STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from this Friday’s playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, July 22 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!

Leah Kardos: Core feat. Leah Kardos, electronics (bigo & twigetti)

a2980782583_10Leah Kardos’ debut album, Feather Hammer, is an expression in 12 tracks of her love for her very first instrument: the piano.  She’s added some sparse electronica and a selection of hand-picked effects to “Core” that create a marriage of lyrical piano & melancholia.  Should I call it ambient piano?  Euphonic dreamscape classical?  Austere electronica?  Whatever I’m not into labels, I’ll just close my eyes and let her music kiss the quiet spaces in my mind. – Rachele Hales


Roberto Sierra: Triptico feat. David Tanenbaum, guitar; Shanghai String Quartet (New Albion)
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I must confess that I have never been a huge fan of classical guitar works, and I’m not a huge fan of the combination of guitar and strings, either. However, maybe I’m starting to see the light, because I really enjoy the sounds of this chamber music work of Roberto Sierra that evokes his native Puerto Rico. The first movement is lush and bewitching, with a musical nod to the tree frog known colloquially as “coqui.” Many great composers recognized the value of a playful pizzicato obbligato intermezzo as a middle movement, and it works wonders here in the guitar and string combination. The rhythmic flourishes of the third and final movement are even more fun and surprising. Music like this serves as an important reminder: always listen with an open mind! –
Geoffrey Larson

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


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Olivier Messiaen: “Oiseaux Exotiques” (Yvonne Loriod, piano; Ensemble InterContemporain; Pierre Boulez, conductor) (Naïve Records)

There are an estimated 10,000 species of birds on Earth, each with its own unique song—and Olivier Messiaen wanted to learn them all.

No other composer (or ornithologist, for that matter) was ever so completely committed to the painstaking transcription, study, and musical application of birdsong as Messiaen. Together with his second wife, pianist Yvonne Loriod, he traveled far and wide to discover the distinctive melodies of exotic birds from around the world.

Messiaen’s 15-minute masterwork “Oiseaux Exotiques” brings together the idiosyncratic songs of 18 different bird species from India, China, Malaysia, and the Americas, creating a brilliantly colored orchestra of feathered friends which would otherwise never cross paths in nature. Composed for piano and a strident ensemble of woodwinds, brass, and percussion, the work’s twinkling timbral palette and spontaneous melodies combine elements of both Eastern and Western musical traditions.

Because East or West, near or far, loud or soft, and big or small, every bird has a song—if we just slow down and listen. – Maggie Molloy

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

SNEAK PEEK AUDIO LEAK: Kirk Starkey’s “Songs of Sudbury”

by Maggie Stapleton

Second Inversion presents new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre… and we mean NEW. Sneak Peek Audio Leak is your chance to stream fresh sounds and brand new music of note with insights from our team and the artists.

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In advance of its release this Friday, July 22, Second Inversion is pleased to present to your ears for the very first time, Kirk Starkey’s Songs of Sudbury, an autobiographical musical landscape with gorgeously intertwining melodies, pizzicato thumping beats, driving lines, and ambient sonorities. It has enough underlying art-rock flavor to please fans of Radiohead or Muse and enough soaring, sweeping cello beauty to please the traditional classical heads, and the originality to make you question what kind genre, if any, it falls into.

“My father worked in Sudbury in the mines, and I was born and lived there until the age of four. We never returned leaving behind an unattended family trauma. It was the my first time returning since childhood when I performed at the Northern Lights Festival in 2012. At this point my transition from classical performer to sound artist was already well underway.

This album connects the present with the past utilizing my cello as chosen tool of expression. In my record you will find the tracing of fragments that barely exist, and the search for meaning when it’s not clear there is any to be found. It is a personal memoir of my early childhood, a reflection on the loss of my brother, and the reclaiming of a lost chapter.” – Kirk Starkey

Songs of Sudbury was recorded at Catherine North Studios in Hamilton, Canada, following suit with Kirk’s specialization in recording in beautiful spaces. He’s also a frequent television score collaborator, and can be heard on X Company, Flashpoint, and Hannibal.

ALBUM REVIEW: Wild Cities (Francesca Anderegg, violin; Brent Funderburk, piano)

by Brendan Howe

wild citiesAfter Dead Souls
Where O America are you
going in your glorious
automobile, careening
down the highway
toward what crash
in the deep canyon
of the Western Rockies,
or racing the sunset
over the Golden Gate
toward what wild city
jumping with jazz
on the Pacific Ocean! 
-Allen Ginsberg
 

As a sense of disarray and fragmentation mounts in the world of contemporary music, Francesca Anderegg’s Wild Cities delivers a refreshingly optimistic sense of the future, full of adventure and possibility. Anderegg chose the title after reading John Adams’ autobiography, in which the iconic composer reproduced Allen Ginsberg’s words as the epigraph, Beatnik love for the open road blazing through strong and clear. She chose the works of five young American composers, in whom Adams’ minimalism shows significant influence, and who take that minimalist heritage and carry it in their own direction.

francesca aderegg cred dario acosta

Anderegg was fascinated by the way in which all five composers picked up the same musical legacy and drove off into the great unknown, toward those “wild cities” of the future, while maintaining a sense of unity. This unity is reaffirmed through Anderegg’s technically precise yet stirring performance, and by pianist Brent Funderburk’s conscientious accompaniment throughout the album. (Listen along to samples of each track, courtesy of New Focus Recordings)


ryan francis credit umi francisAnderegg and Funderburk open with Ryan Francis’ Remix, a piece that combines elements of various EDM subgenres with classical forms to create a pulsing, hectic relationship between the two instruments. Several times, the violin and piano suddenly shift into much brighter, more expansive landscapes, like a driver suddenly breaking through the edge of a shadowy wood and into the rolling, sun-soaked bluffs beyond. Francis notes that the structure of Remix is “labyrinthine”, and while it is based loosely on the opening violin motif, it just as often takes a life of its own and goes where it pleases – as often happens on a good road trip.

13-108 YSM - SOM - Hannah LashAdjoining, by Hannah Lash, comes from a much more tonally structured framework. Less fraught and more conceptual, the violin and piano beautifully weave around each other and gradually build expectations for what is to come into view – only they are never realized, and the violin simply and quietly ascends into the clouds, leaving adjustment and adaptation up to the listener.

clint needham credit chris robinsonFollowing this ascension into the ether comes Clint Needham’s On the Road: Nothing Behind Me, the first of two movements about the eponymous book’s stylized beauty of the nomadic lifestyle. Funderburk opens the piece with four arpeggiated octaves of F sharp, a theme that continues throughout the first movement and links the piece to the waif-like atmosphere left by Anderegg’s violin in Adjoining. The transition is well executed and seamless, as though Needham is reflecting upon the road taken by Lash as his own.

The transition into Needham’s second movement, On the Road: Everything Ahead of Me, however, is intentionally jarring and chaotic. It effectively contrasts its apparent disorder and excited optimism for the mysteries of the future with the nostalgia and hindsight expressed in the first movement.


ted hearneShifting dreamlike into a new scenario, Ted Hearne’s Nobody’s takes Adams’ minimalism to the backroads of Appalachia, incorporating rhythms and double stop fiddle techniques of the region into his work. Anderegg plays the piece selflessly, paying an esteemed homage to the unique patterns and tones described by Hearne and allowing the listener to fully access the music’s human side.

reinaldo moya cred arthur moellerThe violin and piano duo enters finally into Reinaldo Moya’s Imagined Archipelagos. This five-movement piece begins with themes inspired by Mayan culture and moves, by the closing movement, to a rousing Venezuelan joropo played in unaligned, sparring sketches – sometimes obstinate and commanding, other times buoyant and whimsical.

Moya chose the title Imagined Archipelagos because of the idea that although each island appears separate, they are all connected beneath the water. This concept applies not only to Moya’s work, but also to Anderegg’s album as a whole. With Wild Cities, Anderegg has completed an admirable survey of contemporary American composition, revealing these composers’ stylistic influence by Adams with great skill and panache.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from this Friday’s playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, July 15 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!

Mathew Rosenblum: Sharpshooter from Mobius Loop Gil Rose/Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP/sound)

1001564At first listen, Mathew Rosenblum’s tonal language and style in Sharpshooter seemed pleasant, if unremarkable.  However, as I dug into this piece, I realized that Rosenblum has woven microtonality throughout this piece so deftly that it seems an organic outgrowth of the musical expression, rather than a conscious “technique.”  Integrating microtonality so successfully is a remarkable achievement.  Additionally, Rosenblum’s use of repeating structures firmly plants this piece tantalizingly close to the leading edge of post-minimalism.  If there were any more variety here, the post-minimalist label would be useless.  In Sharpshooter, Rosenblum is clearly on the verge of what is next, whatever that is. – Seth Tompkins

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


Tess Said So: “11-15” from Scramble + Fate (Preserved Sound Records)

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If you’re looking for a gateway to classical music, or really, if you’re just looking for great music, I’d recommend Tess Said So’s recent release, Scramble + Fate. Tess Said So is an Australian duo featuring One Piano Player (Rasa Daukus) and One Percussionist (Will Larsen) who “adapt a pop sensibility to a classical format.” The track “11-15” has their signature composed, classical foundation peppered with refreshing pop-ballad flavors. It’s not too simple and it’s not too complex. The opening calm, slowly moving piano melody breaks way into piano onstinatos splashed with percussion, progressively building with a concluding recap to the opening. I feel a sense of nostalgia, and a slower reflection on what was once the present. – Maggie Stapleton

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


Corey Dargel: “Removable Parts” from Someone Will Take Care of Me (New Amsterdam Records)
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When you’re in a relationship, you have to make sacrifices—and sometimes you lose pieces of yourself in the process. If you’re Corey Dargel, those pieces are quite literal.

“Removable Parts” is the title of Corey Dargel’s 10-part art song cycle about amputation fetishism. Yes, you read that correctly. Each song reimagines the sacrifices made in relationships as actual physical bodily amputations, with Dargel’s vocals drifting sarcastically above sappy piano and toy piano melodies. It’s like a collection of satirical love songs—radical, fanatical, and unapologetically self-indulgent.

And honestly, that’s pretty in tune with the rest of Dargel’s compositional discography. He writes electronic art songs which draw from contemporary classical and pop music idioms, combining deadpan vocal delivery with pulpy lyrics and deceptively cheery chamber music accompaniment.

Maybe it’s just my weird sense of humor, but I think it’s hilarious and original. Corey Dargel may have lost all his limbs and extremities, but at least he’s still got personality. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear an excerpt from this recording.

Seattle New Music Happy Hour: Tuesday, July 19 at 5:30pm

by Maggie Molloy

Last month, we co-hosted our first New Music Happy Hour with the Live Music Project. It was so fun, we knew we’d have to do it again! 

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It’s a chance for musicians, new music enthusiasts, non-musicians, and curious bystanders alike to come together and share ideas, create connections, and strengthen Seattle’s ever-growing network of artists and musicians. No experience necessary! The only prerequisite is an open mind and a willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue about music and art in Seattle and beyond.

Here are just a few good reasons to join us:

-You want to learn more about Second Inversion or the Live Music Project.

-You want to meet Seattle-based composers, performers, and new music enthusiasts.

-You’ve been in touch with people on the RSVP list virtually, but never met in person.

-You want to brainstorm ideas and collaborations.

-You are curious about what “new music” is.

-You want to be a part of strengthening this beautiful community.

photo cred - Shaya Lyon

You like new music. We like new music. Let’s get together and talk about new music, drink a couple beers, and make some new friends along the way. We hope to see you there!

New Music Happy Hour will be held Tuesday, July 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Queen Anne Beerhall, located at 203 W Thomas St, Seattle, WA 98119. To RSVP, please click here.

NEW VIDEO: Decoda plays György Kurtág’s Hommage à R. Schumann

by Maggie Stapleton

Three members of Decoda (Carnegie Hall’s first ever affiliate ensemble!) stopped by our studios during their Spring 2016 residency at the University of Washington School of Music to film one of their favorite pieces, György Kurtág’s Hommage à R. Schumann.

Meena Bhasin, viola
Carol McGonnell, clarinet
Elizabeth Joy Roe, piano

Decoda is a chamber ensemble comprised of virtuoso musicians, entrepreneurs, and passionate advocates of the arts. Based in New York City, they create innovative performances and engaging projects with partners around the world.

And a bit of exciting Decoda-related news: we were ecstatic to discover recently that Decoda cellist Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir has launched new a Seattle-based ensemble with violinist Michael Jinsoo Lim, Pacific Northwest Ballet Concertmaster and violist Melia Watras, fellow University of Washington professor. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Frequency!

ALBUM REVIEW: Eleonore Oppenheim’s Home

by Maggie Molloy

In classical music, the double bass is one of those instruments you never really hear much about. In fact, you rarely even hear it very much at all—usually the bass is pushed to the back corner of the stage, largely reduced to providing rhythmic support, textural depth, and a lower pitch range for the rest of a larger ensemble.

But not anymore.

Eleonore Oppenheim

Bassist Eleonore Oppenheim recently released her debut solo album Home: a collection of five contemporary works which explore the vast and varied possibilities of the double bass as a modern solo instrument. To bring the vision to life, she enlisted the talents of five fearlessly innovative and experimental composers.

“We as bassists have a conundrum,” Oppenheim said. “As our technique evolves, and as we explore the ever-expanding possibilities of our instrument as a voice that can stand on its own, we need music to play that will grow and evolve with us. I am fortunate enough to have a number of talented and adventurous composer friends who all have an interest in pushing the limits not just of the instrument, but of preconceived ideas of genre and form.”

Among those friends are the likes of Angélica Negrón, Florent Ghys, Wil Smith, Jenny Olivia Johnson, and Lorna Dune—each of whom contributed a composition for the album.

Home

The album begins with composer Angélica Negrón’s contribution, “La Isla Mágica.” Brimming with whimsy and wistful nostalgia, the piece combines punchy, video game-worthy electronics with bowed bass, percussion, and even some ambient vocals. At times it almost sounds as though Oppenheim and her bass are in the middle of a theme park, playing among the neon signs, the colorful carnival games, and the translucent
stars above.

Florent Ghys’ “Crocodile” takes a decidedly more avant-garde turn: double the double basses. Composed for live bass, prerecorded bass, and audio samples, the piece layers two independent bass lines above excerpts from the 1996 French documentary La fabrique de l’homme occidental (The Fashioning of Western Man) by filmmaker Gérard Caillat and psychoanalyst Pierre Legendre. Broad bow strokes set the scene before shifting to funky pizzicato syncopations which showcase both Oppenheim’s technical skill as well as her musical finesse.

Percussion takes on a new meaning, though, in Wil Smith’s “Heavy Beating.” The piece features Oppenheim literally beating her bass in a series of dramatically percussive blows both on the wood and the strings. Glitchy electronics trickle in as she begins to bow, digging deep into the strings as her bass howls and growls in response.

The album’s title track, composed by Jenny Olivia Johnson, is a bit more patient in its intensity. Oppenheim slowly saws away at her lowest strings, each note buzzing, ringing, and echoing in the surrounding silence as the piece builds toward the shrill reaches of the instrument’s higher range, climaxing in a swirl of agitated bowings and electronics.

The album comes to a close with electropop remix of “Home” by composer Lorna Dune. Synthesized melodies and hypnotic drum machines dance above a slow and solemn bass line as the album slowly fades into silence.

And at just under 40 minutes, the album is over too soon—yet the musical terrain traversed over the course of just five pieces is astounding. Oppenheim drifts seemingly effortlessly from classical to noise rock, jazz to synth pop, and even toward the outer reaches of the avant-garde. In doing so, Oppenheim and her team of composers prove that 21st century bass is in very good hands indeed—and when it comes to center stage, the bass is right at Home.

Eleonore Oppenheim Photo