LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: March 6-9

by Maggie Molloy

This week’s music calendar features a multitude of musical genres and artistic mediums!

Genre Bender 2015

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This weekend Seattle musicians are bending the rules. They’re bending the rules of functional harmony, they’re bending the rules of performance—in fact, they’re bending the very constructs of the music medium itself. City Arts Magazine’s annual Genre Bender event pairs innovative artists working in different media, inviting them to collaborate with one another to create the ultimate genre-defying performance.

This year’s artistic duos include conceptual artist C. Davida Ingram and composer/multi-instrumentalist Hanna Benn, rapper Raz Simone and multimedia artist Justin Roberts, photographer Steven Miller and actress/singer Sarah Rudinoff, vocalist/poet okanomodé and aerialist Lara Paxton, and last but not least, poet Sarah Galvin and musician/filmmaker/philosopher David Nixon.

Genre Bender 2015 is this Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7 at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. A party in the lobby will follow the performance on Saturday evening.

Seattle Rock Orchestra Performs Beck

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Beck shocked audiences around the world when he beat out Beyoncé for the Album of the Year at the Grammys last month. The lowly singer-songwriter who first made it big in 1994 with a song titled “Loser” (you know the one: “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?”) proved that maybe, just maybe, he’s not such a loser after all.

This weekend, Seattle Rock Orchestra is paying tribute to this musical underdog with a retrospective of Beck’s lengthy career. With his 12 studio releases, they definitely have a lot to draw from. From the lo-fi folk releases of “One Foot in the Grave” to the funky party music of “Midnite Vultures” to the pensive ballads of “Sea Change,” Beck has never written the same album twice.

The performance is this Saturday, March 7 at the Moore Theatre. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m.

Seattle Composers Alliance’s 2015 Spring Fling

As the winter months melt away and the beautiful blossoms of spring begin to bloom, it’s always nice to get out of the house and go celebrate the new season. And what better way to do it than with an evening of new music?

Next week Seattle Composers Alliance is presenting its 2015 Spring Fling, featuring live music by a wide range of local musicians. From the jazzy jams of Industrial Revolution Trio and the Tim Carey Quartet to the folksongs of Alchymeia and Aslan Rife, this concert has it all! The evening also includes a silent auction and generous door prizes.

The performance is this Monday, March 9 at the Royal Room at 7 p.m.

NEW VIDEOS: Jherek Bischoff and Scrape

Jherek Bischoff recently co-curated the Bang on a Can marathon here in Seattle.  Part of this epic, six-hour new music extravaganza included a collaboration between Jherek and the local string ensemble Scrape, who stopped by our studios for a video session of some awesome original tunes!

ALBUM REVIEW: “MONTAGE: Great Film Composers and the Piano”

by Maggie Molloy

montageAs award season comes to a close, film composers tend to fall out of the limelight—they collect their sparkling Oscars and, presumably, they return to their studios to begin work on their next major motion picture film scores. But what do these famous composers do on their days off from the movie set? What music do they write after the credits stop rolling?

Renowned concert pianist Gloria Cheng asked just that.

Cheng invited six of today’s most prominent film composers to create new music for a relatively unfamiliar medium—solo piano. In doing so, she stripped away the glamorous movie stars, the booming studio orchestra, and all the Hollywood movie magic to reveal who these composers are deep down as their most honest and intimate selves.

(purchase the album here!)

Her new album, titled “Montage: Great Film Composers and the Piano” is a collection of solo piano works by esteemed film composers John Williams, Randy Newman, Bruce Broughton, Alexandre Desplat, Michael Giacchino, and Don Davis. Collectively, the composers have amassed 72 Oscar nominations and nine wins (so far).

“All of these composers are so well-known for writing film music, but I knew there was an inner composer inside of all of them that just was dying to write music for the sake of writing music,” said Cheng. “That’s what I was curious about—what’s inside of them?”

The result is an album of piano music with subtle cinematic hints and a whole lot of heart.

The album begins with Bruce Broughton’s “Five Pieces for Piano,” a set of short character pieces each with its own distinct personality. At the center of the composition is a set of charming (and sometimes jazzy) variations on a catchy pentatonic theme. The surrounding pieces experiment with dense musical textures, punchy rhythms, energetic runs, and at times, tender lyrical melodies. Needless to say, it shows quite a different musical side of Broughton than you may have heard in his adventurous, wild Western-tinged “Silverado” score.

The second piece is Michael Giacchino’s “Composition 430.” Perhaps best known for his work in movies like “Star Trek” (the 2009 version), “Up,” “Ratatouille,” and a slew of other Pixar films, Giacchino’s solo piano piece captures a similar element of enchanting adventure and whimsical childhood nostalgia.

As one might expect, “The Matrix” film composer Don Davis’s contribution to the album is somewhat more mathematical (and perhaps even metaphysical) in nature. His piece, titled “Surface Tension,” uses a carefully calculated formula as a starting point from which he explores a narrative arc of increasing and decreasing tempo, dynamic, and pitch range.

French composer Alexandre Desplat’s “L’Étreinte” (from his “Trois Études”) shows unmistakable Impressionist influences, with its artfully blended harmonies immersing the listener in a beautiful, dreamlike wash of sound that flows sweetly from beginning to end. It should come as no surprise that Desplat is the composer behind charming, whimsical films like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”

What is perhaps more unexpected is John Williams’s contribution to the album, “Conversations.” With a dizzying number of Oscar nominations (and wins) for movies like “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “E.T.,” and the first three “Harry Potter” films, most listeners would probably expect Williams to spin out some type of catchy, theatrical theme. Instead, the four-movement piano work is something of a concept piece exploring a series of imagined conversations between various historical figures from different eras. The result is every bit as dramatic and idiosyncratic as the film music Williams is known for—but just a little bit jazzier.

The album comes to a close with Randy Newman’s soulful and sincere “Family Album: Homage to Alfred, Emil and Lionel Newman,” a five-movement work written in memory of his famous film composer uncles. Each movement is a short anecdote, a small glimpse into the sparkling glamour and sweet nostalgia of old Hollywood. The pieces match Newman’s trademark style: simple, sweet, and charmingly poignant (and certainly reminiscent of his work in “Toy Story,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and other Pixar films).

And of course, Cheng performs each piece with exceptional imagination and artistry, bringing each character to life with sincerity and technical prowess—and proving that the music of these famous film composers is not just for the movie theatre.

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: Feb. 27-March 2

by Maggie Molloy

This week’s colorful music calendar has birds, hors d’oeuvres, and science fiction flicks!

Coo, Chirp, Flap, Flutter: Birds in Song

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Sometimes the most beautiful music is found in nature—the gentle pitter-patter of the rain, the soothing sway of the sea, the birds chirping in the trees. We could learn a thing or two from the birds. That’s why this weekend, soprano Sarah Davis and friends are performing an evening of art song and chamber music inspired by nature’s most charming song makers: the birds.

Of course, no two birds are the same, and so the concert features a wide spectrum of musical styles ranging from the blended brushstrokes of Debussy’s Impressionism to the romantic musings of Mahler and the inimitable, avant-garde musical experiments of John Cage. Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Aaron Copland, and Jake Heggie are also on the program, naturally.

The performance is this Friday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

Seattle Modern Orchestra Benefit Concert

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The earliest orchestras date all the way back to the 16th century—which is precisely why Seattle Modern Orchestra is committed to keeping orchestral music exciting and relevant by catering to contemporary audiences. The group is committed to presenting innovative new music from the 20th and 21st centuries in both traditional concert settings and in nontraditional venues.

This weekend, you can support Seattle Modern Orchestra’s 2014-2015 season by attending a special benefit concert filled with delightful new music, delicious wine and hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction full of exciting prizes. The program features surround-sound performances of solo and chamber music by Robert Platz, Marcin Pączkowski, Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter and more!

The performance is this Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

Degenerate Art Ensemble Performing “Metropolis”

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The Oscars may be over, but that doesn’t mean the magical movie music has to end. This upcoming Monday you can watch Degenerate Art Ensemble perform their original orchestral score for “Metropolis,” a 1927 expressionist science-fiction silent film directed by Fritz Lang.

The two and a half hour classic is highly regarded as the first feature-length film of the science-fiction genre, influencing the likes of George Lucas and Ridley Scott. Degenerate Art Ensemble first premiered their score for the film in 1997 to an audience of 10,000 people in Seattle’s Gasworks Park Outdoor Cinema. Now, they are bringing the score back to life and adding an additional 40 minutes to the influential work.

The movie screening with live orchestra is this Monday, March 2 at the Paramount Theatre. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m.

NEW VIDEOS: Ashley Bathgate from Bang on a Can All-Stars

What a treat!  Ashley Bathgate from the Bang on a Can All-Stars stopped by our studios before the epic Bang on a Can Marathon at The Moore.

Michael Gordon’s “Light is Calling” was originally written for violinist Todd Reynolds. It juxtaposes an acoustic sound against an electronic track with pulses that are actually being warped backwards. This piece is a response to what happened on September 11, 2001.

Of Jacob Cooper’s “Arches,” Ashley says this is almost like a modern-day prelude to a Bach suite. It’s very pure and simple in its form – a lot of arpeggios and oscillations between the strings. It could be played as an acoustic work, but Jacob designed a max patch that Ashley’s sound goes through, so it’s actually going through an interface into her computer. There’s a gradient delay effect that happens and the piece itself is many small arches within one large arch.  It’s a beautiful work and one of her favorite pieces to play.