Grant Awarded!

New Music USA collage

We are over the moon! Second Inversion was one of 54 awardees in the most recent round of New Music USA funding! This generous support helped fund our music videos from January 1-April 18, including The WesterliesThird Coast Percussion & Joshua RomanMatt Haimovitz & Christopher O’RileyAshley Bathgate from Bang on a Can All-Stars, Jherek BischoffSeattle SymphonyDeviant SeptetTurtle Island Quartet, and Simple Measures.

Stay tuned for more great video projects and of course, new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre, streaming 24/7.

Second Inversion was supported by New Music USA. To follow the project as it unfolds, visit the project page.

 

Staff & Community Picks: July 29

A weekly rundown of the music our staff and listeners are loving lately! Are you interested in contributing some thoughts on your favorite new music albums? Drop us a line!



the_little_death_album_cover_1-1Religion + hormones + hip hop beats = nihilist pop opera.  The Little Death Vol. 1 is boppy, fun & sentimental.  Strong vocals from Mellissa Hughes and Matt Marks’ twisted take on the traditional “boy meets girl” story make this one of my favorite CDs in our music library.  I dare you not to dance to “I Don’t Have Any Fun.” – by Rachele Hales

 

 

 


71GJwJ+HBtL._SY355_If you enjoy Spanish and Latin American music, you’ll find a lot to love in “Andalusian Fantasy,” a collection of pieces written and performed by pianist Lionel Sainsbury. The compositions embrace the darker, more romantic side of traditional Latin music, incorporating a pleasantly crunchy chord just seldom enough to keep things melodic overall. Imagine if tango, Debussy, and Gershwin all met in one album, and you’ll get a sense for Sainsbury’s music. – by Jill Kimball

 

homepage_large.e22fb394I’ve been a huge Arcade Fire fan for years, and I was completely awestruck when this album came out.  The whole idea behind the works on this album – letting the human body dictate the tempi, is one of the most revolutionary concepts I’ve encountered in new music.  I can’t really think of many albums that represent Second Inversion SO WELL – the composer/genre/artist crossover, the musicians on the album – yMusic, Kronos Quartet, Nadia Sirota, Nico Muhly, Aaron and Bryce Dessner – all are revolutionaries in the new music world and helping to create music that completely breaks the mold of classical, despite the instruments they’re playing. – by Maggie Stapleton

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Clockworking’ from Nordic Affect

By Jill Kimball

What is it about Iceland? From Björk to Ólafur Arnalds to Jón Leifs, the 320,000-person country seems to churn out more fantastic and original music per capita than any other country on Earth. And with the latest album to come out of the country—whose population, it should be noted, is half the size of Seattle—we have a few more reasons to celebrate this Nordic land.

 

In many ways, Clockworking, the new release from the ensemble Nordic Affect, couldn’t have come from any other country. The music is dotted with the very Icelandic sounds of rushing winds, hummed folk music, and above all, the beautifully stark sounds of silence. The album is characterized by pleasant repetition and meditative simplicity, an accurate musical reflection of life in Iceland’s quiet, cold and wild towns. Listening to Clockworking made me feel like I was the only one in the world one minute, but like a tiny drop in a vast ocean the next.

My absolute favorite thing about Clockworking, aside from the fact that every name in the liner notes ends in –dóttir, is that it’s all about women. Nordic Affect, the performing ensemble, is a small group of females who play on harpsichord, viola da gamba, and other period instruments.  On top of that, all five of the composers featured on the album are female. Today, women make up less than 15% of the world’s living composers; perhaps hearing this album will inspire more women to become composers themselves and turn those statistics around.

The album’s opening track is also its namesake, Clockworking. If you like Sigur Rós, you’ll like this piece, too; it possesses a similar beautiful simplicity. Composer María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir (of the group amiina) does a wonderful job integrating a constant but unobtrusive clock-like pulse into the texture of the work. The instruments may be Baroque and the mood focuses on the passage of time, but the music is timeless.

The next three pieces focus on an interplay between real-life noises and instrumental sounds. In 2 Circles, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir chose to examine a musician’s close relationship with her instrument, which is why you’ll hear the composer herself humming along with the notes she plays on her cello. The lovely, intimate work was recorded in the middle of a chilly Iceland winter, and I swear I could feel the wind howling outside as I listened. In From Beacon to Beacon, composer/guitarist Hafdis Bjarnadóttir recorded the sound of the breeze outside a local lighthouse in midsummer and used it in this piece, which she describes as an imagined musical conversation between two lighthouses.  I was just as interested in the simple sound of the blowing wind between musical phrases as I was in the beautifully random ping-ping of the harpsichord. And in INNI, “Musica da Camera,” the sound of an infant’s gentle murmuring mingles with a buzzing baroque violin.

HafdisBjornadottir

Composer Hafdis Bjarnadóttir records the sound of the wind near an Icelandic lighthouse.

If Shades of Silence illustrates anything, it’s that “silence” is a relative term. The only actual silences present in the piece are at the beginning and end. The rest is what some might deem white noise: a viola da gamba’s bow gently scraping along a string here, fingers plucking a few strings there. After a few minutes, I considered the sounds of the piece as good as silence;  like the gentle sounds of keyboard typing or the rustle of papers at work, I’d grown accustomed to hearing it in the background.

The album concludes with Sleeping Pendulum, another work by María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir that had already received an honorary award at the time of this CD’s release. It’s another focus on timelessness, a study in how the music we hear today echoes decades and centuries of music that came before it. The piece begins with a simple interplay between a violin and some tinkling bells, but later it becomes all about strings, with a violin interjecting short, high trills above a foundation of slowly morphing sustained chords.

Clockworking is one of those albums that stands on its own sans explanation but that becomes all the more meaningful after you’ve read the liner notes. The album provides a great excuse to put down the phone, step away from the keyboard, and escape pixelated life for a while. Turn the volume up, close your eyes, and do absolutely nothing but listen. Every single one of this album’s 45 minutes deserves your undivided attention.

Staff & Community Picks: July 22

A weekly rundown of the music our staff and listeners are loving lately! Are you interested in contributing some thoughts on your favorite new music albums? Drop us a line!


$_35Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and let waves of lush, tonal music wash over you, and Nancy Galbraith’s music seems to be perfectly suited to those moments. Nancy’s music combines evocative, atmospheric sounds with driving rhythms and changing, dance-like meters. This most recent album presents works written for large chamber ensemble, solo piano, and large orchestra, all composed in the past four years. It features premiere performances given by students and faculty of Carnegie Mellon University, Galbraith’s resident institution, that were prepared in close collaboration with the composer and present an intimate picture of her creativity. – by Geoffrey Larson

 


519xmsr4WrL._SY300_Somewhere in between theatre and chamber music lives The Devil’s Tale, a sequel to Stravinsky’s L’Histoire Du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale) but told backwards, turning the entire program into a kind of palindromic dance with the devil. This time, though, our protagonist Joseph triumphs in the end over the devil’s constant attempts to bring him down with his too-good-to-be-true offers by playing a trick of his own. Musically, the composer, James Stephenson, continues Stravinsky’s odd, rhythmically off-kilter score with his own unique version, occasionally borrowing little themes from L’Histoire. Stephenson closes the piece with the opening line from The Soldier’s Tale, bringing the palindromic dance to a close. – by David Wall

 


81l+OMX1oeL._SY355_I can’t help but listen with my eyes first – I’m a sucker for artistic, unique album art. Martin Kennedy’s Trivial Pursuits delivers on the visual aesthetic and the aural stimulation. The title track, performed here by Lara St. John and Martin Kennedy is a celebration of their friendship and mutual love for the game Trivial Pursuit. Six unique musical sections and themes represent the six pie pieces one seeks to collect in the game. The Piano Sonata and Piano Concerto are great additions to the 21st century repertoire as well, showcasing playful lines, brooding harmonies, and musical depth. – by Maggie Stapleton

ALBUM REVIEW: “Nature” by The City of Tomorrow

by Maggie Molloy

CityOfTomorrow_rocks-websize
Dating back to the Late Stone Age, the conch shell was among the earliest musical instruments—and while wind instruments have grown and transformed a lot over the course of the last 20,000 years, they have always had maintained an intimate connection with nature. Throughout history, composers have used the rich tone color of wind instruments to imitate the chirping of the birds, the spraying of the sea, or the rising of the sun.

Even today, contemporary musicians are finding new ways to explore this unique musical relationship between wind instruments and nature—in fact, the contemporary wind quintet City of Tomorrow devoted their entire debut album to doing just that.

Comprised of flutist Elise Blatchford, oboist Stuart Breczinski, clarinetist Camila Barrientos, bassoonist Laura Miller, and horn player Leander Star, City of Tomorrow is committed to much more than just music. The one-of-a-kind quintet merges elements of contemporary classical and experimental music with themes of environmentalism and humanism. Through their music they offer new perspectives on current social and political issues ranging from environmental destruction and war to the everyday injustices of living in the Digital Age.

Their new album, titled “NATURE,” explores the evolution of humanity’s relationship with nature through works by four contemporary composers. The album considers nature through the lens of 18th- and 19th-century Romantic ideas of the Sublime: the overwhelming brilliance of the natural world surrounding us and our inexorable vulnerability in its presence. The album also serves as the first installment of a three-disc set that will musically trace the progression of nature from the Romantic era to the apocalyptic.

The first piece on the album is David Lang’s “breathless,” a work which illustrates the ceaseless flow of nature through delicately circling motives in each instrument. The soundscape moves slowly and steadily forward with a minimalist aesthetic, each wind instrument gently layered over one another in prismatic, ever-changing rhythmic patterns.

Next on the album is Luciano Berio’s “Ricorrenze.” Italian for “recurrences,” the piece explores the delicate balance between order and chaos in nature. The work begins with soft, unison D’s in every instrument before growing into swirling layers of virtuosic melodic lines. The dazzlingly diverse range of tone colors makes the piece’s connection to nature palpable—in fact, Berio himself compared the quintet to a seed being sown and gradually maturing into a plant bearing vibrant fruit.

City of Tomorrow jazzes things up with their performance of “…a certain chinese cyclopaedia…” by Denys Bouliane. Inspired by a fantastical encyclopedia of real and imaginary animals depicted in a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, the piece crafts a musical taxonomy cataloguing the infinite variations of bebop. The piece is a colorful collage of frenetic melodic fragments which offer an abstract interpretation of the evolution of bebop jazz.

The concluding work on the album is “Music for Breathing” by Nat Evans, a piece which is rooted in traditionally Eastern understandings of nature. The piece crafts an organic, often meditative illustration of the natural world through guided improvisation, solo spotlights, extended techniques, and even the use of conch shells and stones. Inspired by the rituals of the Yamabushi Buddhists, the piece at times blurs the line between musical instruments made by man and musical instruments found in nature.

Each piece on “NATURE” is its own exquisite flower, a beautifully unique impression of nature’s rich tone colors and ever-changing musical textures. And City of Tomorrow breathes new life into each work through their imaginative musical interpretation, skilled rhythmic precision, colorful tonal palette, and above all, their unparalleled artistic ambition.

This is one wind quintet that is sure to leave you breathless.