Women in (New) Music Series Launch!

by Maggie Molloy

If you attended a major symphony performance anywhere in the U.S. last year, chances are you did not see any works by women composers.

In fact, if you’re like most Americans, it’s quite conceivable that you have never seen a live performance of a symphonic work by a woman composer—and it’s not because women aren’t writing music.

women-in-musicAccording to a survey of 89 American symphony orchestras (ranging from regional ensembles to full-time, major orchestras), women composers accounted for only 1.7 percent of the total pieces performed in the 2015-2016 concert season. And of the performances of works by living composers, women accounted for just 14 percent.

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Infographic by Rachel Upton and Ricky O’Bannon. Research conducted by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

To say that women are underrepresented in classical music would be an understatement. Women are clearly not being heard—the question is, why is nobody listening?

As a new music media outlet, Second Inversion is in a unique position to help combat this inequality. Since our inception we have worked tirelessly to provide educated and unbiased coverage of music by both men and women alike, with the firm belief that good music is good music, regardless of the gender of the composer, conductor, or performers.

We will continue to provide thorough and balanced new music coverage—but we would also like to challenge ourselves and our listeners to think more critically about issues of gender and diversity in the music that they program, perform, and consume.

Second Inversion is proud to launch our Women in (New) Music series: an ongoing exploration into the past, present, and future of feminism in classical music. This multimedia series will highlight feminist issues within and beyond the classical music sphere, inviting female-identifying musicians, artists, and writers from all areas of the field to share their own experiences.

Our goal is to showcase a broad and diverse range of perspectives, collaborating with one another to craft a series that is inclusive, empowering, and thought-provoking for all of our readers, listeners, contributors, and colleagues. It is our hope that this series will eventually grow into an entire online library of interviews, guest blog posts, photos, videos, editorials, opinion pieces, artworks, creative projects, and more, accessible as a free resource for anyone interested in exploring the intersection of feminism and music.

We look forward to the critical discussions and challenging ideas that this series will ignite, and hope that you will join us in this dialogue with an open and analytical mind. Together, we can better educate ourselves and others in the classical music community about issues of systemic gender discrimination in classical canon—and together, we can ensure that not another concert season passes with less than 2 percent of women’s works on the program.

Because ultimately, good music transcends all politics of gender and sexuality, and together, we can preserve and propel a music tradition made richer by women’s contributions.

We welcome all questions, concerns, feedback, and ideas on the Women in (New) Music series. If you are interested in contributing or have questions about how you can get involved, please contact Maggie Molloy at maggiem@king.org.

ALBUM REVIEW: Kevin Puts Symphony No.2 – Flute Concerto – River’s Rush

by Maggie Molloy

In that singular moment when the hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, everything changed. It was as if, overnight, the entire world became louder, more turbulent, more terrifying—and far more fearful.

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Kevin Puts. Photo Credit: David White

This sudden paradigmatic shift was the sole inspiration for Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts’ Symphony No.2, a 21-minute masterwork exploring the way in which the events of 9/11 shook our nation to its very core. Though the symphony first premiered in 2002, just shortly after the terrorist attacks, it still rings with the same tempestuous passion and urgency today—nearly a decade and a half later.

The Peabody Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Marin Alsop, breathes new life into that harrowing moment with a brand new album featuring three world-premiere recordings of works by Puts, his cataclysmic Second Symphony among them.

The programmatic symphony opens with a slow and steady orchestral build across the first eight minutes of the work, with a familiar timbral palette of piano and strings laying a soft foundation for delicate woodwind flourishes: the tonal soundscape of a gentle, proud, and perhaps naive nation.

But the blissful innocence and patriotic rhapsody is short-lived. A wandering violin solo stumbles into a violent orchestral upheaval: the aural equivalent of the planes crashing into the twin towers. A visceral darkness stains the orchestra’s entire harmonic palette, the thunderous melodies intertwining and colliding amidst the terrifying chaos. Yet at the height of this catastrophe, the solo unaccompanied violin returns for another musical reflection, calming the orchestra and leading it into an intimate epilogue. A clock-like pulse creates a sense of expectancy, uncertainty, and fear—yet as time passes the orchestra becomes unified once again, finding light, color, and enduring hope even amidst the lingering uncertainty.

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Marin Alsop. Photo Credit: Grant Leighton

The work is followed by a performance of Puts’ “River’s Rush,” inspired in part by the extraordinary grandeur of the Mississippi River. Rapid successions of short melodic motives capture the coursing waves of the river, at one moment stormy and intimidating, the next gentle, soft, and reflective. Freely combining major and minor chords from different keys, Puts illustrates the utter majesty of the river: the delicate reflection of light against its waves, the constant, natural flow of its coursing veins, and the organic life both within and around it.

The album concludes with Puts’ Flute Concerto featuring soloist Adam Walker. Spritely, agile, and endlessly virtuosic flute melodies soar across all three movements, from the poignant and lyrical introduction of the first through the nocturnal andante of the second (featuring an unmistakable quote from Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Major, K. 467), and clear through the tremendously energetic toccata finale of the third. The piece closes with an spirited flute solo playing off the rhythmic hand-clapping of the orchestra.

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It’s a perfectly upbeat ending to an album which traverses the full range of human emotion, reminding us of the distinct power of music to help us reflect on our past, embrace and exist wholly in our present, and look forward with hopeful hearts toward our future.

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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, September 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!

Gabriel Kahane: Last Dance (Story Sound Records)a4106913517_16

Utterly lovely.  Two words are all one needs to describe Gabriel Kahane’s “Last Dance.”  It starts softly with poetic vocals accompanied by a light instrumental touch and swells then swerves to a more energetic, somewhat off-kilter indie pop composition heavy on guitar.  It’s an intelligent, beautiful song full of empathy. – Rachele Hales

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


Traditional (arr. Danish String Quintet): Five Sheep, Four Goats (DACAPO Records)8-226081

Autumn is in the air, so I’m in the mood for music that encourages nesting. I’ve found such a piece in Five Sheep, Four Goats, a traditional tune on the Danish String Quartet’s 2013 release Wood Works. This arrangement by the DSQ is comforting without being boring. The folk tune itself is simple and gorgeous, but the true gem on this track is the placidly rhapsodic flugelhorn solo by Mads la Cour. Crank this one up and break out the cinnamon donuts! – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 4pm hour today to hear this piece. In the meantime, enjoy the recording that DSQ made of this piece in our studios!


Wayne Horvitz: “The Circus Prospered,” arranged and performed by The Westerlies91e6ovdpx2l-_sx425_ (Songlines Recordings)

“The Circus Prospered” is the kind of melancholy curtain-raiser that accompanies the opening scene of a crackling black and white silent film—or perhaps more specifically, a Charlie Chaplin film.

Composed by Seattle-based jazz giant Wayne Horvitz and arranged by The Westerlies for their two-trumpet, two-trombone brass quartet, the piece was originally conceived as a 21st century accompaniment for Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 film The Circus. With swelling harmonies and soulful dissonances, the piece harbors the nostalgic warmth of a black and white film while also capturing the irresistible whimsicality and color of the circus.

Recorded on Lopez Island amidst the calm and quiet of the Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful landscapes, the quartet’s muted colors bleed softly into one another like a cloud-smudged sunrise—and just like those old Charlie Chaplin flicks, the music sparkles with charisma, charm, and a certain cinematic timelessness. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in today to hear this piece.

 

From John Cage to Afro-Cuban Jazz: Concerts You Do NOT Want to Miss This Season

by Maggie Molloy

Ahh, fall. The leaves are changing, the rain is sprinkling, the sky is cloudy, and the pumpkin spice marketing is in full swing. Those hot summer days are finally behind us and we’re back to our familiar, cozy, flannel-covered fall in Seattle. After all, October is a time for new beginnings, new adventures, and—most importantly—new music.

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Seattle’s 2016-2017 concert season is jam-packed with fresh new music of every shape, style, and structure (or lack thereof). From John Cage to Afro-Cuban jazz,  Astor Piazzolla to Andy Warhol, Benjamin Britten to Brazilian poetry—there is something for everyone. Here are some of our top picks for the season:

On Stage with KING FM: Second Inversion is thrilled to host two concerts this year as part of the second season of On Stage with Classical KING FM! In March, we’ll present the Seattle Marimba Quartet with an eclectic program of classical favorites, modern marimba repertoire, and interactive drumming rhythms drawing from Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and African musical traditions.

Then in May, back by popular demand, we present the Seattle Rock Orchestra Quintet with the mesmerizing Tamara Power-Drutis for a program that transforms pop songs into art songs, reimagining both classic and modern tunes as intimate chamber works for the recital hall. Check out our videos from last season for a sneak-peek of what you can expect.

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Seattle Symphony: Ditch the conventional concert-going experience of strict seating, fancy attire, and three-hour long performances with Seattle Symphony’s [Untitled] concert series. This season you can catch landmark works by Witold Lutosławski (arguably Poland’s most innovative composer since Chopin), drench yourself in the dramatic soundscapes of Polish composer and singer Agata Zubel, explore the wide-ranging musical styles of Soviet era composers, and even enter into the twisted worlds of two of America’s most confounding cultural icons: pop artist Andy Warhol and jazz pianist Thelonious Monk.

And speaking of jazz: Seattle Symphony will also co-present their annual Sonic Evolution concert with Earshot Jazz this November. Grace Love and the Garfield High School Jazz Band join the symphony for an evening celebrating two extraordinary Seattle musicians: the incomparable composer and record producer Quincy Jones and the legendary blues singer Ernestine Anderson, both of whom attended Garfield High School.

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Meany Center for the Performing Arts: Formerly known as the UW World Series, Meany Center is still just as committed as ever to bringing music from around the world to their Seattle stage. In November, they’ll feature the Grammy-nominated Imani Winds quintet, known around the globe for their dynamic playing, culturally conscious programming, and adventurous collaborations. Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla, Cuban-born jazz saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, and Palestinian-American oud and violin virtuoso Simon Shaheen are just a few of the composers listed on this program.

In January, the New York-based Jack Quartet presents an evening of composed and improvised music along with visiting artists from the internationally acclaimed Six Tones Ensemble and UW School of Music faculty members Richard Karpen, Juan Pampin, Cuong Vu, and Ted Poor. And if you can’t make it to these concerts, don’t sweat—Second Inversion will be broadcasting them live on our online stream.

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John Cage Musicircus: Come one, come all to the John Cage Musicircus this November 19! This multimedia concert “happening” features over over 60 musicians, dancers, performance artists, and poets simultaneously performing pieces from Cage’s expansive body of work, including the Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, In a Landscape for (unprepared) piano, Child of Tree for amplified cactus, Third Construction for unorthodox percussion instruments, Cartridge Music for amplified small sounds, 45’ For A Speaker for spoken voice, and much more!

Performers will be stationed all over Town Hall, with audience members encouraged to explore how the sonic and visual experience shifts as they wander freely throughout the building. Plus, Second Inversion’s own Maggie Molloy will present the pre-concert lecture, perform two piano works, and distribute free copies of her John Cage Diary series as a zine for audience members to take home!

john-cage-musicircusNorth Corner Chamber Orchestra: Celebrate those cozy winter nights with NOCCO’s annual Solstice Celebration, this year featuring the music of Stravinsky, Respighi, Bach, and Seattle composer Angelique Poteat. Then in February for Black History Month, NOCCO performs a program featuring a newly commissioned work by local composer Hanna Brenn and performance artist C. Davida Ingram alongside classics by two Pulitzer Prize-winning African American composers: Scott Joplin and George Walker. And in April, their season wraps up with a brand new world premiere by NOCCO’s principal clarinetist and composer, Sean Osborn, along with well-loved works by Rossini and Haydn.

noccoSeattle Modern Orchestra: These guys are starting their season off with a bang: three new premieres by living composers. First, a U.S. premiere by Lithuanian composer Vykintas Baltakas, then a West Coast premiere by German composer Wolfgang Rihm, followed by a world premiere by American composer Andrew Waggoner featuring Grammy-winning guest pianist Gloria Cheng.

The rest of the season features cutting-edge collaborations with University of Washington’s Solaris Vocal Ensemble and the Paris-based clarinetist Carol Robinson, a world premiere by SMO co-artistic director Jérémy Jolley, the 80th birthday of legendary Seattle trombonist Stuart Dempster, the 90th birthday of renowned Seattle clarinetist and composer William O. “Bill” Smith, and the centennial celebration of American composer Robert Erickson.

gloria-chengUniversal Language Project: ULP is back for another season of interdisciplinary and out-of-the-box collaborations between 21st century musicians and artists of all disciplines. In October: a multi-media work by Marcus Oldham about racial reconciliation (featuring Second Inversion regulars the Skyros Quartet). In January, composer Chris Stover showcases his works for chamber jazz ensemble featuring spoken word, found sounds, and dance inspired by Brazilian poets. Then in March, the season wraps up with a surreal, outer space-inspired performance featuring artist Erin Jorgensen with local musicians, the overtones of her 5-octave marimba merging with intimate whispering and beautifully minimal music in a small stab towards enlightenment.

erin-jorgensenEmerald City Music: Now in its inaugural season, Emerald City Music is on a mission to make classical chamber music accessible to broader audiences in Seattle and Olympia. And they’re not wasting any time: their inaugural season features 45 renowned guest artists from around the world. Each of the concerts offers a uniquely thematic glimpse into the chamber music repertory, featuring classical masterworks and newly composed music alike. Bookended by concerts featuring familiar works by Bach and Beethoven, this year you can also expand your classical music palette with cutting-edge performances of works by the likes of Henri Dutilleux, Thomas Adès, Benjamin Britten, Bohuslav Martinů, Percy Grainger, David Schiff, Per Nørgård, Ryan Francis, Thomas Koppel, and more.

dover-quartetTown Music Series: Curated by Second Inversion Artistic Advisor Joshua Roman, the Town Music Series programs cutting-edge and virtuosic chamber works which bring together the best of old and new classical traditions. Their 2016-2017 season kicks off with cellist Joshua Roman joined by violinist Caroline Goulding for an evening of dynamic duets by Halvorsen, Kodály, and Ravel. Stay tuned for details on the rest of the season!

joshua-romanWayward Music Series: If you’ve got wayward or otherwise unconventional music taste, the Wayward Music Series will keep you satiated all year long. Check their online calendar or subscribe to their newsletter for specifics on upcoming events, which span the new music gamut from contemporary classical to the outer limits of jazz, electroacoustic experiments to explorations of the avant-garde, eccentric instruments to unorthodox sound art, multimedia collaborations and much more.

wayward-music-seriesThese are just a handful of the new music happenings we’re most looking forward to this season—for more up-to-the-minute details on experimental, avant-garde, and otherwise unconventional music events around the Northwest, check out Second Inversion’s full event calendar!

ALBUM REVIEW: Of Earth and Sky by Karavika

by Brendan Howe

“We dedicate this music to mother figures who work selflessly to build families and communities, to artists and creators who love passionately and live fearlessly, and to the marginalized and oppressed groups of people who sing of stars,” reads the dedication statement for Brooklyn-based chamber group Karavika’s sophomore album, Of Earth and Sky.

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Indeed, Karavika’s significance to their community comes through in this album, which was funded by friends and fans on Indiegogo following their 2012 debut. They have given back by hosting children’s workshops at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, performing regularly on Carnatic Sundays at Cornelia Street Café, as well as in the Brooklyn Raga Massive – a leading organization in the Raga, or Indian classical, renaissance.

With lively, inventive arrangements, Karavika provides space for new ways to think about fusion music. Sri Lankan, Indian, and folk music of the Americas are all in evidence from the outset.

 

The opening track, entitled Your Passing Touch, presents a walk-down chord progression over which Trina Basu’s violin and Amali Premawardhana’s cello lead the ensemble in a sweeping melodic line, dovetailing dramatically over an energetic tabla performance by guest musician Advait Shah. A short breather, and Perry Wortman’s mandolin takes the lead with a prominent mandolin that alternates between blues and Raga styles.

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Trina Basu and Amali Premawardhana. PC Gary Winter.

They continue into an arrangement of the lullaby, All the Pretty Horses, in which Basu and Premawardhana’s voices join in raw, unprocessed harmony, lending an intimate feel to the track. Sameer Gupta imparts his expertise on tabla while violin and cello pizzicati build a dark, American folk-inspired atmosphere.

Basu and Premawardhana’s chemistry in most notable on Raga Behag, as they complement each other like sisters forming a single musical expression from their two instruments. It is a refreshing and reaffirming arrangement with a strong sense of purpose.

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Karavika. PC Dipyaman Ganguly.

As the album goes on, many guest musicians add new sonic layers to the experience – Carnatic vocals, a bamboo flute called the bansuri, another violin, and an Indian drum called a mridangam. The group excels at creating a sense of perpetual motion and communal harmony, with each instrument boldly featured and lending support as each piece unfolds. For Karavika, Of Earth and Sky has truly been a labor of love.

Back to School Reset

by Joshua Roman

Sitting in my seat on the flight to my first performance of the 16-17 season, I find myself reflecting on new beginnings. I’m a sucker for New Year’s Day and the first trip of the season is no different. Thinking back even further, I’ve always enjoyed the start of the semester as well. Fresh scenery, new classes and ways to learn, a structured environment after the laissez-faire chaos of summer…

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I used to have a hard time taking breaks – it’s still not the easiest thing for me to do – but I’ve recognized the value in allowing the mind, body, and spirit the chance to rest and relax. A real break gives one the chance to reassess ingrained habits and patterns and start anew with fresh energy. I’m a firm believer now that breaks are an essential part of life, especially when it comes to learning, growing, and developing new skills, but even if you don’t feel you have time to stop completely, a change of setting or routine is the perfect opportunity to alter your approach and renew your energy and focus.

When it comes to habits, I have found limitless value in experimentation. Having a sense of “home base” is helpful; a routine that you are comfortable with, that becomes second nature, and is a space around which you can play with details. An example from my cello practice is my scale routine. I have several that I’ve developed over the years, all of which I can rely on to keep me sharp with minimal fuss. Once I had the first routine solidified, I was able to start really experimenting with different warm ups and ways of interspersing the routine throughout my day’s practice – or even sometimes throughout the week – which led to the development of other routines I could add in. All the while I had the security of being able to fall back on the original when I felt the need to concentrate all of my creative energy in other areas of my practice and still be able to count on daily technical results.

Here are the videos from The Popper Project, a result of rethinking my practice habits back in 2009-2010.

Going back to school, beginning a new season of performances, or any kind of change in setting or schedule presents the opportunity to break whatever habits you have and rebuild them in a better way. It doesn’t always last forever–but if you stay aware of how you are affected by the changes you’re making, and the new routine, you can at the very least get a better sense of how you work.

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This year, I’m not only rejiggering some of my practice habits, but looking at the tools I use in my everyday life to see what might work better. Using multiple Google calendars, moving more of my work to shareable platforms like Google docs and Google drive are just some of the possibilities that help organize and streamline the logistics of many of the tasks on my list. I’m also committing to spend 45 minutes at the beginning of each week contemplating key questions about my career, independent of the to-do lists that end up dominating my thought patterns.

Structuring time, looking at key elements of organization, and reprioritizing areas of learning and work are all ways to give your progress a jolt of energy. There are many resources available to help with this – some that have been helpful to me include:


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
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This book gave me lots of valuable tools that I’ve used at various times to help organize and restructure many parts of my life and career. I especially like the four-part diagram regarding urgency and importance.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Talent by Angela Beeching41xfrhzrcql-_sx329_bo1204203200_ 

If you’re seeking to up your career game, this book is a fantastic resource. Great ideas for everything from setting up and promoting a concert to how to manage your time so that artistry doesn’t get lost as you seek to create your self-run business.

 

 

 

 

Think Simple Now by Multiple Authors51c0cbveccl

This blog has many great articles about reorganization, and has been an inspiration to me when it comes to simplifying and prioritizing the things that matter most in life.

 

 

 

 

This is a process that never ends, but taking the time to recognize a naturally occurring change of pace and attach extra significance to it can elevate your experience and sharpen necessary life skills. I’d love to know what resources and ideas you have found useful; this isn’t the first and won’t be the last time I lift up the hood and tinker with the engine of productivity. May your semester, season, and fall be fulfilling and challenging in ways that bring you joy and learning.