STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their weekly playlist. Tune in on Friday, April 14 to hear these pieces and plenty of other new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Valgeir Sigurðsson: “Architecture of Loss: The Crumbling” (Bedroom Community)

Valgeir Sigurðsson’s “Architecture of Loss: The Crumbling” is five minutes of bold, emotive, string-heavy resonance sweetened with silvery piano and sharpened by nearly subliminal scratches and creaks. The music is drawn from the concept of “formation and disintegration,” so the sparse notes and lingering strings serve the theme well. It’s a piece evocative of splintering glaciers: beautiful yet uneasy.
Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 11m hour today to hear this piece.


Danny Clay: “Two and Six” (Ignition Duo)

Unlike some stuff we play on Second Inversion, Danny Clay’s “Two and Six” is an example of music best experienced in headphones. The interplay of harmonics between the two guitars is more engrossing and intimate in stereo, especially if the audio is piped straight to your brain. So, I advise you to put your cans on and chill out to this introspective conversation between twin electric guitars. Whether you need to focus or relax, this track is an excellent choice. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 3pm hour today to hear this piece.


Terry Riley: “Venus in ’94″
Performed by Gloria Cheng (Telarc Records)

He’s one of the world’s foremost boundary-bursting minimalists; she’s a Grammy-winning pianist known for championing new music—it’s a match made in musical heaven. The world premiere recording of Terry Riley’s “Venus in ’94” sparkles under Gloria Cheng’s free-spirited fingers, which gracefully soar up, down, and around an utter obstacle course of intricate voicings and rhythms.

Half waltz, half scherzo, the piece is a delicate but deftly virtuosic lesson in extravagant romanticism—or as Riley himself describes it: “A tip of the hat to early Schoenberg, Chopin, and Brazil.”
Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7pm hour today to hear this piece.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in on Friday, March 31 to hear these pieces and lots of other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Daníel Bjarnason: Skelja (Bedroom Community)

I’ve always been a fan of the contemporary Icelandic label Bedroom Community, which seems to produce a steady stream of magic in its new music offerings. Processions is the debut album of Daníel Bjarnason, and it holds some musical treasures. One is the final track, Skelja, a work for harp and what seems to be a small collection of pitched gongs. The percussion adds a drowsy color to the spare notes of the harp solo, a faint background of dark hues. This is a tender harp work that truly has something to say, and I enjoy listening to it again and again. – Geoffrey Larson


Robin Pecknold: White Winter Hymnal (Portland Cello Project)

Image result for fleet foxes white winter hymnal portland cello projectThis 2.5 minute gem makes me long for winter, even as milder temperatures and cherry blossoms are among us. If I dare say, the Portland Cello Project puts even MORE warmth into this soothing, soulful tune than the original version by the Fleet Foxes. Trumpeter John Whaley soars effortlessly above the cellos with the melody, drifting in and out with ease. I might just have to seek out a trail that still has some snow on it this weekend….  – Maggie Stapleton


Mason Bates: Observer in the Magellanic Cloud (Chanticleer)

Image result for mason bates observer in the magellanic cloudI love this track not only because of the novel subject matter (a distant satellite observing human activity on the Earth) but also because of how it bridges the gap between humanity and technology.  Even while it presents the satellite as a distant observer, out there in the cold blackness and sterility of space, the connection between the satellite and the humans it observes manages to anthropomorphize the machine just enough to make the relationship seem intimate.  Maybe our computerized future won’t be so bad, after all. – Seth Tompkins

Staff Picks: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in on Friday, March 17 to hear these pieces and lots of other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Julia Wolfe: Cruel Sister;  Ensemble Resonanz

Image result for julia wolfe cruel sisterSibling rivalry takes on a whole new meaning in Julia Wolfe’s Cruel Sister for string orchestra. Based on an old English ballad of the same name, the piece tells the tale of two sisters: one bright as the sun, and the other cold and dark. When a young man comes courting, the dark sister pushes the bright sister into the sea so that she can marry him. But when two minstrels find the dead sister washed up on the shore, they create a harp from her breastbone, strung with her yellow hair—and they play the ghostly instrument at the dark sister’s wedding.

Wolfe tells the tale with no words, instead following the dramatic arc of the original ballad through orchestra alone. Restless strings detail the gruesome murder, airy resonances evoke the lifeless body floating on the sea, and an obsessive, foreboding pizzicato waltz brings the music of the mad harp back to life. – Maggie Molloy


Piazzolla: Adiós Nonino arr. Déjardin; Boston Cello Quartet

Image result for boston cello quartet piazzolla album

I couldn’t be happier that this amazing little piece cropped up in my playlist. I like a good Piazzolla tango once in a while, and Adiós Nonino is a very special one. It’s a somber, lyrical work, one that was intensely personal for Piazzolla, written after the death of his father. He said:

“And to close that very bad year of 1959, one day the phone exploded like an atom bomb. I was performing with (Juan Carlos) Copes in Puerto Rico…when I received a call from Dedé (his wife)…from New York. Nonino had died in Mar del Plata. It was too much.

“When I got back to New York a few days later, I asked to be alone in a room in the apartment, and in less than an hour I wrote Adiós Nonino. And then I cried as I had few times before in my life…In that piece I left all the memories I had of my dad.”

It’s some of his most soulful music, and it was arranged in something like 20 different ways during his life. In this version, the Boston Cello Quartet adds a beautifully dark, expressive sound, with an ending that is incredibly intimate. This new-era version of Adiós does not disappoint. – Geoffrey Larson


Olga Bell: Khabarovsk Krai

Musician Olga Bell was born in Russia, raised in Alaska, and now lives in New York as a member of the Dirty Projectors.  On her solo album Krai (meaning “periphery”/”edge”), she explores the forgotten areas of her homeland in her native Russian, combining old folk fables with fresh, trance-y electronic sounds.  In “Khabarovsk Krai,” crafty use of pitch-shifting software allows Bell’s vocals to sink, swoop, moan, and smear her voice inside your ears as she sobs “Russia, Mother Russia, Russian Motherland.”  Much like the landscape that inspired the work, the song shifts constantly and is full of striking, unusual surprises. – Rachele Hales

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in on Friday, March 3 to hear these pieces and lots of other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!
Nico Muhly: Beaming Music (Bedroom Community)

Marimba and organ are not your average keyboard duo, but it works so well I could cry. Thank you, Nico, for doing this. and what’s in a name? “The title refers not only to the various metric subdivisions of the main material, but also to Chris Thompson, the percussionist who commissioned it, whose his sunny disposition colored each stage of this piece’s conception, rehearsal, and performance.” If that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will. – Maggie Stapleton

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


Nico Muhly: Fast Cycles (Bedroom Community)

When I was in college, organ music (specifically that of J.S. Bach) was one thing I used as a study aid. The continuous tone of the organ and the steady harmonic and rhythmic movement of Bach’s compositions kept me focused. Now, I’d like to present a piece of organ music that might be less relevant as a study aid, but that is vastly more useful as a source of inspiration. Nico Muhly’s Fast Cycles brims with inventive uses of the organ. While this piece might not literally be “pulling out all the stops,” it certainly delivers on excitement and beautifully novel sounds from an instrument that is too often forgotten. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 5pm hour today to hear this piece.


Alejandro Bento: “Heartbeat” from Ripples (Subtempo Records)

In such troubling times as these, there’s nothing quite like an introspective solo piano piece to help you find your center. Alejandro Bento’s “Heartbeat” is one of three such works on his EP Ripples, a simple and stunning collection which traces a wide emotional arc through modest musical means.

Bento’s fingers float above the piano in soft washes of sound, each melody shaped with striking intimacy and refreshing sincerity. The piece ebbs and flows organically up and down the piano keyboard, gently persuading you into a soothing musical meditation and—if you listen closely—quietly connecting you to the beat of your heart. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 8pm hour today to hear this piece.


Nico Muhly: Honest Music (Harmonia Mundi)

I’m fascinated by this piece by Nico Muhly, scored for violin and pre-recorded sound. (I guess we used to say “violin and tape” for works like this, but it’s never a tape nowadays, is it? The performer(s) play with a CD or sound from digital download.) It’s interesting how the layers of pre-recorded harp, percussion, and electronic organ don’t really seem to interact with the solo violin part (which layers over itself, and is thus played by two violinists in this performance), at least not explicitly. The elements stacked on top of each other just seem to exist, and all have distinct purpose of their own, like people living above and below each other in an apartment building. The title seems to stem from the earnest, forthcoming character of this music. Honesty, even in wordless musical form, feels so refreshing.

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 9pm hour today to hear this piece.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in on Friday, February 17 to hear these pieces and lots of other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre!

Daníel Bjarnason and Ben Frost: SÓLARIS with Sinfonietta Cracovia (Bedroom Community)

Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in all of Europe—yet somehow, it has one of the biggest, boldest, and most iconic new music scenes. Daníel Bjarnason and Ben Frost are just two Iceland-based composers in a long laundry list of artists shaped by the arid winds and ocean currents of this breathtaking northern island.

The duo’s ambient and ethereal symphonic suite SÓLARIS is a sparkling addition to Iceland’s massive library of new and innovative sound art. Composed for orchestra with live programming and performed with Sinfonietta Cracovia, the elusive melodies and expansive soundscapes ebb and flow across icy strings and haunting distortion.

Inspired by Stanisław Lem’s 1961 sci-fi novel of the same name, the quiet and consuming suite explores the utter vastness of outer space, the paralyzing fear of the unknown, and—perhaps most importantly—the extraordinary beauty of being so very, very small. – Maggie Molloy


Timo Andres: Thrive on Routine; American Contemporary Music Ensemble (Sono Luminus Records)

I am not much of a morning person, so it’s hard for me to imagine Charles Ives’ supposed morning routine of waking up at 4 AM, digging in a potato patch, and playing through Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. Timo Andres, however, imagines doing just that in his string quartet Thrive on Routine, composed in 2010. It offers some interesting ideas in direct imitation of these activities, from an alarm-tone-like introduction to the pastoral drone of the potato patch and a somewhat jerky fugue. The sounds have a sunny quaintness, somewhat comforting, even – which is, I guess, one purpose of routine. – Geoffrey Larson


Olga Bell: Perm Krai (New Amsterdam Records)

I have selected a track from this album as my staff pick before… but I it’s so good that I have absolutely no regrets about choosing another one.  In the midst of an extremely busy time, I have been seeking out energetic music that helps me overcome the paralysis that often accompanies an increased workload. Olga Bell’s Perm Krai, and much of the album from which it comes, fits that prescription. – Seth Tompkins

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, February 3 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!

Glenn Kotche: Drumket Quartet No.51; So Percussion (Cantaloupe Music)

A few weeks ago, I decided to take a nice urban hike on a gorgeous, clear, sunny day here in Seattle. I didn’t feel like wasting any of that time in a car driving to a trail head, so I stayed local and used the power of my legs to circumvent Lake Union – a healthy handful of miles. I put my iPhone on shuffle and this piece came on in the mix. To me, it definitely has the tinkling sound of rain – which was no where in sight – but nonetheless set a perfect soundtrack for my walk. I enjoyed this piece so much that I put it on repeat and listened to it 3 times in a row because it’s just that good – Maggie Stapleton

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 11am hour today to hear this piece.


James Taylor: You Can Close Your Eyes (arr. Philip Lawson); The King’s Singers (Signum Classics)

James Taylor offered the world a peak into the gray area of a relationship when he wrote “You Can Close Your Eyes.”  The couple is stuck somewhere between a love ballad and a blues song as they remain in love but see the end edging nearer.  It’s a tricky tone for one man to negotiate, so how do the six men of The King’s Singers sound in their arrangement of this song?  Precise & layered with tight harmonies; it’s like a beautiful song woke up one morning and decided to put on its best crisp suit. – Rachele Hales

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


Philip Glass: Piano Étude No. 10; Bruce Levingston, piano (Sono Luminus)

Composed over the course of two decades, Philip Glass’s 20 Piano Études offer a fascinating retrospective of his musical progression—a rare chance to see his style grow and change through one single, controlled variable: the piano étude.

Pianist Bruce Levingston presents one in the exact middle: the dense and relentless No. 10. A friend and frequent collaborator of Glass, Levingston is quite at home amidst the cyclical harmonies and motoric rhythms, his fingers dancing nimbly through a kaleidoscopic soundscape of restless and repetitious motives. Suffice it to say: Glass’s Étude No. 10 is in very good hands. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 5pm hour today to hear this piece.


Charles Wuorinen: Big Spinoff; Alarm Will Sound

Charles Wuorinen’s Spinoff for violin, bass, and bongos of 1983 was a sort of ode to the harsh music of New York City: imagine if a violinist and bassist were having a chamber music rehearsal, and the sounds of their jamming wafted out the apartment window and mingled with the percussive physical sound of the city. Big Spinoff is essentially a spinoff of Spinoff, with a small chamber orchestra joining the musical fray. We get a lot of short, unison licks that propel the music forward and seem to capture the spirit of a chamber music rehearsal, which for some groups is more chaotic than others. At least Alarm Will Sound seems to be having a good time, and it’s a fun listen as well. I especially love the rapid-fire shifts of loud and soft music, an exciting contrast that is punctuated with toms and pounding piano. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 5pm hour today to hear this piece.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, January 20 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!

David P. Jones: Music for South Africa (Caballito Negro)

For many living in the United States, this past week has felt like a lit fuse. Today, protests & rallies will explode all over the country as marginalized groups and their allies rebuke violence, advocate for social justice, and work together from every corner of the nation to make a statement of unity. Seems like a good time for some “music of hope,” which is how David P. Jones describes Music for South Africa. In this piece, Jones took inspiration from the struggle against apartheid and drew from traditional South African music to create a percussion-heavy composition akin to the sounds of Johannesburg night-club jazz. Whether or not you participate in a mass movement, let Music for South Africa encourage thoughts of hope and expressions of your limitless potential. – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 2pm hour today to hear this piece.


Joseph Byrd: Prelude to “The Mystery Cheese Ball” American Contemporary Music Ensemble (New World)

ACME’s album exploring Joseph Byrd’s work in NYC from 1960-1963 has some interesting sounds, not least of which is the final track. This experimental work for balloon ensemble serves as the prelude to a chamber opera that was performed at Yoko Ono’s loft in the spring of 1961 (with Ono as one of the performers). There is no score, rather only a sort of oral history of the event to follow: each performer is instructed to allow air to escape their balloon, creating different pitches by stretching the neck in different ways. It results in an improvised crowd of squeaks and whines, and it goes for some time – maybe the balloons are pretty big in this recording. Some combine together to almost form a melody, but not quite. It’s a good bit nose-thumbing anti-music, with a hilariously abrupt ending as the last bit of air escapes. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 2pm hour today to hear this piece.


Madeleine Cocolas: If Wisdom Fails (Futuresequence) 

A distillation of her “track-a-week-for-52-weeks” composition project, Cocolas’s album Cascadia was written after the composer relocated from Australia to Seattle.  Lately, my ever-deepening connections to the Seattle area have been an indispensable source of solace, and those feeling were brought back to the surface by If Wisdom Fails.  Seattle’s The Stranger newspaper called this album “cathartic;” I wholeheartedly agree. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 5pm hour today to hear this piece.


Matt Marks: The Little Death, Vol. 1 (New Amsterdam Records)

Matt Marks’ The Little Death, Vol. 1 is a classic tale of boy meets girl—except for instead of the familiar happily-ever-after ending, the boy and girl take a romantic ride through the world of Fundamentalist Evangelism, struggling to cope with their religion-prescribed repressed sexuality in the 21st century.

Performed by Marks and Mellissa Hughes, the post-Christian nihilist pop opera features 11 provocatively-titled chapters which detail the extraordinarily convoluted relationship between religion and sexuality using surprisingly modest means: Marks self-produced the album using only a couple microphones and a laptop running Ableton Live.

The ambitious two-character theatrical work draws on sampled material from Marks’ own collection of 1970s gospel, hip-hop, and soul albums, crafting surprisingly catchy tunes that fuse hypnotic pop hooks with satirical lyrics and apocalyptic Christian imagery. It’s definitely not your traditional church service—but it’s a surprisingly spiritual experience.
Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7pm hour today to hear an excerpt from this recording.