LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: November 1, 5, 6

by Maggie Molloy

Whether you’re looking for an otherworldly saxophone quartet, a genre-bending septet, or an avant-garde piano soloist, this week’s music calendar has something for everyone.

Battle Trance at the Earshot Jazz Festival

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The Earshot Jazz Festival has no shortage of talented saxophonists; however, this weekend one group of musicians is taking saxophone to a new level. Battle Trance is a tenor saxophone quartet that combines the best of contemporary classical music, avant-garde, jazz, black metal, ambient, and world music.

The result is a surprisingly spiritual soundscape that immerses its listeners in dense textures and whirling musical motifs. Through techniques such as multiphonics, circular breathing, ethereal melodies, and innovative articulation, Battle Trance seeks to erase the barrier between audience and music, transporting their audience into a new musical world where the listener and the sound are intricately linked.

Battle Trance will be performing this Saturday, Nov. 1 in the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. The concert begins at 8 p.m.

NOW Ensemble at Town Hall

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If you’re looking for the latest in contemporary classical music, what could be more current than an ensemble titled NOW? True to their name, NOW ensemble is a dynamic seven-member group committed to pushing the boundaries of the classical chamber music tradition, often crossing into new genres and artistic media.

With an eclectic instrumentation of flute, clarinet, electric guitar, double bass, and piano, the ensemble is unlike any septet you have heard before (though admittedly, there aren’t very many septets out there to begin with). The group cements its status as a unique and innovative ensemble by infusing their sound with elements of indie rock, rap, hip hop, jazz, pop, minimalism, and other musical genres.

NOW ensemble will perform at Town Hall next Wednesday, Nov. 5 as part of the Town Music series. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

….and you can listen LIVE on Second Inversion!

Nils Frahm and Dawn of Midi at the Showbox

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Berlin-based contemporary composer Nils Frahm is a classically-trained pianist with a musical approach that is anything but traditional. The experimental composer has made a name for himself internationally as an introspective composer, a captivating performer, and an imaginative improviser. His music has captured the ears and minds of many fans with its gentle, calming soundscapes and soft melodies.

Next week, he will perform in Seattle in promotion of his new live album, “Spaces.” Unlike most live albums, “Spaces” was filmed over the course of two years in different locations and on various mediums including old reel-to-reel recorders, cassette tape decks, and more. The recordings were then pieced together into an album, capturing the magic, spirit, and distinctiveness of each location.

dawnomNils Frahm will be joined by Dawn of Midi, a Brooklyn-based trio composed of bassist Aakaash Israni, pianist Amino Belyamani, and percussionist Qasim Naqvi. Their minimal, acoustic music is strikingly rhythmic, fully immersing the listener in each groove and each carefully-crafted sonic landscape.

Nils Frahm and Dawn of Midi will perform next Thursday, Nov. 6 at the Showbox Market as part of Decibel Festival. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the concert begins at 9 p.m.

NEW CONCERT RECORDING: SCRAPE

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Scrape is an unconducted string ensemble (15 bowed strings, with harp and electric guitar) dedicated to performing the works of Jim Knapp and various guest composers. Second Inversion recorded their most recent performance on October 3 at the Good Shepherd Center, all works by Knapp and one premiere by Brendon Williams. Several of the selections can be found on their most recent CD release, Approaching Vyones, available here!

Enjoy this live performance and click over to our Live Concert archive for more!

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Lou Harrison’s La Koro Sutro

by Rachele Hales

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“Old Granddad” sounds like something you might ask a bartender to mix up, but it’s actually what you get when you manipulate scrap metal, trash cans, and oxygen tanks into a percussion instrument played with baseball bats.  Given its resemblance to a gamelan it is often also referred to as an “American Gamelan,” but I think we can all agree that “Old Granddad” is a much cooler name.  It was built by Lou Harrison and his partner William Colvig and is heard throughout Harrison’s Suite for Violin with American Gamelan and La Koro Sutro.  So what does this thing sound like, anyway?  I’m so glad you asked!  Pretty much like gongs and chimes, turns out.

 

Harrison’s Suite for Violin with American Gamelan opens with a haunting folk melody before morphing into what Harrison calls “stampedes” in recognition of the “lively and unrelenting rhythms” used to reflect Balinese dance.  The final Chaconne of the suite brings the entire piece to a peaceful, dreamy conclusion.  Harrison successfully fuses his strong Asian influence with a Western compositional attitude in this suite, and the CD only gets sweeter from here.

La Koro Sutro is the second piece on this album and translates from Esperanto as “The Heart Sutra,” which is one of the most beloved and famous sutras of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and describes the path one must take to achieve the pure distillation of wisdom (Nirvana).  Harrison’s use of Esperanto, the most widely-spoken constructed language in the world, is a clear social and political statement reflecting his hope for a united world and the transcendence of ethnic & national boundaries.

While the suite on this disc is lovely, this reviewer was utterly captivated by the title track La Koro Sutro, largely because of the astounding choral performance by The Providence Singers.  The warmth and precision they bring to this recording cannot be overstated, especially in “5a Paragrafo” where, in the text, The Bodhisattva (enlightenment being) reaches total tranquility & euphoria and will stay there forever.  Do I understand Esperanto?  No.  Am I educated about Buddhism?  Not really.  But I learned what pure bliss sounds like the moment “5a Paragrafo” hit the 1:30 mark.  On their website The Providence Singers describe the selection this way: “It is in a six-note B-minor scale — the E-natural is left out as it would be out of tune in justly tuned syntonon diatonic.”  Since I don’t know what any of that means I can only describe it as…  glowing.

La Koro Sutro concludes with a return to the original Sanskrit text and heavy emphasis on the deeper sounds of Old Granddad (created by whacking oxygen tanks with baseball bats – don’t try it at home!) as well more of the gorgeous plinking heard throughout the entire sutra.   Lou Harrison said that “making an instrument is one of music’s greatest joys,” and this reviewer is very grateful for his contribution.  La Koro Sutro is a rewarding album for patient listeners and makes me want to bring 1995 back so I can just lay on my floor and listen to it all day.

Go here to purchase the album, performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Gil Rose!

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: October 25, 28, 30

by Maggie Molloy

From percussion concertos to Kaki King, this week is packed with exciting contemporary music performances!

Tacoma Symphony Orchestra’s Season Opener Featuring Evelyn Glennie

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This concert is now SOLD OUT, but worth highlighting nonetheless!

Evelyn Glennie is not your average percussionist. The triple-Grammy winning musician was the first person in musical history to create and maintain a career as a solo percussionist, all while being profoundly deaf.

This Saturday, she will perform the world premiere of Sean O’Boyle’s new percussion concerto, “Portraits of Immortal Love,” with the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra. The piece, which is inspired by the 100-year anniversary of World War I, features percussion instruments ranging from waterphones to hand bells to singing bowls and shell wind chimes. The percussive instruments are meant to illustrate the aching beauty and desperate hope of long-distance love in a time when written word was the only means of communication.

In keeping with the organic, colorful rhythmic quality of percussion instruments, the Symphony will also perform Ravel’s “Bolero,” Debussy’s “Nocturnes,” and Respighi’s “Pines of Rome.” The performance also doubles as the inaugural concert welcoming Tacoma Symphony Orchestra’s new Music Director, Sarah Ioannides.

The performance will take place at the Pantages Theatre in Tacoma this Saturday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Cornish’s Contemporary Piano Series Featuring Jonathan Powell

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Jonathan Powell is bringing some contemporary colors to the classical piano keyboard next Tuesday. As part of Cornish College of the Arts’ Contemporary Piano series, Powell will be performing a program rich in color with Romantic and lesser-known contemporary works by early 20th century composers.

The program includes solo piano works composed by Nikolai Medtner, Alexander Scriabin, Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, and Karol Szymanowski. The pieces showcase Powell’s musical talents as an international touring soloist with a wide range of colorful repertoire and a specialty in late-Romantic music. In particular, Powell is often associated with Sorabji, a prolific piano composer who’s demanding piano compositions Powell has performed and premiered at several concerts internationally.

The Contemporary Piano performance will take place at Cornish’s PONCHO Hall next Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m.

Kaki King and ETHEL String Quartet

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The inimitable, uncategorizable Kaki King is joining forces with ETHEL, an experimental New York based string quartet, to create an evening of truly imaginative, totally indescribable music.

King is a guitarist and composer with an impressively diverse musical career. Aside from releasing six incredibly distinct LP records over the course of 10 years, she has also toured extensively and contributed to a variety of film and TV soundtracks. Though she’s impossible to pin down, King is known for her percussive, often jazzy melodies and her use of multiple tunings on acoustic and lap steel guitars.

ETHEL shares a similar interest in pushing musical boundaries. Unlike your typical string quartets, ETHEL plays with amplification and regularly incorporates improvisation into their performances. The group frequently performs original works as well as works by contemporary composers.

Kaki King and ETHEL will perform at the Edmonds Center for the Arts next Thursday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m.

NOW Ensemble: Live Broadcast on Wednesday, November 5!

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Our next live broadcast on Second Inversion’s 24/7 stream is Wednesday, November 5 at 7:30pm, featuring the NYC-based NOW Ensemble presented by Town Music at Town Hall performing:

Derek Bermel: Interval Training (World Premiere!)
Judd Greenstein: Folk Music
Missy Mazzoli: Magic with Everyday Objects
Patrick Burke: All Together NOW
Mark Dancigers: Dreamfall

Join the Facebook event and invite your friends.  Big thanks to the Office of Arts & Culture for their support of this recording and broadcast.

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