Joshua Roman is Our Inaugural Artistic Advisor!

Featured

Roman_2

Second Inversion is THRILLED to announce Joshua Roman as our inaugural Artistic Advisor! Joshua will help us “Rethink Classical” with our Seattle community and with our national and global audiences. Stay tuned for guest posts from Joshua here on our blog and keep an ear out for his voice on our 24/7 stream.

Read more about Joshua here.

Read the Seattle Times feature here.

 

(Photo Credit: Hayley Young)

ALBUM REVIEW: Missy Mazzoli’s Vespers for a New Dark Age

by Jill Kimball
mazzolivespersThese days, there’s not much room for mystery. Thanks to technology, we can learn someone’s whole life story on the internet before a first date. We can walk the streets of far-flung cities without leaving the couch. There’s even a machine that connects with our brains and sketches out visual scenes from our dreams.

Composer Missy Mazzoli wonders whether there’s still room for the supernatural in our increasingly technological world, which she calls a “new dark age.” She explores that question in her latest album, Vespers for a New Dark Age.

In the last Dark Ages, we marveled in the mystery of a higher power and prayed in music-centered vesper services at church. Mazzoli’s album places the traditional vesper service in a 21st-century context, using contemporary poetry instead of liturgical readings, and mixing electronic music with human-powered sounds, including vocals by Roomful of Teeth, instrumentals by her orchestra Victoire, and percussion by Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche.

The resulting sound is wonderfully otherworldly, borrowing the best aspects of liturgical choral music, avant-garde electronica, and new age, and tying them all together. One of Missy Mazzoli’s greatest strengths as a composer is her ability to paint a unique, vivid musical picture, and she has certainly done that here.

Another of her strengths is finding original, incredibly thought-provoking text to set to music. Here, she has set excerpts of pointedly secular poems by Matthew Zapruder, which juxtapose oddly but beautifully with the rigid structure of a musical church service.

Zapruder clearly believes our gradual departure from the rituals and mysteries of religion is directly related to advancements in technology. He dismisses as archaic the idea that his thoughts and actions have cosmic consequences. Yet he still acknowledges that there’s some comfort in believing in the supernatural, especially in difficult times. (“Come on all you ghosts, / we need you, winter is not / through with us.” And, “I know you can hear me / I know you are here / I have heard you cough / and sigh.”)

Over the course of eight movements, the sounds of three ethereal vocalists combine with a few instrumental musicians and a bit of electronically-produced mixing to ask a question: what happens when spirituality meets technology? The answer is fuzzy, but some things are certain: In this age, we’re less inclined to accept mystery. But when life gets hard, or when we’re so mired in technology that we forget about human relationships (“I need things / no one can buy / and don’t even know / what they are”), we’d still like to believe there’s something out there that’s bigger than us.

That something doesn’t necessarily have to be a deity. It could just be a great piece of music…like this one.

SXSW 2015: ATX Composers Showcase

by Maggie Stapleton

“Classical” (or even the younger-leaning “contemporary classical”) may not be a logical association with SXSW. Conference sessions from 11am- 6pm are filled with bands (and their managers/publicists) learning how to broaden their audience. Tech companies are trying to create the best new product.  Music showcases between 7pm-3am are dominated by rock, R&B, pop, hip hop, folk, electronic, and country. Most people filling the downtown Austin streets are not symphony-goers. They’re young, curious, energetic, rowdy, and hungry for discovering new bands and supporting their favorites.

After losing myself in this world on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I was delighted to unite with like-minded people at the ATX Composers Showcase, curated by Austin new music super guru Graham Reynolds, from 8pm-2am at the Hideout Theatre. The event was sponsored by KMFA.

The audience seemed to be mostly in their 20-30s and the size ranged from “wow, great showing!” to at capacity with a line out the door. That, combined with the artistry and creativity displayed by the performers, it was clear that the new music scene in Austin is thriving, fresh, unique, quirky, and utterly entertaining. From my iPhone, here are a few highlights:


8pm: Steve Parker and friends opened the evening by exploring all sorts of wonderfully unusual sounds that the trombone, human voice, electronics, and percussion can make.


9pm: Fast Forward Austin, a fabulous organization, dedicated to presenting new and innovative music to the Austin community, presented the Cordova Quartet. These guys mastered the juxtaposition of casual and serious. They dressed like they were just hanging with friends (cellist’s t-shirt said “mello cello”), but as soon as they started playing, their well-rehearsed, polished, and passionate side hit me like I was hearing the world in HD. They personally know the composers they performed (Dan Welcher and Karim Al-Zand) and knowing that casted the performance in a more meaningful, connected light.

PS their Viola encore by Kenji Bunch would have worked equally well on rock band stage.


10pm: line upon line. Percussion is a tough act to beat when it comes to aural AND visual experience. There’s just something really fun about watching people hit things. lul presented a sandwich of works by familiar and lesser known composers: the always mesmerizing Steve Reich (“Music for Pieces of Wood), followed by a piece they commissioned (pictured below) and closing it out with “Ohko,” by Xenakis.  The “bread” of this “sandwich” (Reich and Xenakis) were particularly appealing to a broad audience.

2015-03-21 22.18.02

 

 

 

 

 

11pm: Giddy up, partners.  Justin Sherburn and the eclectic band Montopolis gave us a 40 minute whirlwind of their “The Return of Draw Egan,” a re-written silent western film accompanied by excerpts of Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks. In lieu of the film projection, Justin gave the audience a very brief synopsis update from time to time.  Justin’s narration and nimble work on the keys combined with the blend of strings, floating vocals, drum set, and occasional flute flutterings made for entertainment at its wild west finest.


12am: From the keys, Graham Reynolds led a band of 11 furiously talented musicians in a series of country/folk inspired rockin’ fusion tunes – The Marfa Triptych Part One: Country and Western Big Band Suite, which Graham describes as “classic instrumental country meets Western soundtrack meets power jazz rhythm section.” Read more about this awesome project here!


1am: Mother Falcon has always been of the “Rethink Classical” mindset. The group began as a jam session among a few adventurous high school cellists eager to break out of the rigid repertoire predominate in their musical training.  Seven years later, they have added violin, saxophone, trumpet, accordion, banjo, guitars, and bassoon to the mix and are still jamming out and displaying amazing artistry all the way. This was only the second live performance of “The Star Nation Suite,” music written for a documentary about StarCraft, and they seemed to have it down like it was their signature piece. I was too mesmerized to pull out my camera during their set, but check out their Tiny Desk concert:

 

I couldn’t have asked for a better evening of “new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre” – a perfect fit for what we champion here at Second Inversion! Bravi tutti, Austin.

LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: March 25-30

by Maggie Molloy

This week’s spectacular music calendar features Stravinsky, silent films, and a meditation on the art of sound.

Town Music Presents Deviant Septet

IMG_9424

Igor Stravinsky was a bit of a musical deviant. In fact, the 1913 Paris premiere of his avant-garde ballet “Rite of Spring” was so shocking and experimental that it invoked a riot among the audience. And now, over 100 years later, musicians are still paying tribute to this influential composer—in fact, Deviant Septet is committed to doing just that.

Deviant Septet is a contemporary classical music ensemble modelled after Stravinsky’s “L’histoire du Soldat” ensemble, an unusual combination of instruments featuring the soprano and bass voice of nearly every instrument family: violin, bass, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, and percussion. Specializing in commissioning new work and multimedia performances, Deviant Septet strives to create a repertoire for this distinctive ensemble.

This weekend, Deviant Septet is coming to Seattle to perform Stravinsky’s 1918 “L’Histoire du Soldat” (The Soldier’s Tale), Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 2006 response piece “Catch and Release,” and “The Soldier Dances with Tom Sawyer,” by Stefan Freund.

The performance is this Wednesday, March 25 at Town Hall. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the performance begins at 7:30 p.m.

Jakob Pek, Michaud Savage, and Greg Campbell

A99-01510-600x400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound, silence, and spirituality are intertwining this Thursday at a unique musical performance exploring expressionism, experimentalism, and improvisation through the works of three innovative musicians.

Jakob Pek is a multi-instrumentalist, improviser, and composer who seeks to redefine our understanding of music while also liberating our traditional musical instruments by presenting them in a new context with pure sound, free-form expressionism, and deliberate silence.

Pek will be joined by Michaud Savage, a guitarist and composer who will present original compositions, arrangements, and improvisations for classical guitar which draw upon various trance practices and Western musical idioms. Percussionist Greg Campbell will also perform a set of solo improvisations.

The performance is this Thursday, March 26 at 8 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

Music of Remembrance Presents “The Golem”

golem-star-ensemble_0

Some stories cannot be adequately told with just words alone—and in the case of silent movies, the musical score becomes more important than ever.

Next week, Music of Remembrance is presenting a complete screening of the classic 1920 silent film “The Golem” accompanied by a live performance of Israeli composer Betty Olivero’s beautiful klezmer-infused score. The film tells the story of a rabbi who creates a large clay creature called the Golem and, using sorcery, brings the creature to life to help protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. The program also includes music from “The Dybbuk,” adding to the musical celebration of Jewish identity at a crucial point in early 20th century Germany.

The performance will feature guest conductor Guenter Buchwald from Freiburg, Germany, who specializes in silent film repertoire.

The concert is next Monday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Benaroya Hall.

ALBUM REVIEW: Ólafur Arnalds’ “The Chopin Project”

by Rachele Hales

b164937d2273c3ca10da3f0f1fd3bb6e

Ólafur Arnalds popped up on my radar in 2009 when he started a project of writing a new composition every day for a week and immediately made each one available online. The compositions were later officially released in the collection “Found Songs.” He did not undertake the same experiment for his latest release, The Chopin Project, instead teasing his fans with mysterious updates via Twitter along with his coconspirator/barefoot pianist extraordinaire, Alice Sara Ott. For Arnalds fans the waiting was agony, but all good things…

As a youngster playing in hardcore/metal bands, Arnalds frequently visited his grandmother and was exposed to classical music in her home. “She would always make me listen to Chopin,” he writes in the liner notes, “if it had been my parents forcing classical music down my throat at that time in my life I probably would have puked on their face. But, I guess out of respect for my grandmother, I always listened with her and slowly it started to grow on me.” After his grandmother passed away the Chopin-shaped fragment of his heart was aching to be expressed.

All Chopin recordings sounded the same to him. With nearly all classical recordings focused on capturing a perfect performance and using technology to process that performance into something so polished it no longer feels authentic, Arnalds questioned why technology itself was never used as part of the interpretation. “Why can’t the microphones, the room – the sound – also be a performer? Why would all of these factors need to stay invisible? And why would a ‘good’ classical piano sound naturally have to be the silvery, brilliant concert grand sound that we have on classical recordings today [when] we know that pianos of the 19th century sounded so very different?” Armed with a pocketful of excellent questions and a mission to break the norm, he partnered with Ott and together they explored Reykjavik searching for vintage recording equipment, unusual pianos, and venues that would act as performers themselves in Arnalds & Ott’s interpretations. Then came the recording.

“Verses” is our introduction to the album. It’s a new composition by Arnalds that borrows from Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 3 (Largo),” which immediately follows as track 2. You know how when you were in junior high sometimes you bought a new album that you loved so much you didn’t even want to tell anyone about it? You just locked your door and stayed in your bedroom all night, lying in your bed, reading the liner notes, listening to the album over and over? “Verses” is exactly like that. It is intimate and sad with the trademark Arnalds atmosphere and makes you just want to stay inside journaling for hours and hours.

The entire album has that quality – it’s just one glorious, delicate piece after another. From the gentle shoosh-shoosh in “Reminiscence” (during which there’s a point where you can even hear a performer taking in breath) to the distant chatter and rainfall heard in “Nocturne in G Minor,” the recordings make the listener feel close to the piano – in the same room, even – and so very close to the music. Several tracks use Chopin as a jumping off point, which turns the album as a whole into a dreamlike story arc you wish would never end.

Be sure to purchase this album if you like what you hear!