brewing Company | $25

Seattle Modern Orchestra: Sounds of Echoes
The book-lined walls of the Seattle Athenaeum form the perfect setting for this concert of chamber works presented in the round. Poetry-inspired pieces from George Crumb and Toru Takemitsu are paired with works by Seattle composers Angelique Poteat and Tom Baker.
Fri, 1/18, 7pm, Folio | $20-$25

The Sound Ensemble: Local Wonders
From Kaley Lane Eaton’s dynamic Sacred Geometry to Carly Ann Worden’s majestic San Juan Sinfonietta, this concert is dedicated to exploring chamber works by local women composers. Also on the program are new premieres from Angelique Poteat and Sarah Bassingthwaighte.
Sat, 1/19, 7pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $15-$20

Thalia Symphony Orchestra
A third stream concerto for electric bass, vibraphone, and orchestra is among the highlights of this concert, composed and performed by friends and childhood neighbors Dan Dean (bass) and Tom Collier (vibes). Works by Jacques Offenbach, Carl Nielsen, Rebecca Clarke, and Arturo Marquez complete the program.
Sat, 1/19, 7:30pm, St. Stephen’s Church | $18-24
Sun, 1/20, 3pm, Nordic Museum | $18-24

SCMS Winter Festival
Seattle Chamber Music Society’s annual Winter Festival features a variety of classical music performances from across the centuries, including 20th century works by Janáček, Kodály, Martinů, Hindemith, Shostakovich, and Britten.
1/18-1/27, Various times, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $20-$65

Ólafur Arnalds: All Strings Attached
The ambient sound worlds of Icelandic composer  shimmer to life in this performance featuring the pianist alongside a uniquely wired ensemble of string quintet, drums, and two Disclaviers. The concert features past, present, and brand new material from his forthcoming album.
Sat, 1/26, 8pm, The Moore Theatre | $28

Seattle Symphony: Celebrate Asia
The 11th annual Celebrate Asia concert highlights music and musicians from across the continent, with conductor Shi-Yeon Sung leading the orchestra in contemporary (and traditional) music by Korean, Thai, and Taiwanese composers. Featured soloists include soprano Kathleen Kim and pianist Seong-Jin Cho, and the concert is framed by spectacular pre- and post-concert festivities in the lobby.
Sun, 1/27, 4pm, Benaroya Hall | $31-$97

Seattle Symphony: Soundbites
Grab a drink and unwind with fellow music lovers at this casual performance featuring Seattle Symphony musicians performing wide-ranging chamber works.
Mon, 1/28, 7pm, The Collective | $10

ALBUM REVIEW: The Glass Effect from Lavinia Meijer

by Maggie Molloy

When most people hear the harp, they think of Baroque suites or Celtic folk ballads, angels strumming heavenly melodies—or perhaps that sideline string instrument sandwiched between the violin and percussion sections of the orchestra.lavinia-meijer

But harpist Lavinia Meijer is interested in expanding those possibilities. In fact, she’s made an entire musical career out of it.

Meijer has cultivated a name for herself as one of the most diverse harpists of the 21st century, consistently seeking out little-known classical solo and orchestral repertoire, collaborating with contemporary cross-genre artists, and recording brand new music that bursts through classical music boundaries. And when the music’s not written for her instrument—she simply arranges it for harp herself.

Her latest project is The Glass Effect: a two-disc release featuring works composed and inspired by minimalist mastermind Philip Glass. The first disc is classic Glass: 10 of the composer’s famous 20 Piano Etudes, each delicately arranged and deftly performed on harp by Meijer. The second disc highlights Glass’s influence on the next generation of composers, featuring Glass-inspired compositions by Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds, and Ellis Ludwig-Leone.

Recorded as a tribute album for Glass’s 80th birthday this coming January, the two-disc set begins with a retrospective glance backward through Glass’s extraordinary compositional discography. Meijer lends her fingers to 10 of Glass’s 20 Etudes which, composed over the course of 1991-2012, offer a glimpse into the development and ongoing transformation of his harmonic language and compositional style.

Etudes are, of course, exercises: short musical compositions designed to develop (and, once learned, demonstrate) the skill and technique of the player. And trust me, Glass’s Etudes are no easy feat.

Yet Meijer dances with grace and charm through the entire obstacle course of changing tempi, textures, and techniques, crafting each phrase and every delicate detail with the utmost care and attention. From the soft and sweet lullabies of Glass’s early Etudes to the motoric rhythms and virtuosic variations of the later ones, Meijer’s arrangements maintain the music’s trademark clarity and unshakable sense of forward motion while also offering compelling insight into her instrument.

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The second disc is bookended by Glass’s haunting theme from the 1982 apocalyptic film Koyaanisqatsi, beginning first with Meijer’s solo harp arrangement. She craftily transforms the original synth-laden ostinato into a poignant and introspective solo piece which speaks to the sheer power and timelessness of Glass’s melody. But she doesn’t forgo the electronics entirely: the theme comes back again at the end of the album in a remixed version with electronics titled “Lift Off,” which Meijer created with sound designer Arthur Antoine in 2014.

The effects of Glass echo clearly throughout the second disc, which showcases how ambient and minimalist music has evolved (and continues to evolve) in the hands of young composers.

Among the first composers featured is Bryce Dessner (who you may recognize from the band The National) with his three-movement Suite for Harp. Dessner’s piece utilizes the full pitch range and performance idiosyncrasies of the harp, painting a hazy soundscape of softly cascading melodies, harmonics, and arpeggios.

laviniaNico Muhly’s two contributions to the album, each originally composed for piano, are more introspective in nature. Meijer’s fingers drift patiently through the simple, chant-like melodies and soft bass drones of Muhly’s “Quiet Music,” and her playing brings a quiet warmth and aching resonance to “A Hudson Cycle.”

Muhly’s pieces dissolve into the soft ambience of two of Ólafur Arnalds’ most music box-worthy compositions. Meijer twirls through the twinkling melodies of “Erla’s Waltz” and drifts sweetly through the circular harmonies of “Tomorrow’s Song.”

Arnalds’ friend and frequent collaborator Nils Frahm follows with two compositions originally composed for piano but expertly arranged for harp by Meijer. Breathy melodies float above soft (but busy) bass arpeggios in “Ambre,” while block chords echo against a serenely silent backdrop in “In the Sky and on the Ground.”

However, it’s perhaps composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s contribution which stretches the harp the furthest from its traditional musical stereotype. His composition “Night Loops” for harp, looping pedal, and electronics sparkles with fluttering melodies and crackling electronics, creating an entire glistening garden of timbres and musical textures.

And thus, the album ends with a glance toward the future—a look at how Philip Glass’s musical influence continues onward in all its ever-expanding variations and transformations.

Because although Glass may be a minimalist, his influence is far from minimal.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Olafur Arnalds’ Island Songs

by Rachele Hales

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There is a tourism boom in Iceland, but those of us who cannot make it there in person should be glad for Ólafur Arnalds’ Island Songs project, which is designed to offer an aural journey through the lesser travelled landscapes with guidance from the locals who live there.

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Arnalds starts us off in a church on a hillside in Hvammstangi, a remote town on the shore of an inlet. This is where poet & collaborator Einar Georg Einarsson comes to escape his everyday worries and explore creativity through writing. Einarsson begins “Árbakkinn” with a recitation of one of his own poems; a poem about the landscape he painted his childhood against. As Arnalds joins him with a tranquil piano and the strings eventually drift in it’s easy to imagine a restful day in Hvammstangi, with the easy flow of the nearby stream and a handful of small fishing boats bobbing in the nearby fjord.

He packs up his bags and heads five hours northwest to Önundarfjörður, a town surrounded by mountains and valleys where the winters are harsh. In 1995, a disastrous avalanche killed many people in a small village nearby. “1995” was recorded in a church with a memorial stone outside in remembrance of the villagers whose lives were lost. Here, Arnalds collaborates with his cousin, Dagny Arnalds. She plays the organ in a looping, funereal piece.

Arnalds spent week 3 in ”The Church of Sailors,” a small stave church situated on an isolated landscape near the ocean. “Raddir” is the first of two island songs that uses vocals.  Arnalds has teamed up with conductor Hilmar Örn Agnarsson and composer Georg Kári Hilmarsson to create a celestial work for choir. I have not mentioned the accompanying videos to the Island Songs project until this point. I do it now to prove that I don’t use the word “celestial” carelessly.  In Baldvin Z’s video, the camera pans a circle around the church and catches the sun filtering through the church windows, projecting dozens of tiny rainbows onto the walls. This, accompanied by the choir’s otherworldly harmonies, definitely left this viewer with the feeling of transcendence.

Week five. We’re in Mosfellsdalur now. I will point you again toward Baldvin’s companion video, this time to “Dalur” — the look on Arnalds’ face at the very end of the song says more than I could put into words.

Is it the lamp of Garður’s’ lighthouse that lured Arnalds to his sixth destination in as many weeks or the siren call of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, lead vocalist for Of Monsters and Men? Spoiler alert: Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir. One hundred percent. It’s inside a lighthouse on Garður’s’ wind-battered waterfront where Arnalds records his penultimate island song, “Particles.” No surprise it’s as tender and vulnerable as the first five.  Hilmarsdóttir’s voice carries a quiet power and is joined by violin, cello, and of course Arnalds on piano. “Particles” captures the same mood as the rest of the album but Hilmarsdóttir’s vocals perk up the ears and make this composition a little extra special.

In Baldvin’s video, many of the friends Arnalds made during his road trip gather to hear him play the last piece of this project, “Doria,” in Arnalds’ own hometown of Reykjavik. It’s week 7, and they form a half moon around the pianist on the floor of a concert hall in the only video in which he is center stage. Encompassed by the people who have inspired him along the way, he closes out Island Songs with pleasant piano loops. His perfect goodnight kiss.

In every Island Songs composition it’s clear this was a passion project for Arnalds. By choosing to honor the sacred relationship between people and their communities he has illustrated a versatile portrait of Iceland and the stories it has to tell. He doesn’t introduce us to rock stars or Iceland’s tourist attractions, but offers instead the chance to meet the people who serve their communities and treats us to sparse, serene music that mirrors the terrain he set out to explore. Island Songs is beauty, focus, and hushed Icelandic panoramas. It is superb.

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REVIEW: Trance Frendz by Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm

by Maggie Molloy

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Some people like to go out on Friday nights. Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm like to stay in and make music.

Though both are prominent composers, pianists, producers, and performers in the new music world, they prefer to spend their evenings off creating, well, even more music. I guess you could say they’re more than just musical collaborators—they’re best friends. Or rather, best “frendz.”

“Trance Frendz” is the title of the pair’s newest set (the term “album” is firmly rejected by both Frahm and Arnalds), which features music from an evening of improvisation at Berlin’s Durton Studio. It began as a video session of the two performing an improvised duo, in promotion of a different album titled “Collaborative Works: An Evening with Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm.”

But instead of ending the session after the first take, the two continued to improvise throughout the night, ending up with a number of new pieces written and recorded on the fly, with no overdubs and no edits.

What started as a short promo video quickly turned into a 45-minute studio film titled “Trance Frendz,” and the music was included as a second disc in their “Collaborative Works” album.

And now, “Trance Frendz” has officially been released as its own separate CD and vinyl.

Each piece in the set is named after the time in the night when it emerged, with the mood clearly modulating throughout the hours. And yet, the pieces all blur together, unified by the relaxed mood, organic movement, striking intimacy, and genuine honesty behind each one.

“We meet because we’re buddies and we’ve known each other for a long time,” Frahm said in an interview with the Boiler Room. “We eat pizza, drink some beers, stay up way too long and try new things for fun. Everything that we put out is basically just a byproduct of us spending time together and geeking out on music.”

The improvisations are slow-moving and patient, at first led primarily by twinkling piano melodies. But as the night wears on, the delicate piano motives gradually expand to feature growling organ basslines, rumbling drones, and some serious synth.

As the pair continues wandering into the early hours of the morning, the shimmering hum of the piano returns to the forefront with a series of whimsical music-box-worthy melodies, complimented by sweet, subtle vocal humming atop the creaking of antique piano lids and tape recorders. The set comes to a close with soft, hazy piano melodies sparkling amidst a nocturnal calm.

“This music is not the most catchy, not the most hit-you-in-the-face festival-kicking song of the year, or a declaration of: ‘Look at me. Watch how great I am,’” Frahm said. “It unfolds over time, is a little more rich—and I like that kind of humbleness about it.”

It’s the perfect soundtrack for a quiet night in with a friend—charming, sincere, organic, and ambient.

“Ultimately, the fun is in there,” Arnalds said. “The video is a testament to that. It’s in those sessions, in the recordings, and in our friendship.”

Second Inversion’s Top 5 Album Reviews of 2015

Every Monday, you can count on Second Inversion to post an Album Review of a brand new release. These are the top 5 most popular reviews of 2015!

#5: The Knights: the ground beneath our feet

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“If the ground beneath our feet has indeed disappeared in parts of this album, that’s okay: outer space sure sounds pretty good to me.” – Jill Kimball

 

#4: Jodie Landau & wild Up: you of all things

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“‘as I wait for the lion,’ is a simple, swelling, and poignant piece that pulls on the listener’s heart strings with each and every pluck of the sparkling harp, each and every knock of the delicately twinkling percussion behind Landau’s heartfelt voice.” – Maggie Molloy

 

#3: Roomful of Teeth: Render

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“Classical vocal music is always nice—but if you’re looking for a contemporary vocal ensemble with a little more bite, look no further than Roomful of Teeth.” – Maggie Molloy

 

#2: Nordic Affect: Clockworking

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“The music is dotted with the very Icelandic sounds of rushing winds, hummed folk music, and above all, the beautifully stark sounds of silence. The album is characterized by pleasant repetition and meditative simplicity, an accurate musical reflection of life in Iceland’s quiet, cold and wild towns. Listening to Clockworking made me feel like I was the only one in the world one minute, but like a tiny drop in a vast ocean the next.” – Jill Kimball

 

#1: Olafur Arnalds: The Chopin Project

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“It’s just one glorious, delicate piece after another. From the gentle shoosh-shoosh in ‘Reminiscence’ (during which there’s a point where you can even hear a performer taking in breath) to the distant chatter and rainfall heard in “Nocturne in G Minor,” the recordings make the listener feel close to the piano – in the same room, even – and so very close to the music.” – Rachele Hales

Stay tuned for 52 more album reviews in 2016!

ALBUM REVIEW REVUE: A Look Back at the Year

Last June, we began reviewing albums on a weekly basis and we’re thrilled to celebrate a year’s worth of awesome content at Second Inversion! We’re celebrating by announcing the top 5 reviews. Let the countdown begin!

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5. A Far Cry: Dreams and Prayers 

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“When really, really good musicians get together to play music, something magical happens. Some of the best performances in history have been called divine or heavenly. No matter their faith (or lack thereof), those who appreciate music can agree there’s something otherworldly about an amazing performance or recording.”

4. The Knights: the ground beneath our feet

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“If the ground beneath our feet has indeed disappeared in parts of this album, that’s okay: outer space sure sounds pretty good to me.”

3. Christopher Bono: BARDO

artworks-000084435571-j3jfsp-t200x200“When I had this album playing at home, several friends commented on how “epic” it felt.  And that’s true.  If you didn’t read the liner notes or have any frame of reference for Bono’s inspiration, it could totally sound like the soundtrack for an amazing RPG or fantasy film.  Played straight through it is like a saga told in sound and the fact that you may not know the details doesn’t stop you from connecting to, understanding, and enjoying it.”

2. John Luther Adams: Become Ocean 

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“As for the recording?  The ideal scenario for the listener in a performance of this piece is to be surrounded by the orchestra and furthermore have the opportunity to move around within the physical space, if desired.  Listening to this recording in surround sound is the next best thing!  Adams told me, ‘In making this recording we took special care to mix in stereo much of the time, so that the experience of hearing this music in stereo is as vivid as possible and gives you a sense of being immersed.'”

1. Ólafur Arnalds: The Chopin Project

download (8)“…It’s just one glorious, delicate piece after another. From the gentle shoosh-shoosh in “Reminiscence” (during which there’s a point where you can even hear a performer taking in breath) to the distant chatter and rainfall heard in “Nocturne in G Minor,” the recordings make the listener feel close to the piano – in the same room, even – and so very close to the music. Several tracks use Chopin as a jumping off point, which turns the album as a whole into a dreamlike story arc you wish would never end.”

Huge thanks go out to our staff and interns for their writing: Maggie Molloy, Jill Kimball, Rachele Hales, Seth Tompkins, and Maggie Stapleton.

ALBUM REVIEW: Ólafur Arnalds’ “The Chopin Project”

by Rachele Hales

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Ólafur Arnalds popped up on my radar in 2009 when he started a project of writing a new composition every day for a week and immediately made each one available online. The compositions were later officially released in the collection “Found Songs.” He did not undertake the same experiment for his latest release, The Chopin Project, instead teasing his fans with mysterious updates via Twitter along with his coconspirator/barefoot pianist extraordinaire, Alice Sara Ott. For Arnalds fans the waiting was agony, but all good things…

As a youngster playing in hardcore/metal bands, Arnalds frequently visited his grandmother and was exposed to classical music in her home. “She would always make me listen to Chopin,” he writes in the liner notes, “if it had been my parents forcing classical music down my throat at that time in my life I probably would have puked on their face. But, I guess out of respect for my grandmother, I always listened with her and slowly it started to grow on me.” After his grandmother passed away the Chopin-shaped fragment of his heart was aching to be expressed.

All Chopin recordings sounded the same to him. With nearly all classical recordings focused on capturing a perfect performance and using technology to process that performance into something so polished it no longer feels authentic, Arnalds questioned why technology itself was never used as part of the interpretation. “Why can’t the microphones, the room – the sound – also be a performer? Why would all of these factors need to stay invisible? And why would a ‘good’ classical piano sound naturally have to be the silvery, brilliant concert grand sound that we have on classical recordings today [when] we know that pianos of the 19th century sounded so very different?” Armed with a pocketful of excellent questions and a mission to break the norm, he partnered with Ott and together they explored Reykjavik searching for vintage recording equipment, unusual pianos, and venues that would act as performers themselves in Arnalds & Ott’s interpretations. Then came the recording.

“Verses” is our introduction to the album. It’s a new composition by Arnalds that borrows from Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 3 (Largo),” which immediately follows as track 2. You know how when you were in junior high sometimes you bought a new album that you loved so much you didn’t even want to tell anyone about it? You just locked your door and stayed in your bedroom all night, lying in your bed, reading the liner notes, listening to the album over and over? “Verses” is exactly like that. It is intimate and sad with the trademark Arnalds atmosphere and makes you just want to stay inside journaling for hours and hours.

The entire album has that quality – it’s just one glorious, delicate piece after another. From the gentle shoosh-shoosh in “Reminiscence” (during which there’s a point where you can even hear a performer taking in breath) to the distant chatter and rainfall heard in “Nocturne in G Minor,” the recordings make the listener feel close to the piano – in the same room, even – and so very close to the music. Several tracks use Chopin as a jumping off point, which turns the album as a whole into a dreamlike story arc you wish would never end.

Be sure to purchase this album if you like what you hear!