STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, November 18 to hear these pieces. In the meantime, you’ll hear other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre 24/7!

Jacob Cooper: Silver Threads (Nonesuch)

st-front_finalThis piece is the opening song of a six-part cycle of the same title.  With text by 17th-century Japanese poet Bashō, this track is a good choice if you’re looking for a uplifting contemplative experience. Make sure your headphones or speakers can produce decent bass for this one; the sliding low tones make this piece come alive. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 11am hour today to hear this piece.

Robert Honstein: “Why are you not answering? I don’t wish to play games”
From RE: You (New Focus Recordings)

fcr146_cover-750x0Here’s a little 21st century love story for you:

Once upon a time, Boston-based composer Robert Honstein’s email address was erroneously paired with the online profile of one Midwestern, middle-aged Jeffrey K. Miller. As such, Robert was mistakenly cc’d on hundreds of private emails and unwittingly given a ringside seat at the romantic travails of a complete stranger.

Inspired, Robert decided to make an album of lyricless love songs titled RE: You using the email exchanges as its basis. The pieces, titled after unusual (and sometimes alarming) email subject lines, explore not so much love itself as the longing for love—those most intimate, most vulnerable, most profound moments of our humanity.

Performed with a mixed chamber ensemble of strings, winds, percussion, and piano, this album’s got all the ups, downs, butterflies, and backlashes of looking for love on the internet. We may be living in a digital age, but the universal yearning for love is just as palpable as ever. – Maggie Molloy

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

Zubin Hensler: The Beach (Songlines Recordings) 

songlines-1617-2-440x440Oh, The Westerlies.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways: Willem, Andy, Zubin, Riley…  All four have a knack for taking common brass instruments and crafting uncommon brass music. In Zubin Hensler’s “The Beach,” trumpets and trombones create a sound more tender and poetic than the typical military/fanfare we’re used to hearing from brass. Here, the notes float in the air like seagulls and the warmth the performers exude makes the heart feel all good and mushy. Total sigh…

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 2pm hour today to hear this piece.

Michael Gordon: Timber (Hauschka Remix) (Cantaloupe Music)

ca21121_timber_remixed_frontComing off a long period of orchestral composition, Michael Gordon welcomed an opportunity to throw orchestration and pitch out the window when he composed Timber in 2009. Scored for six wooden simantras (a fancy word for 2x4s) cut at gradual lengths, the 60-minute original work has a simple beauty that can easily turn a hardware store into a performance venue.

Timber has been remixed into twelve vignettes by producers and DJs who incorporate some electronica, drones, and beats into Mantra Percussion’s studio recording. I’m excited to present Hauschka’s iteration, which goes so far as to incorporate prepared piano in the mix. If you like Timber but want a smaller dose, join Hauschka and the good company of Mira Calix, Greg Sanier, Johann Johannson and many more, on this beautifully re-imagined collection. – Maggie Stapleton

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7pm hour today to hear this piece.

2016 FOLKLIFE PREVIEW: Meet the Westerlies

by Maggie Molloy

The Westerlies are a Seattle-born, New York-based brass quartet named after the prevailing winds that blow from West to East—but this month they are reversing those winds and travelling from East to West. Their destination? The Second Inversion Showcase at Northwest Folklife.

We are thrilled to present the Westerlies, along with Sound of Late and the Skyros Quartet, at our Second Inversion Showcase at Folklife on Friday, May 27 at 8 p.m.

The Westerlies All photos credit Sasha Arutyunova, except the final

While the Westerlies may be charming, dapper, and impeccably dressed, let it be known that these guys are not your typical boy band. Comprised of Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler on trumpet with Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone, the guys are known for their bold artistry, skilled technical finesse, eclectic musical interpretations, and remarkable versatility.

The guys grew up together playing music in Seattle under the mentorship of Wayne Horvitz, and after relocating to New York City to attend school, they formed a quartet in late 2011. Since then, they have cultivated a new brass quartet repertoire featuring over 50 original compositions as well as adaptations of composers as diverse and wide-ranging as Ives, Ellington, Bartók, Ligeti, and many more.

But no matter what they play, the one element that remains constant across all of their music is the warmth, camaraderie, and good-humored personalities of four longtime friends. We sat down with the guys to see what we can expect at the Second Inversion Showcase:

Second Inversion: How would you describe or characterize your ensemble’s sound?

Andy ClausenAndy Clausen: When The Westerlies first came together as an ensemble in 2011, it felt much more like a rock band in spirit. We were four childhood friends from Seattle who had just moved to New York and found a little slice of home when we were hanging out. At the same time, we were all seeking some sort of escape from the musical confines of jazz and classical conservatories. 

As we started composing and arranging for the group, we realized rather quickly that it wasn’t going to be a traditional classical chamber ensemble, or a “brass band”—that what we were seeking was something entirely other. 

Whenever we approach a new piece with the ensemble, whether it’s an original composition, a folk song, a Ligeti piano piece, an Ellington piece, a Bulgarian choral piece, or a Wayne Horvitz composition, we are trying to find the most personally expressive means of interpretation. Sometimes that involves dramatically reimagining the structure and whittling a piece down to its simplest essence, sometimes it involves a more literal reading of the score.

Having the freedom to radically personalize every piece we play through a democratic arranging process, and allowing each piece to grow and evolve over years of touring is something we have not experienced in any other type of ensemble.

We each come to the ensemble with variety of musical interests: folk, jazz, contemporary classical, gospel, Hindustani, indie rock, metal, Romantic, minimalist, maximalist, country, and blues.

Whatever “sound” The Westerlies have stumbled upon is the result of four friends channeling these diverse interests through warm air, buzzing lips and conical brass tubes—with a lot of love and saliva in there too.

SI: The Pacific Northwest is really blossoming in the contemporary classical music sphere—what do you think makes our music scene here so unique?

Willem de KochWillem de Koch: I think the Pacific Northwest in general, and Seattle in particular, has always been viewed as a distant outpost by the rest of the country. The geographic isolation and dramatic natural beauty of the region allow for a spirit of experimentation and entrepreneurship in every field, but that spirit is definitely imbued in the music of the Pacific Northwest of every genre.

Seattle has an immense and robust arts infrastructure, thanks in big part to the unique culture of philanthropy that has been cultivated here over the years. The nonprofit sector in Seattle is thriving, and that includes the numerous arts organizations and music presenters in the city. The musicians here would not have the freedom and ability to create exceptional work if it were not for the platform provided by organizations like KING FM and Second Inversion, Earshot Jazz, Town Hall Seattle, and of course Northwest Folklife. The list goes on. 

It should also be acknowledged that Seattle has a long history of exceptional music education. All four of us are products of the music programs at our Seattle public schools, and our time spent in those programs was a formative experience for all of us. Organizations like Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and Seattle JazzEd continue to ensure that every student has access to excellent music education, and that Seattle’s music education legacy will be upheld for many years to come. I really believe that music education scene in Seattle is completely unparalleled. 

SI: Northwest Folklife strengthens local communities through art and music, celebrating diverse cultural heritages and working to ensure their continued growth and development. What types of communities or music traditions are represented in your music?

Riley MulherkarRiley Mulherkar: The four of us come from differing musical backgrounds so there’s definitely a wide variety of traditions and communities represented in our music. One of the most direct influences we share comes from our mentor Wayne Horvitz, whose music we recorded for our debut album. Wayne has worn a number of hats in his career, from being a leading figure in New York’s downtown scene in the late 80s to film scoring and writing chamber music, jazz, and electronic music. His ability to seamlessly weave it all together is something we’ve admired since before we even existed as an ensemble.

Growing up in Seattle, the jam sessions around the city played a huge role in our development—whether at Cafe Racer or the Faire Cafe, these long nights of music opened up our ears and our minds. When we moved to New York, we were all introduced to a thriving contemporary classical community as well as a creative landscape in Brooklyn that has played a huge role in our development both individually and as an ensemble. More than anything, these communities have instilled values in us which shape the way we think, compose, and play.

SI: As Seattle natives, what does the Northwest Folklife Festival mean to you?

Zubin HenslerZubin Hensler: Folklife was the first music festival I ever went to. My parents brought me along when I was 7 months old and I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss a year from then until I was 18 and moved to NYC. So, it means a huge amount! What a privilege to grow up in a city where diverse music is celebrated and presented regularly. I owe so much of my musical (and life) education to the performances that I was exposed to at Folklife and the other festivals in the region. So, it’s a great honor to be able to come back and hopefully pass on some of that inspiration.



SI: What are you most looking forward to with this performance, and what do you hope audiences will gain from it?

Willem de Koch: It’s always a treat to return home and perform for our hometown crowd. We grew up performing at Folklife in our high school jazz bands, so we’re excited to have the opportunity to perform at the festival with our own band. We’re also really looking forward to being a part of the Second Inversion Showcase. Maggie Stapleton and everybody else at KING FM and Second Inversion have been doing a tremendous service for Seattle in highlighting both local and national artists who are creating unique new sounds.

We’re honored to be a part of the Second Inversion community and are really looking forward to hearing the other artists at the Showcase. All we hope for the audience is that they’re each able to make their own personal connection with our music, in whatever form that may be. The Westerlies on Lopez Island

Photo credit: Andrew Swanson

The Westerlies will be featured along with Sound of Late and the Skyros Quartet at our 2nd Annual Second Inversion Showcase at Folklife on Friday, May 27 at 8 p.m. For more information, please click here or RSVP to our Facebook event.

Second Inversion Showcase at Northwest Folklife 2016!

by Maggie Stapleton

Copy of Facebook Event Cover – Untitled Design

We are excited to announce the lineup for Second Inversion’s 2nd annual showcase at Northwest Folklife on Friday, May 27 from 8-10pm! RSVP to our Facebook event and invite your friends to this exciting FREE event!

Sound of Late

Sound of Late is a new music ensemble that creates distinctive performances and unexpected collaborations that build and inspire the communities around us. They believe music is best when shared with other people, which is why Sound of Late is working to support the artistic and creative community across the Pacific Northwest. By dissolving the boundary between artist and audience, they hope to inspire new collaborations and to raise the visibility of our region.

For more on Sound of Late, visit our “Meet the Artist” feature!

Skyros Quartet
Skyros Quartet1

The Skyros Quartet, praised by the Topeka Capital-Journal as “stellar,” brings a bright and inventive style to the concert hall and can be seen performing, teaching, and leading community events in their new hometown of Seattle, as well as concertizing around the US and Canada.The Skyros Quartet is passionate about the future of music and performing works by living composers. They have worked extensively with composers Tonia Ko, Andy Davis, Devin Maxwell, and Liza Sobel.

For more on Skyros Quartet, visit our “Meet the Artist” feature!

The Westerlies 
The Westerlies (“prevailing winds from the West to the East”) are a New York based brass quartet comprised of four friends from Seattle, Washington: Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler on trumpet, and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone. They re-imagine the chamber music experience through boldly personal performance, recording, collaboration, education, and outreach. Since their inception in 2011, they have cultivated a new brass quartet repertoire featuring over 50 original compositions as well as adaptations of Ives, Ellington, Bartok, Ligeti, Stephen Foster and numerous traditionals. Their music exudes the warmth of their longstanding friendships, and reflects the broad interests of its members.

For more on The Westerlies, visit our “Meet the Artist” feature!


by Maggie Molloy

This week’s concert calendar expands beyond music and into poetry, mythology, philosophy, and more!


Friction Quartet and Christian Pincock

Only a small fraction of classical musicians play with the ferocity and force of the San Francisco-based Friction Quartet. The group is committed to expanding the string quartet repertoire and audience for adventurous new music through collaborations with composers and artists of all disciplines.

This weekend, you can see them perform a works by local Seattle composers, including world premiere performances of Roger Briggs’ “Friction,” Tom Baker’s“Invisible Cities,” Nathan Campbell’s “Treescape” and a new work by John Teske.  The program also features John Adams’ dynamic and dramatic String Quartet No. 1.

Trombonist and composer Christian Pincock will open the performance, combining digital music and a DIY aesthetic to present solo works scored for trombone and computer—all while using homemade controllers and software for live control of sound processing.

The performance is this Friday, June 5 at 8 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

Kate Soper and Seattle Modern Orchestra Present “Sound Me Out”

SOPER-photo-by-Richard-BurbridgeThe story of Orpheus and Eurydice is an ancient Greek legend—Orpheus, with a voice so beautiful he could charm all living things, descends into Hades in a fruitless attempt to bring his dead bride Eurydice back to life. And while the myth has been recreated again and again in opera and music for centuries, this weekend you have the chance to experience a not-so-classical setting of this classic tale.

For its season finale, Seattle Modern Orchestra is presenting two works for soprano and ensemble by American composer and vocalist Kate Soper, including a world premiere of a new ensemble version of her piece “now is forever: I. Orpheus and Eurydice.” Through a combination of music, drama, rhetoric, and fearless expressivity, the piece explores a discrete moment in the story when Orpheus and Eurydice first meet.

Soper and Seattle Modern Orchestra will also perform the Seattle premiere of her passionate and poignant piece “Door” for soprano, flute, saxophone, electric guitar, and accordion. The program also features two more Seattle premieres: Italian composer Fausto Romitelli’s philosophical “Blood on the floor, Painting 1986” and Georg Friedrich Haas’s virtuosic “Monodie” for 18 instruments.

The performance is this Saturday, June 6 at 8 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. A pre-concert presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m.

EKSTASIA: Pursuing Ecstasy and the Search for the Divine


“In Heaven a spirit doth dwell, whose heart-strings are a lute” wrote Edgar Allan Poe in an 1831 poem. That spirit is Israfel, the Muslim archangel of song. But you don’t have to leave Seattle to hear his heavenly music—next weekend the Esoterics are uniting with Skyros String Quartet to present vivid choral settings of “Israfel” and other divine poems.

The Esoterics and Skyros will be performing composer Tarik O’Regan’s “The Ecstasies Above,” an unearthly setting of Poe’s “Israfel” filled with daring modal harmonies and driving rhythms. They will also present Charlie Leftridge’s poignant “Of Seasons I Have Sung.” The a cappella portion of the program includes Aaron Jay Kernis’ ethereal “Ecstatic Meditations” and Eric Banks’ evocative “I am Among Them.”

Performances are Friday, June 5 at 8 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, Saturday, June 6 at 2 p.m. at First Christian Church in Portland, and Sunday, June 7 at 3 p.m. at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in West Seattle.


SXSW 2015: ATX Composers Showcase

by Maggie Stapleton

“Classical” (or even the younger-leaning “contemporary classical”) may not be a logical association with SXSW. Conference sessions from 11am- 6pm are filled with bands (and their managers/publicists) learning how to broaden their audience. Tech companies are trying to create the best new product.  Music showcases between 7pm-3am are dominated by rock, R&B, pop, hip hop, folk, electronic, and country. Most people filling the downtown Austin streets are not symphony-goers. They’re young, curious, energetic, rowdy, and hungry for discovering new bands and supporting their favorites.

After losing myself in this world on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I was delighted to unite with like-minded people at the ATX Composers Showcase, curated by Austin new music super guru Graham Reynolds, from 8pm-2am at the Hideout Theatre. The event was sponsored by KMFA.

The audience seemed to be mostly in their 20-30s and the size ranged from “wow, great showing!” to at capacity with a line out the door. That, combined with the artistry and creativity displayed by the performers, it was clear that the new music scene in Austin is thriving, fresh, unique, quirky, and utterly entertaining. From my iPhone, here are a few highlights:

8pm: Steve Parker and friends opened the evening by exploring all sorts of wonderfully unusual sounds that the trombone, human voice, electronics, and percussion can make.

9pm: Fast Forward Austin, a fabulous organization, dedicated to presenting new and innovative music to the Austin community, presented the Cordova Quartet. These guys mastered the juxtaposition of casual and serious. They dressed like they were just hanging with friends (cellist’s t-shirt said “mello cello”), but as soon as they started playing, their well-rehearsed, polished, and passionate side hit me like I was hearing the world in HD. They personally know the composers they performed (Dan Welcher and Karim Al-Zand) and knowing that casted the performance in a more meaningful, connected light.

PS their Viola encore by Kenji Bunch would have worked equally well on rock band stage.

10pm: line upon line. Percussion is a tough act to beat when it comes to aural AND visual experience. There’s just something really fun about watching people hit things. lul presented a sandwich of works by familiar and lesser known composers: the always mesmerizing Steve Reich (“Music for Pieces of Wood), followed by a piece they commissioned (pictured below) and closing it out with “Ohko,” by Xenakis.  The “bread” of this “sandwich” (Reich and Xenakis) were particularly appealing to a broad audience.

2015-03-21 22.18.02






11pm: Giddy up, partners.  Justin Sherburn and the eclectic band Montopolis gave us a 40 minute whirlwind of their “The Return of Draw Egan,” a re-written silent western film accompanied by excerpts of Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks. In lieu of the film projection, Justin gave the audience a very brief synopsis update from time to time.  Justin’s narration and nimble work on the keys combined with the blend of strings, floating vocals, drum set, and occasional flute flutterings made for entertainment at its wild west finest.

12am: From the keys, Graham Reynolds led a band of 11 furiously talented musicians in a series of country/folk inspired rockin’ fusion tunes – The Marfa Triptych Part One: Country and Western Big Band Suite, which Graham describes as “classic instrumental country meets Western soundtrack meets power jazz rhythm section.” Read more about this awesome project here!

1am: Mother Falcon has always been of the “Rethink Classical” mindset. The group began as a jam session among a few adventurous high school cellists eager to break out of the rigid repertoire predominate in their musical training.  Seven years later, they have added violin, saxophone, trumpet, accordion, banjo, guitars, and bassoon to the mix and are still jamming out and displaying amazing artistry all the way. This was only the second live performance of “The Star Nation Suite,” music written for a documentary about StarCraft, and they seemed to have it down like it was their signature piece. I was too mesmerized to pull out my camera during their set, but check out their Tiny Desk concert:


I couldn’t have asked for a better evening of “new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre” – a perfect fit for what we champion here at Second Inversion! Bravi tutti, Austin.