THE 2014-15 SEASON: Live Broadcasts, In-Studios, and more!

by Maggie Stapleton 

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It’s that exciting time of year when the new concert seasons are starting up.  Second Inversion is pleased to give ongoing support to countless organizations in the Northwest by highlighting key performances on our Event Calendar, Facebook, and Twitter, but we also have the opportunity to record and even live broadcast select events!

Our first live broadcast of the 2014-15 season is the TownMusic at Town Hall season opener featuring Artistic Director and cellist Joshua Roman, violinist Susie Park, violist Jocelin Pan, and pianist Andrius Zlabys for Piano Quartets both old and new, by Timo Andres, Johannes Brahms, and Yevgeniy Sharlat on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:30pm.

Tune in for this performance LIVE on Second Inversion’s 24/7 stream!  Join the Facebook event and invite your friends.  Thanks to the Office of Arts & Culture for their support of this recording and broadcast.

Stay tuned for news on more live broadcasts from Town Hall, in-studio recordings, and broadcasts of pre-recorded concerts throughout the year!

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Dublin Guitar Quartet Performs Philip Glass

by Rachele Hales

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Riddle me this: how is it possible that a woman who doesn’t enjoy minimalist music can fall so hard for Philip Glass?  You’ll find the answer in the forty nimble fingers of the Dublin Guitar Quartet.  They’ve taken the music of Glass, transcribed it for guitar (a feat in and of itself – even Glass has never dared to try), and from minimalist compositions created such richness of sound that at times I forgot I was listening to only four instruments.  What pours out of their guitars sounds near-orchestral.  This depth is due in no small part to masterful audio engineering that offers each plucking string a crispness that allows you to really appreciate how flawlessly in unison these artists are.

 

 

The album is replete with technical perfection, but my favorite moments are the pockets of sweet, gentle, understated pieces like “String Quartet #5 – Mvt. 1” that make you feel young again.  Like, really young.  Like you are a sleepy child being lulled to slumber by the sweetness of your mother whisper-singing in your ear except her voice is like a quiet harp.  The piece practically glows!  It’s beautiful.

Even the moments of wild strumming, like in “String Quartet #2 – Company Mvt II,” have a distinct delicate and lyrical quality.  It’s easy to forget you’re listening to four guitars and not one.

Each selection on this disc was transcribed with care, played tightly, and packed with emotion.  It’s a true celebration of the composer and perfectly highlights the immense skill of the performers.  How does a chamber group manage to make four guitars sound simultaneously orchestral and singular?  Clearly there is magic in the hills of Ireland.

Want this album to be yours?  Hop on over to iTunes.

ALBUM REVIEW: Maya Beiser’s “Uncovered”

by Jill Kimball

Maya Beiser Uncovered

One of classical music’s worst faults is its superiority, all too often on display. Many of those who perform and listen to classical music believe there is nothing more beautiful, more sacred. Some even believe everything else is noise.

Perhaps that’s why cellist Maya Beiser felt guilty and a little dirty after she heard rock music for the first time. As a child growing up in Israel’s Galilee Mountains, she listened to classical music and practiced on her cello diligently. But “the first time I heard Janis Joplin I felt shaken to the core,” she told her recording label, Innova. “Somehow her unique, raw expression snuck its way into the inner shrine where, until then, only the likes of Bach and Schubert were allowed to enter. It felt so sacrilegious that I was giddy with guilt.”

It was that feeling that inspired the cello diva’s latest album, “Uncovered.” It’s ten tracks of beautifully deconstructed classic rock songs, as spectacular a find for die-hard Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd fans as it is for those who know absolutely nothing about classic rock.

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Beiser has never shied from experimental music and has in fact made cross-cultural genre-bending her mission. She’s worked with the likes of Philip Glass, Tan Dun, Brian Eno and Steve Reich on new compositions. She’s the founding cellist of New York’s Bang on a Can. Her hometown was a cultural melting pot of Christians, Jews and Muslims, and she was born of a French mother and Argentinian father. With that kind of background, it’s no wonder her music resonates with people all over the world. (Her TED talk has been translated into 32 languages.)

“Uncovered” is another excellent chapter in Beiser’s genre-defying book, proof positive that traditionally classical instruments don’t always have to sound prim and polished. In the Nirvana cover “Lithium,” for example, Beiser’s cello scrapes rudely across the strings to channel Kurt Cobain’s gritty, slightly out of tune singing voice. She bends the notes perfectly to capture Jimi Hendrix’s essence in “Little Wing.” And she does a hell of a good AC/DC electric guitar impression on “Back in Black.”


Channeling, rather than imitation, is really what she’s going for in this album, and thank goodness: straight-up covers are often mocked, panned and condemned for their lack of creativity. The covers that everyone remembers are those that shed completely new light on a song, like Janis Joplin’s bluesy take on the Gershwin classic “Summertime.” That track inspired Beiser’s own cover, where she shreds and wails on the cello to create a melody that so accurately imitates Joplin’s raspy vocals.


Other tracks seek to imitate the mood of the original song rather than the vocal quality, such as the balladic “Wish You were Here,” a Pink Floyd cover, and the mournful “Epitaph,” by King Crimson.


In short, the cello diva has done it again. Without giving up her own originality, cellist Maya Beiser captures every rasp, every scream, every bit of edginess and ugliness…everything that made these rock songs so legendary. “Uncovered” is the ultimate homage to the perfect imperfection of rock music.

You can stream the whole album below:

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Orchestra Underground: Tech & Techno

by Maggie Stapleton

Founded back in 1977, the NYC-based American Composers Orchestra is dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers by way of concerts, commissions, recordings, educational programs, and new music reading sessions.  With an esteemed leadership of Derek Bermel, Artistic Director; George Manahan, Music Director; Dennis Russell Davies, Conductor Laureate; and Robert Beaser, Artistic Advisor Laureate this organization is in amazing hands.

Orchestra Underground: Tech & Techno is the fifth digital album from ACO.   Each piece was commissioned or premiered by ACO for Orchestra Underground, “a series stretching the definition of, and possibilities for the orchestra.  The series challenges conventional notions about symphonic music, embracing multidisciplinary and collaborative work, novel instrumental and spatial orientations of musicians, new technologies and multimedia.”  Orchestra Underground just celebrated its 10th anniversary season in 2013-14 and what better way to celebrate than with this collection of live recordings by Mason Bates, Edmund Campion, Anna Clyne, Justin Messina, and Neil Rolnick.

 

This release busts out of the gate with Edmund Campion’s Practice, a full-blasted introduction of orchestral forces, cresting and blending seamlessly into an electronic, computer generated outro in Campion’s cheeky musical response to the age-old question, “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?” Appropriate, seeing as most of the music on this album was recorded in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall which seeks to host the latest contemporary sounds from classical, pop, jazz, and world music artists.

Like all of the music on this CD, the fusion of traditional orchestral instruments with electronic forces is brilliantly executed in Justin Messina’s Abandon.  This work is played to an electronic soundtrack Detroit techno from the early ‘90s during which they experienced a musical rebirth in the underground clubs.

Tender Hooks, by Anna Clyne features a pair of laptops operated by Jeremy Flower and Joshue Ott, which transmit and receive live data from the orchestra.  Each element of this recording combines standard notation, written instructions and graphic representation.  It also pays homage to one of the earliest electronic instruments, the Theremin!

Neil Rolnick collaborates with violinist Todd Reynolds, to present their instrument creation, the iFiddle.  As Rolnick puts it this is “not just a concerto for violin, but a concerto for a cyborg violin that has been intimately joined to a computer.”  This union definitely displays both elements of a traditional violin, and yes, I think cyborg describes it best.  This piece is strikingly accessible, with catchy violin melodies throughout.

The opening of Omnivorous Furniture by Mason Bates has the feel of “do your best robot dance,” inspired by down-tempo electronic music which soon leads way to full on dance party/funkadelic triptastic.  Mason Bates uses computer and drum pad with the orchestra in this work heavily influenced with British hip-hop.

If you’re looking for a gateway into electronically inspired orchestral music, this is a great disc!  If you’d like to purchase the collection, you can visit iTunes, Amazon, or the American Composers Orchestra.

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Richard Reed Parry’s “Music for Heart and Breath”

by Maggie Stapleton

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As a gigantic Arcade Fire fan, my heart grew 10 sizes when I found out about Richard Reed Parry’s Music for Heart and Breath, an album of original compositions.  When I actually heard the music and learned about the inspiration for the pieces, I was knocked over like I haven’t been in the longest time.

The musical conceptualization of this album comes from the heart – literally.  Each of the six pieces requires involuntarily moving organs of the body to dictate the tempi and rhythms.   How, you may wonder, does one determine those speeds?

Paging Doctor Beat.  We’ll need your stethoscopes.

Each musician is instructed to play with a stethoscope (and consequently, at a soft dynamic level) in order to be exactly in sync with his or her own heartbeat.  The variety in ebb and flow between the players’ pulses creates a pointillistic effect – in many instances on the album is like that of a relaxing rainfall – that will undoubtedly never sound exactly the same in two different instances.

In fact, the nature of the performance situation can impart serious variation on the length of the piece.  Rehearsals take significantly more time than performances.  “Interruptions,” took 25 minutes to rehearse the first time, and only 19 minutes to perform.  Thanks, adrenaline!

The album journeys between instrumentation varieties and sizes and features an all-star cast of musicians: yMusic, Kronos Quartet, Nico Muhly, Nadia Sirota, and Bryce & Aaron Dessner.  The smallest group is a duet; the largest a 14-member chamber orchestra, with sizes in between to keep depth of sound and dynamic range at varying levels.

(music streaming for this album is no longer available)

While Parry doesn’t have formal training in classical music, he comes from a family of musicians and  enjoys music from Machaut to Debussy to Ligety to Reich.  Influences from all of those composers are hinted at here and there throughout the disc.  Parry presents himself as an extremely well-rounded musician and a revolutionary way of conceiving time and imparting creative innovation into the realm of music performed on orchestral instruments.

I think Parry sums it up best with this lovely phrase, “I think there’s something quite beautiful about the idea of trying to literally play your heart out.”

You can purchase this album at Deutsche GrammaphonAmazon, or iTunes.