STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts Rachele, Geoffrey, and Maggie S. each share a favorite selection from their Friday playlist! Tune in at the indicated times below 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!

1196413Rudolf Escher’s chamber work Le tombeau de Ravel is a fascinating piece, one that looks gazes into the past and future at the same time. Escher utilizes the same antique dance forms that were Ravel’s vehicle of tribute in his Le tombeau de Couperin, and adds two airs and an enchanting hymn to round out the work. The inspiration for the work was a visit by Escher to Ravel’s former home, and the complex emotions of this visit are most directly portrayed in the first and longest movement, Pavane. There’s something about standing in an empty house, especially one that was once occupied by a great composer; it feels deserted and empty, and yet the air is somehow impossibly thick with the memories of the groundbreaking events that transpired there. The use of harpsichord and small chamber ensemble adds a nod to Ravel’s love of early music and an additional sense of intimacy to the work. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion around 1:30pm to hear this recording.


Jefferson Friedman: Glacier (on New Amsterdam records)
a1389738764_10The album On In Love features 9 songs composed by Jefferson Friedman with lyrics and vocals by Craig Wedren accompanied by The American Contemporary Ensemble. I love this whole album because it pushes musical and textural extremes to their upper and lower limits, all the while fusing classical chamber music with singer-songerwritery pop. In the 9 minutes of “Glacier,” we embark on a slow journey beginning with a trance-like, ethereal, soulful ballad that slowly builds into a full-throttle, rock-n-roll  breakdown on the final word, “go.” – Maggie Stapleton

“…And if by chance
you still don’t know

It’s time for me to go”

Tune in to Second Inversion around 5:50pm to hear this recording.


David Balakrishnan: Alex in A Major (recorded live at SI HQ)

Turtle Island Quartet 04-18-15 Did someone give Earl Scruggs a violin? Nope! That’s the sound of the Turtle Island Quartet mastering the art of the hoe-down. This version was recorded live right here at Second Inversion HQ, but you can also find it on their Grammy-nominated album “Confetti Man.” – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion around 8:30pm to hear this recording.

Second Inversion’s Top 5 Moments of 2015

2015 has been a huge year for us! Besides filling the 24/7 stream with new music and insights, we kept busy out in the community, on the blog, and making videos! This is the final post in a series of “Top 5 of 2015” lists (check out our Top 5 Videos and Top 5 Albums) before we plunge into 2016.  Here are our top 5 moments/events/milestones/projects/good times:

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#5: John Cage Diary Series

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Armed with high-quality headphones and book in hand, over the course of eight weeks, Second Inversion’s Maggie Molloy listened through each of the eight parts of Cage’s Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse)recently published by Siglio Press, and created her own personal diary tracking the experience.

She gracefully navigated through the zigzagging maze that is Cage’s musical mind and shed light on some fascinating aspects of Cage’s life: his love of mushrooms, cats, anechoic chambers, technology (it’s arguable to say Cage may have predicted the internet), dance, and so much more.  Dive in from the beginning and let her guide you through this incredible series! Stay tuned for more great creative features and clever wit from Maggie M. in 2016!


#4: Live Broadcasts

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In 2015 we presented SEVEN live streaming broadcast concerts from Town Hall Seattle and Meany Hall, including Third Coast Percussion, Catalyst Quartet, Deviant Septet, SYSO Alums and Mentors, Johnny Gandlesman, ETHEL and Robert Mirabal, Ensemble Variances with Lisa Bielawa! These broadcasts allowed us to connect with concert-goers in the community while reaching audiences nation and world-wide on our 24/7 stream! Many of them are also available on our live concerts on-demand page Stay tuned for plenty more in 2016.


#3: Music Videos (& a New Music USA Grant)

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We’re grateful for all of the foundation support we’ve received for Second Inversion this year! Our grant from New Music USA was particularly exciting because it to helped fund our music videos. Our video stars include Joshua Roman, Turtle Island String Quartet, Jherek Bischoff, Ashley Bathgate, Danish String Quartet, musicians from OneBeat, Christopher O’Riley and Matt Haimovitz, and so many more. It’s been a wildly fun journey connecting with artists who are passionate about sharing new music with audiences. We’re incredibly grateful for the time they donated to be a part of this project! Check out the complete video collection on our video page.


#2: Northwest Folklife Festival

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In 2015 we had our first Northwest Folklife Showcase – really, our first public performance of any kind! The Passenger String Quartet and Seattle Cello eXperiment performed for an absolutely packed Center Theatre. It was an amazing opportunity for us to contribute to Folklife’s diverse music and cultural offerings and to connect with new audiences. Some showed up expecting a more traditional “classical” concert and instead were able to Rethink Classical. Needless to say, we’ll be back for a 2nd showcase in 2016!


#1: Joshua Roman named Artistic Advisor

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In March of 2015, Second Inversion brought Joshua Roman on board as the Artistic Advisor! Joshua has helped us “Rethink Classical” with our Seattle community and our national and global audiences by posting to our blog, introducing music on our 24/7 stream, and collaborating on new ideas and initiatives. Stay tuned for more from Joshua in 2016!

Grant Awarded!

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We are over the moon! Second Inversion was one of 54 awardees in the most recent round of New Music USA funding! This generous support helped fund our music videos from January 1-April 18, including The WesterliesThird Coast Percussion & Joshua RomanMatt Haimovitz & Christopher O’RileyAshley Bathgate from Bang on a Can All-Stars, Jherek BischoffSeattle SymphonyDeviant SeptetTurtle Island Quartet, and Simple Measures.

Stay tuned for more great video projects and of course, new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre, streaming 24/7.

Second Inversion was supported by New Music USA. To follow the project as it unfolds, visit the project page.

 

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!

NEW VIDEOS: Turtle Island Quartet

We’re excited to release two brand new videos with the Turtle Island Quartet, recorded here in our studios!

“Crossover” is a term that is thrown around a lot with genre-mixing music. TIQ violinist David Balakrishnan explained their take on “crossover” in a recent Seattle Times article.  It’s brilliant:

“Crossover is often associated with classical musicians trying to do something they don’t know how to do.  In our case, we were formed for the express purpose of doing what we’ve wanted to do since childhood: play improvised music and jazz using our classical training as string players. What we’ve ended up doing isn’t crossover, because how can you cross over when you’re already there?

Our request?  Keep on keepin’ on!

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: April 17-26

by Maggie Molloy

This week’s marvelous music calendar has everything from minimalism to medieval poetry!

Pianist R. Andrew Lee Performs Shepard, Knight, Evans, and Gibson

andrewleephoto1-600x400For pianist R. Andrew Lee, less is more. Throughout his career, he has garnered critical acclaim as one of the foremost interpreters of minimal music.  But despite the genre’s somewhat misleading title, minimalism is anything but basic.

“I am entranced by the invitation that minimal music offers the listener,” Lee says. “Rather than pushing and pulling listeners through a piece—manipulating us (no matter how deftly) into some experience—minimal music presents an invitation to explore a musical space slowly and carefully. Where Beethoven gave us drama that touches our souls, for which we rightly praise him, minimal music gives us a sunset, and we gaze in wonder.”

This weekend, Lee is coming to Seattle to share two evenings of newly commissioned minimal music. The Friday program opens with a performance of Craig Shepard’s “December,” an exploration into the rumbling overtones of just a few bass notes on the piano. Lee will also perform the world premiere of two new works: local composer Nat Evans’ improvisatory “Desert Ornamentation” for piano and electronics and Adrian Knight’s “Obsessions,” a piece which explores stubborn habits, routines, patterns, and, well, obsessions.

Saturday evening features a performance of Randy Gibson’s immersive “The Four Pillars Appearing from the Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of the Eternal Process in the Midwinter Starfield.” The only thing longer than the title is the piece itself—it’s over three hours! But don’t worry, it doesn’t drone on. Rather, the ambient drone piece creates an entrancing melodic soundscape by patiently exploring the overtones of each D on the piano, in combinations and alone, with the aid of electronics.

The performances are this Friday, April 17 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, April 18 at 7 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

Turtle Island Quartet and Simple Measures: It’s Island Time

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Take a much needed vacation from the April showers with a trip to Turtle Island—Turtle Island Quartet, that is. This weekend you can relax to the soothing sounds of this Grammy Award-winning ensemble whose innovative and eclectic music combines the best of classical and jazz.

Since the quartet’s inception nearly 30 years ago, they have cultivated a massive and diverse body of repertoire consisting primarily of original compositions and arrangements by quartet members. This weekend, they are joining forces with musicians from Seattle’s own Simple Measures classical chamber music group to present an evening of captivating “clazzical” music, including a works composed by Turtle Island violinist David Balakrishnan and cellist Mark Summers, as well as octets by the Beatles, Darius Milhaud, and more!

The performances are this Friday, April 17 at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m.and Sunday, April 19 at Mt. Baker Community Club at 2 p.m.


Donald Byrd’s “Carmina Burana” World Premiere

Carmina-Slider2-1024x689When you hear the word “cantata,” you probably think of an old-fashioned, early 17th century vocal work used for church services or other religious occasions—and you’d be correct. But the 20th-century German composer Carl Orff updated this antiquated musical medium in 1935 when he composed his scenic cantata “Carmina Burana,” a 25-movement vocal work based on 24 poems from the medieval poetry collection of the same name.

And now, Seattle’s own Spectrum Dance Theatre is pushing the piece even further: this weekend they are presenting the world premiere of choreographer Donald Byrd’s fully staged “Carmina Burana” in a co-production with Seattle Theatre Group. Byrd reimagines Orff’s popular work, combining music and dance to illustrate a larger narrative: the journey from doubt and disillusionment to restoration of faith in humankind. The performance is scored for two pianos, percussion, and voice, featuring the operatic expertise of singers Cyndia Sieden and José Rubio.

Performances are next Thursday, April 23 through Saturday, April 25 at the Moore Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. A matinee show will also take place on Sunday, April 26. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the show begins at 2 p.m.

The Esoterics Present “AGONIA”

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When it comes to expressing the most intimate human experiences of pain and suffering, few artistic media are as compelling as the human voice. But the voice can also be a powerful tool for expressing compassion, joy, and release—and as it turns out, suffering and reprieve are deeply intertwined. This weekend, the Esoterics are performing three modern choral masterworks inspired by medieval poetry on the theme of agony and liberation.

 

The Esoterics’ “AGONIA” program begins with Russian composer Alfred Schnittke’s ghostly, mystical “Verses of Repentance,” a piece which explores contrasts between dark and light, chaos and control, sin and salvation. Next is American composer Ned Rorem’s haunting cycle of madrigals, titled “In Time of Pestilence.” The program ends with the tragic lament and ultimate triumph of South African-born English composer John Joubert’s “Pro Pace Motets.”

“AGONIA” is next Friday, April 24 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Seattle at 8 p.m. The Esoterics will also perform their “AGONIA” program at Christ Episcopal Church in Tacoma next Saturday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. and at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in West Seattle next Sunday, April 26 at 3 p.m.

ALBUM REVIEW: Turtle Island Quartet’s Confetti Man

by Maggie Molloy

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According to Native American folklore, Sky Woman fell down to the Earth long ago, back when it was entirely covered by water. Realizing that she could not survive in the water, the surrounding sea creatures dug up dirt from the bottom of the ocean in order to create land for her. They placed this dirt on the shell of a giant turtle—and eventually this turtle grew into Turtle Island, the land known today as North America.

This tale is a powerful symbol not only for creation, spirituality, and environmental awareness, but also for coexistence and community. It is a story which celebrates and synthesizes both old and new cultural traditions—a broader theme which the Turtle Island Quartet strives to explore through their music.

The Turtle Island Quartet is a Grammy Award-winning ensemble whose innovative and eclectic sound infuses a classical string quartet aesthetic with contemporary musical influences such as jazz, folk, funk, be-bop, bluegrass, Latin American groove, and Indian classical.

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the quartet is comprised of violinists David Balakrishnan and Mateusz Smoczynski, violist Benjamin von Gutzeit, and cellist Mark Summer. Since the group’s inception in 1985, they have cultivated a vast and wide-ranging repertoire consisting primarily of original compositions and arrangements by quartet members.

And after 30 years as an ensemble, the group certainly has cause for celebration: they recently released their 15th studio album, “Confetti Man.” The 10-track disc is a collection of original compositions, arrangements, and commissioned works.

The two-movement title track, written by Balakrishnan, integrates elements of classical with jazz, bluegrass, folk, and even a touch of Indian musical influences. The dynamic mixture of musical styles from across history (and across the world!) is meant to reflect the computer age, where everything is fast-paced and at our fingertips. Inspired by his wife’s painting depicted on the album cover, the piece explores a wide range of vibrant melodic material, as if traveling through a musical museum of different cultures and time periods, often blurring the line between musical traditions past and present, near and far.

The title track is followed up with “Windspan,” written for the quartet by the famous saxophonist Bob Mintzer of the Yellowjackets. As one might expect, the piece harnesses a bold, big band sound featuring some seriously saxophone-like string solos brimming with slides, glides, and bona fide jazz grooves.

Another jazzy showpiece is “La Jicotea,” which was written for the quartet by renowned clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera—a musician who is celebrated as much for his artistry in Latin jazz as for his achievements in the classical music realm. The piece combines both of these strengths, mixing Latin American grooves in unusual meters with a carefully-crafted polyphonic soundscape featuring imaginative musical textures and timbres.

The sweetest and most charming song on the album, though, is certainly Turtle Island’s rendition of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic “Send Me No Flowers,” featuring the inimitable Nellie McKay on vocals and ukulele. McKay’s sugary sweet, ’60s-tinged vocals float effortlessly above a darling and delicate string accompaniment.

Another piece with plenty of personality is Balakrishnan’s “Alex in A Major,” which was inspired by his next-door neighbor’s son. The charming and youthful main theme illustrates the boy’s playful and sassy nature, and the piece features both Balakrishnan and Smoczynski as dueling bluegrass fiddlers.

In all, Turtle Island’s “Confetti Man” is a charming and charismatic fusion of imaginatively diverse musical styles, a beautiful reminder that musical traditions old and new can still exist in perfect harmony.