Second Inversion’s 24-Hour Marathon of Women Composers

by Maggie Molloy

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, we’re featuring a 24-hour marathon of women composers on Second Inversion. Tune in all day long to hear works by over 100 women who have helped shape, inspire, and expand the world of classical music.

Click here to stream the marathon from anywhere in the world, and click on the icons below for more resources on women composers.

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their Women Composers Marathon playlist. Tune in on March 8 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and experimental music from women composers in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Meredith Monk: Dolmen Music (ECM Records)
Meredith Monk, Julius Eastman, Andrea Goodman, Robert Een, Monica Solem, & Paul Langland, voices

Meredith Monk has secured a place in history as one of the most singular and significant voices of the 20th and 21st centuries. For nearly six decades, she has redefined and revolutionized contemporary vocal music and performance, seamlessly weaving in elements of theatre and dance to create visceral musical experiences that transcend the confines of the classical tradition.

Her 20-minute masterwork Dolmen Music is an iconic example of her uncanny ability to merge ancient and modern musical ideas. In this piece, abstract vocalizations, primal rhythms, hypnotic dances, and ritualistic soundscapes come together in an intimate embrace of the human experience. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 8am hour today to hear this piece.

Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir: Aequora (Sono Luminus)
Iceland Symphony Orchestra; Daníel Bjarnason, conductor

Mallets and string scrapes lend a creaky shanty boat sound to the opening of Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir’s Aequora, which seems appropriate given that her piece is about the moods of the sea throughout the day. The calm sea at sunrise feels like a warm, melodic blessing before the swelling strings and brass undertones breeze forward in a sheen of joy that sails through midday and retreats again at nightfall until a lullaby of soft mallets and harp details fade out to end the work with serenity. For its luminous and congenial atmosphere, Aequora is a musical wave that stands taller than the rest.
 Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 10am hour today to hear this piece.

Amy Brandon: Scavenger (Self-Released)
Amy Brandon, nylon-string guitar

The boldly cross-genre music of Canadian guitarist-composer Amy Brandon fuses elements of jazz, classical, electroacoustic, and improvised music. Scavenger, the title track from her 2016 release, blends the meditative pacing of traditional classical guitar slow movements with repetitive structures and non-traditional harmonies from the 20th and 21st centuries. Fittingly, Brandon is currently pursuing an interdisciplinary PhD at Dalhousie University. – Seth Tompkins

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

Shih-Hui Chen: Fantasia on the Theme of Guanglingsan (Albany)
Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra

Crossings presents a mix of Chinese and American composers writing for a mix of Chinese and Western instruments. It features a Taiwan-based chamber orchestra brought to the U.S. by Shih-Hui Chen, a composer from Taiwan who teaches at Rice University and specializes in the cultural intersections between traditional Chinese music and modern Western art music. Her own contribution to the album is a concerto for zheng (forerunner to the Japanese koto) that’s loosely based on a classic Chinese piece depicting the assassination of a cruel king by a musician whose father had been one of his victims. Compare her martial passage starting at 5:03 to a corresponding section in the original for a taste of the relationship between new and old. – Michael Schell

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 1pm hour today to hear this piece.

Veronique Vaka: “Gaetni (Care)” (Moderna Records)
Veronique Vaka, violin & cello

Before I learned anything about this piece, I knew that I loved it. It grabbed me because it reminds me of so much of pieces of other music that I love: It’s got the warm embrace of early Sigur Ros, the hint of tragedy of some of Angelo Badalamenti’s music for Twin Peaks, a little bit of the watery mystery of Missy Mazzoli’s “Song from the Uproar,” and a shimmering depth that I can only assume is Vaka’s. It’s like a mermaid singing to you. I can’t wait to hear more of this album.
Dacia Clay

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

Julia Wolfe: Big Beautiful Dark and Scary (Cantaloupe Music)
Bang on a Can All-Stars

The raw emotion that defines this work by Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Wolfe really taps in to a characteristic of new music that is so important to me: the idea that this is what real life feels like. Julia’s music always makes powerfully personal connections, but this one really seems as personal as it gets, chronicling her feelings after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, which she witnessed from two blocks away with her young children. An unrelenting wall of sound and steady rhythmic energy drives the piece’s ever-increasing intensity, and though it feels inevitable, the ending leaves the listener more shell-shocked than anything else. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear this piece.


STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, December 23 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!

Andrew Norman: Mine, Mime, Meme (Cedille Records)


For some reason, I personally find this new work by Andrew Norman for Eighth Blackbird one of his most interesting and accessible works, though it must be one of the least complex. What initially grabs the ear about this piece at its beginning is not some bizarre sound or new technique, but the use of silence. Most of the work is distilled down to a single technique, an improvisatory-sounding musical round with the cello as the leading voice and the rest of the chamber ensemble closely following suit. After an explosion of confusion in the middle, the hierarchy is shattered. Norman says it was inspired by an interactive installation by the art and technology collective Random International called Audience, where a field of small mirrored machines rotates to follow the movements of a viewer. It’s music that has an enjoyable straightforwardness to it, still fun after repeat listening.

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

Veroníque Vaka: Hvönn (Moderna Records)


“Hvönn” translates to “Angelica” in English, but that is neither here nor there.  What I am concerned with is the suitability of this music for this introspective time of the year.  Treat yourself to some time alone with your thoughts (if you can find some!), and maybe augment that contemplation with Hvönn, or even the entirety of the album from which it comes. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 5pm hour today to hear this piece.

The Beatles (arr. Christoph Bull): “A Day in the Life” (C Bull Run Music)


In this day and age, there is no shortage of substandard Beatles cover bands—but every once in a blue moon, a musician comes along who really adds something to the classic Beatles sound; a musician who truly puts their own unique stamp on 1960s rock ‘n’ roll.

Organist Christoph Bull is one of those musicians. He’s made a living performing everything from classical Bach to rock ‘n’ roll renditions of Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, and more. But his arrangement of the Beatles’ 1967 newspaper ballad “A Day in the Life” is probably the pinnacle (at least for an unapologetically 60s-obsessed flower child like me).

Performed on the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s architectural masterpiece of an organ, Bull’s version keeps Macartney and Lennon’s vocals but expands the verses and heightens the drama with a haunting organ accompaniment. His fingers dance through a surrealist dreamscape, the colors bursting and blossoming, building and thrilling until the very last note.

And don’t worry, that infamous final chord certainly does not disappoint. – Maggie Molloy

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