ALBUM OF THE WEEK: John Luther Adams: Become Ocean (Seattle Symphony & Ludovic Morlot)

by Maggie Stapleton

screen_shot_2014-07-11_at_2.44.20_pm

The timing of John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean Pulitzer Prize announcement in conjunction with the Seattle Symphony’s trip to Carnegie Hall during Spring for Music 2014 to perform that very piece was unbelievably perfect.  Ever since, it’s been a ride of pride and celebration for John Luther Adams, Ludovic Morlot, and the Seattle Symphony.

Cantaloupe records releases a beautifully mastered recording on September 30, 2014 of Become Ocean, recorded at Benaroya Hall and mastered in NYC.  It’s a musical commemorative token of the journey and relationship fostered between all involved.

Buy it here!

Seattle Symphony gave the world premiere of this piece in June 2013 at Benaroya Hall with a supporting art installation at Seattle Art Museum featuring Adams’ Veils and Vesper.  Adams was unable to attend the premiere due to a medical emergency, but when he heard one of the concert recordings he was “thrilled because it sounded exactly like I imagined it would.  I’m a perfectionist and chronic reviser, always tinkering with pieces and always critical of performances, but the orchestra played it flawlessly.  That just doesn’t happen with a world premiere of a piece.  I think that just speaks to what a perfect musical partnership that was, what a great orchestra you have there in Seattle, and what an extraordinary Music Director.”

The admiration continued when he heard Become Ocean live for the first time in Carnegie Hall, nearly a year after its premiere.  “People are looking to Seattle as a model for the new orchestra, for what the symphony orchestra might be in the 21st century and how it might not just survive but thrive and expand the arts world.  I was balled over by the sense of commitment and joy coming from that orchestra.  These are professional musicians, veteran orchestral musicians who love music and are in no way jaded.”

As for the recording?  The ideal scenario for the listener in a performance of this piece is to be surrounded by the orchestra and furthermore have the opportunity to move around within the physical space, if desired.  Listening to this recording in surround sound is the next best thing!  Adams told me, “In making this recording we took special care to mix in stereo much of the time, so that the experience of hearing this music in stereo is as vivid as possible and gives you a sense of being immersed.”

The title “Become Ocean” comes from the end of a poem written by John Cage in memory of Lou Harrison (below).  While this piece is not specifically a direct homage to either composer, John says, “It would be disingenuous of me to say they were not huge influences on my life and my life’s works.  I have no idea as to where I would be without John Cage, Lou Harrison, as incredible role models and their incredible music.  So in a way, everything that I do is some kind of tribute to Lou and John.”

first the quaLity
Of
yoUr music
tHen
its quAntity
and vaRiety
make it Resemble
a rIver in delta
liStening to it
we becOme
oceaN

As if there wasn’t already enough good will shared in this post – there’s more.  This recording project was successfully funded with a Pledge Music campaign and 5% of those proceeds go directly to the Ocean Conservancy.  How’d that come about? “I’m a hardcore environmentalist!” John says.  He is an activist going back to the mid-1970s for the Alaska Coalition and the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.  These types of issues are at the core of his life.  It only seemed appropriate that they might give a little bit back to one of the many organizations trying to clean up and preserve the oceans.

Cheers to the Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot, & Cantaloupe Records!

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Break of Reality’s “TEN”

by Maggie Stapleton

0000066711_10

Break of Reality is a quartet composed of 3 cellists and a percussionist who perform music ranging from Tool to Radiohead to Bach to their own original compositions inspired by rock, classical, folk, and pop music.

There are a lot of attempts at this genre cross-pollinization these days, but BoR REALLY does it well.  This music is genuine and it doesn’t try too hard.  Percussionist Ivan Trevino says, “Rock is as much in our blood as classical music. Our music is organic; we’re not doing it as a gimmick to play rock music on the cello. We want our instruments to be respected both in the classical and rock worlds.”  Success, I say!

“Ten,” their latest release (buy it here!), is the band’s proudest and most mature record to date.  All of the songs are original compositions by cellist Patrick Laird and/or Ivan Trevino and their sound has transitioned from “heavy metal cello band” to a more mellow, classically influenced sound, which comes across very authentically.  They also experimented with different microphones and recording techniques and invested in a lot of their own equipment with this album.  The result is well-balanced, nuanced, yet totally grooves.

I had the pleasure of talking to Ivan and Patrick about a few of the tracks and learned the following tidbits:

“Star” was written for Patrick Laird’s wife, Marnie, who makes a guest piano appearance on the track.

“Helix” is one of their favorite tunes to perform, with a winding cello riff that travels through all different types of time signatures, leaving one wondering if it’s in 7 or 4.  Can you figure it out?

“Six” is the only track on the album that Ivan Trevino wrote all on his own.  It was a originally a mallet sextet composed for the Eastman Percussion ensemble.  This arrangement is for three cellos, piano, 2 percussionists and features marimba, piano, glockenspiel, and drumset. It has a cinematic, mellow, indie rock flavor, “kind of like Bon Iver meets Steve Reich,” as Ivan puts it.

BoR independently releases all of their records.  Trevino recognizes that as a cello band with no singer, their sound doesn’t appeal to a pop music demographic.  Rather, they use their niche genre to be 100% in charge of the art.  They can take complete control of record sales, keep all of the income from record sales, and have all of the say in the sound and recording process.

Oh, and the sweet cover artwork?  It was done by Lauren Yandell, one of Ivan’s high school marching bandmates!

Keep an eye on BoR’s tour schedule and check them out live, if you get a chance.  Percussionist Ivan Trevino says Break of Reality’s shows have the energy of rock concerts; the music is memorized which helps communication and interaction with the audience and there are elements of improv.  The cellists have more articulate, aggressive, vertical types of bow strokes to get the “rock sound,” while playing with a drummer.  However, they always try to bring the unexpected and keep their classical roots at heart and keep the audience guessing what’s going to come next – rock or Bach.

Cheers to you, Break of Reality, for a fantastic new album!  We can’t wait to hear what’s next to come.

TownMusic LIVE BROADCAST! Tuesday, September 23 at 7:30pm!

ted_11960300-crop-560x280

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

Press_Photo

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.

MayaBeiser3_byioulex

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: