For the past half-century Philip Glass’s music has permeated not only the classical sphere but also the broader pop music consciousness. From operas to film scores to symphonies and string quartets, he has written music for just about every occasion and instrumentation—except for the percussion ensemble.
Until now, that is. Perpetulum, Glass’s first and only piece for percussion ensemble, receives its Pacific Northwest premiere this Sunday in the hands of Third Coast Percussion. Presented as part of the Town Music series, the concert features the much-anticipated percussion premiere alongside a handful of the ensemble’s own Glass-inspired works.
In this interview, Third Coast ensemble member and Executive Director David Skidmore gives us a sneak peek behind the scenes of the creation and performance of Glass’s Perpetulum.
Audio production by Dacia Clay. Music from Philip Glass’s Perpetulum, performed by Third Coast Percussion and recorded on Orange Mountain Music.
Third Coast Percussion performs Perpetulum this Sunday, April 7 at 6pm at Nordstrom Recital Hall. For tickets and more information, click here.
Second Inversion and theLive Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between!
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.”
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
This Fourth of July, Second Inversion is celebrating the history of American musical innovation. Tune in all day long on July 4 for our 24-hour Star-Spangled Marathon, featuring American composers across history.
Throughout the day we’ll take you from the spiritual fantasias of Florence Beatrice Price to the jazzy rhapsodies of George Gershwin, from the musical nuts and bolts of John Cage to the tape experiments of Pauline Oliveros—from the minimalist musings of Philip Glass to the spacious landscapes of John Luther Adams, the avant-jazz stylings of Don Byron, the musical tapestries of Gabriela Lena Frank, and far beyond. This Fourth of July, we’re celebrating the history of American music in all of its sparkling diversity, from sea to shining sea. Click here to tune in.
Plus, discover our hosts’ favorite musical selections from the marathon below.
Florence Beatrice Price: Fantasie Negre (Sono Luminus) Lara Downes, piano
Fantasie Negre is such a cool piece, a fascinating mix of romantic era Western European influence and African American spiritual—it’s almost as if Liszt visited the American South and immediately rushed to a piano to interpret the melodies he heard. Fantastic gospel-like moments seep through dazzling displays of technique. It’s even more impressive when you think about all the things Price had to overcome just to compose: a black woman born in Little Rock, Arkansas, she attended New England Conservatory in 1906 but had to pass as Mexican in order to avoid abuse. Though she returned to Arkansas and married, she moved her family to Chicago to flee lynchings; her husband eventually became abusive and she filed for divorce, a rare step for a woman of her time. Despite these difficulties, her prodigious talent produced 300 works in her lifetime.
Steve Reich: Come Out (Nonesuch) Daniel Hamm, voice
In 1966, Steve Reich took a four-second audio clip and spun it into one of the most harrowing musical works of the 20th century. Come Out takes as its basis a mere scrap from an analog tape interview of Daniel Hamm, a black teenager who was wrongfully arrested for murder in 1964 (one of what would come to be known as the Harlem Six). In the clip, Hamm describes the horrific police brutality he faced behind bars. But the police would not take him to the hospital unless he was bleeding—so he ripped open one of his bruises and “let some of the bruise blood come out to show them.”
Come out to show them. Reich gradually loops, phases, and transforms these words beyond recognition over the course of 13 minutes, transporting the listener beyond language and into the dizzying and devastating reality of the situation at hand. Over 50 years later, we find ourselves still spinning in the same tape loop, Hamm’s words still echoing in the race relations of today. – Maggie Molloy
John Luther Adams: Dream in White on White (New Albion) Barbara Chapman, harp; Apollo Quartet and Strings
Many artists have long recognized that one of the United States’ most powerful attributes is its natural landscape and the massive scale thereof. However, this essential characteristic of the country has been something that many American composers have neglected (or at least struggled) to incorporate effectively into their music, focusing instead on human-centric cultural or traditional elements.
John Luther Adams breaks that mold, using the beauty, power, complexity, and scale of the American landscape itself as the inspiration for much of his work. Going further, Adams lived in Alaska, that state that perhaps best encapsulates the awesome power of the American landscape, for many years. He has managed to forge a unique and engrossing musical language that transports listeners to mountaintops, ocean shores, and glacial snowfields. – Seth Tompkins
Nico Muhly is an American contemporary composer whose mission is to gnaw at the edges of classical & rock/pop. Mothertongue is a fun example of how he melds genres, combining the intimacy and beauty of chamber music with a conceptual pastiche that adds fidgety energy to the mix. In the first movement, “Archive,” Muhly accomplishes this by incorporating the beauty of Abby Fischer’s voice speak-singing a jumble of numbers and places which, turns out, are all addresses where Muhly & Fischer have lived.
In “Hress,” the frenetic third movement, found sounds (pouring coffee, crunching cereal, etc.) create a morning routine. Don’t expect “Hress” to evoke a lazy Sunday sunrise, though. As the music picks up it’s clear these are the sounds of someone either hungover or extremely jet-legged going through the motions to get out the door and on with the day. Mothertongue proves Muhly has a knack for finding the sweet spot between concept and emotional connection; he’s corroding classical boundaries and inviting the next generation to explore his musical Pangaea. – Rachele Hales
Amir ElSaffar: Shards of Memory/B Half Flat Fantasy
I love this music! I’ve never heard anything like it. ElSaffar has fused together a lot of different musical traditions in this, but what stands out to me most are the jazz and the Middle Eastern sounds. ElSaffar is the child of an Iraqi immigrant and an American. He was born outside of Chicago, and grew up listening to his dad’s jazz collection. His first musical training was in a Lutheran church choir. Iraqi music came later for him—in 2001 he used the money he got from winning a jazz trumpet competition in to go to Iraq and study something called maqam music, and he spent the next five years studying with Iraqi masters in the Middle East and Europe. Anyway, I love how these traditions come together in his music so effortlessly to make something new. – Dacia Clay
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein recently teamed up with the Grammy-nominated string orchestra A Far Cry for Circles, an album of piano concertos by both J.S. Bach and Philip Glass. Dinnerstein and AFC violist Jason Fisher recently chatted with Second Inversion about the album.
In this audio piece, you’ll hear each of them talk about the album’s inception, breakfast with Philip Glass, the creative partnership between Dinnerstein and AFC, the important connections between the two composers, and the power that this music has over audiences.
Circles by Simone Dinnerstein and A Far Cry is available now on Philip Glass’ record label, Orange Mountain Music. Click here to purchase the album.
Skittering wood blocks, ceramic tiles, finger cymbals, and bowls of water are just a few of the unusual instruments employed in Third Coast Percussion’s new film score for Paddle to the Sea. We’re thrilled to premiere a video of the group performing Act I of their original score, which was co-commissioned by Meany Center for the Performing Arts and performed there earlier this year.
The Oscar-nominated film Paddle to the Sea is based on Holling C. Holling’s 1941 children’s book of the same name, which follows the epic journey of a small wooden boat that is carved and launched by a young Native Canadian boy.
“I am Paddle to the Sea” he inscribes on the bottom of the boat. “Please put me back in the water.”
Over the course of the film, the boat travels for many years from Northern Ontario through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway out to the Atlantic Ocean and far beyond—and each time it washes ashore, a kind stranger places it back in the water.
Third Coast’s new film score (recently released as an albumon Cedille Records) is inspired by and interspersed with music by Philip Glass and Jacob Druckman, along with traditional music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. All of the music in the score is inspired by water, with Third Coast performing an entire ocean of sounds ranging from pitched desk bells to wine glasses, water bottles, sandpaper, and one particularly special instrument: the mbira.
The mbira is a thumb piano that plays a leading role in the Shona music from Zimbabwe. In fact, one of the pieces on the album, Chigwaya, is a traditional song used to call water spirits in the Shona religion—a song which was taught to Third Coast by their mentor Musekiwa Chingodza. By incorporating elements of their Western classical training with their study of the traditional music of the Shona people, Third Coast weaves together their own epic musical journey.
And in the spirit of Holling’s original story, the music itself becomes the small wooden boat: rather than keep it for themselves, the musicians add what they can and send the story out into the world again for others to discover.
Third Coast Percussion’s Paddle to the Sea is now available on Cedille Records.Click hereto purchase the album.