ALBUM REVIEW: The Passionate Pilgrim by Oracle Hysterical and New Vintage Baroque

by Maggie Molloy

The name “W. Shakespeare” reads in bold print on the title page of The Passionate Pilgrim, a poem cycle published right as Shakespeare was beginning to achieve widespread fame in 1599. But there’s a pretty good reason why most people haven’t heard of the anthology: Shakespeare didn’t actually write it.

Or at least, he didn’t write much of it. The 20-poem anthology was compiled and published by a scheming editor named William Jaggard, who got hold of two of Shakespeare’s poems and combined them with 18 other poems by various hands—passing them off as Shakespeare’s to sell more copies.

Suffice it to say, the jig didn’t last long: several of the poems were attributed to other poets during his lifetime, and the anthology was quickly revealed as a desperate marketing ploy.

But now, over four centuries later, that orphaned “Shakespearean” poem cycle finds a new home in a collaborative chamber pop album of the same name by Oracle Hysterical and New Vintage Baroque.

Let’s meet the characters, shall we?

Oracle Hysterical is comprised of four extraordinarily well-read composer-performers: Majel Connery (vocals), Elliot Cole (guitars, vocals, harmonium), and twin brothers Doug Balliett (double bass, viola da gamba) and Brad Balliett (bassoon). “Half band, half book club,” the ensemble combines classical and art-rock musical idioms with exceptional literary breadth, recreating great works of literature through the medium of song.

For this particular project, Oracle Hysterical joins forces with New Vintage Baroque, an adventurous, Julliard-trained period ensemble dedicated to the creation of 21st century repertoire for historical instruments.

Photo by Katrin Albert.

The album unfolds as a song cycle that toes the line between indie rock and Baroque chamber pop, hitting all the major Shakespearean themes of youth, beauty, love, and death along the way.

Tone painting abounds in this collection of modern-day madrigals, which feature Majel Connery and Elliot Cole’s indie vocals floating atop poised, balanced, and beautifully textured Baroque accompaniments. Yet the pieces expand upon the traditional roles of these period instruments, experimenting with low-pitched drones, unexpected instrument pairings, stereo sound, and intricately layered musical textures.

The 14 pieces range from classical chansons to singer-songwriter musical stylings, lilting lullabies to charming folk duets. Witty hooks and buoyant rhythms bring the poetry of Shakespeare’s lesser-known (or in this case, completely unknown) contemporaries clear into the 21st century, drawing connections through the timeless literary themes that have gripped writers for centuries.

But aside from the actual text setting, texture is of paramount concern in these musical arrangements, the counterpoint carefully shaped and articulated with precision, grace, and old world finesse. The result is a song cycle that echoes with the elegant charm of a Baroque dance suite and resonates with historical depth and drama.

It may not be Shakespearebut it’s poetry, through and through.

New Composed Music: April 2017 Seattle * Eastside * Tacoma

SI_button2Second Inversion and the Live Music Project create a monthly calendar featuring contemporary classical, cross-genre, and experimental performances in Seattle, the Eastside, Tacoma, and places in between! 

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Keep an eye out for our this flyer in concert programs and coffee shops around town. Feel free to download, print, and distribute it yourself! If you’d like to be included on this list, submit your event to the Live Music Project at least 6 weeks prior to the event and be sure to tag it with “new music.”


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Racer Sessions
A weekly showcase of original music with a jam session based on the concepts in the opening presentation.
Every Sunday, 8-10pm, Cafe Racer | FREE

Wayward Music Series
Concerts of contemporary composition, free improvisation, electronic/electroacoustic music, & more.
Various days, 7:30/8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15
waywardmusic.org (check website for complete listings)

Northwest Sinfonietta: Art for Art’s Sake
This multidisciplinary program features collaborations with Museum of Glass, Dale Chihuly, and Spectrum Dance Theater and a world premiere by Heather Bentley.
Fri, 3/31, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $21.50-$36.50
Sat, 4/1, 7:30pm, Rialto Theatre, Tacoma | $15-$25
Sun, 4/2, 2pm, Pioneer Park Pavilion, Puyallup | $37

Seattle Collaborative Orchestra: Higdon’s Violin Concerto
SCO presents a feast of new music, including a world premiere by Andy Clausen and Jennifer Higdon’s violin concerto performed by Maria Larionoff.
Tues, 4/4, 7:30pm, Roosevelt High School Auditorium | $10-$20 (students under 18 FREE)

The Esoterics: Intimas: Cultivating community
The Esoterics will present three works on the theme of intimacy by Christopher Theofanidis, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Eric Banks.
Fri, 4/7, 8pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church | $15-$22
Sat, 4/8, 8pm, Holy Rosary Catholic Church | $15-$22
Sun, 4/9, 7pm, Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma | $15-$22

Coming Together
Bohemia meets punk rock in a night of music for realists and idealists featuring works by Louis Andriessen, James Tenney, and Frederic Rzewski.
Sat, 4/8, 8pm, On the Boards | $20

NOCCO: The Silken Ladder
New meets old on this program featuring Rossini & Haydn alongside a world premiere by NOCCO’s principal clarinetist and composer, Sean Osborn.
Sat, 4/8, 2pm, University Christian Church | $15-$25 (under 18 FREE)
Sun, 4/9, 7:30pm, Royal Room | $15-$25 (under 18 FREE)

Live Music Project: The Astronaut, the Electric Theorbo, and the Plan that Wasn’t
Aaron Grad takes the stage with six beers, fourteen strings, and no idea what he’s going to play. Taste along with Aaron as each Naked City brew launches a fresh improvisation on his trusty electric theorbo, an instrument he designed and built himself (with inspiration from an oversized lute).
Tues, 4/11, 6:30pm, Naked City Brewery | $15

Emerald City Music: Without Words
The best of opera, without words. This program features music composed for and inspired by operatic masterworks from Mozart to David Schiff.
Fri, 4/14, 8pm, MadArt Gallery | $45
Sat, 4/15, 7:30pm, Washington PAC, Olympia | $10-$43

Inverted Space: Jeff Bowen
Inverted Space presents a newly composed Long Piece by Inverted Space co-director Jeff Bowen.
Sat, 4/15, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Seattle Rock Orchestra Quintet feat. Tamara Power-Drutis
The SRO Quintet and Tamara Power-Drutis transform popular song into art song, performing a program that reimagines both classic and modern songs. Presented by KING FM/Second Inversion.
Sat, 4/15, Resonance at SOMA Towers, Bellevue | $20

Live @ Benaroya Hall: Jóhann Jóhansson & ACME
Joined by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, this program by Jóhann Jóhansson explores and unifies natural acoustic sounds and electronics.
Thurs, 4/20, 7:30pm, Nordstrom Recital Hall | $30-40

Seattle Symphony: [untitled] 3
Enter the twisted worlds of two of America’s most confounding cultural icons. The ironic wisdom of Andy Warhol meets the wild, whirling personality of Thelonious Monk.
Fri, 4/28, 10pm, Benaroya Hall | $16

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

Music to Dream By: An Evening with Erin Jorgensen and Cristina Valdés

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Dave Lichterman.

You’ll find Seattle artist Erin Jorgensen right on the corner of waking and dreaming life, floating above her five-octave marimba and whispering elusive melodies amidst a cloud of sleepy radio snippets and atmospheric static.

Or at least, that’s where you’ll find her this weekend. The Universal Language Project is proud to present Undertones: a concert experience that invites you to dream. The performances, which take place this Friday and Saturday, feature a rare collaboration between Jorgensen and pianist Cristina Valdés, one of today’s foremost interpreters of contemporary music.

Photo by James Holt.

Curated by Seattle new music luminary James Holt, the concert is based on Jorgensen’s weekly podcast series of the same name, which is perhaps best used as a soundtrack for dreaming, staring out the window, or receiving outer space transmissions. The music blends together marimba melodies, improvisation, spoken word, radio scraps, found sounds, and anything else that happens to float through Jorgensen’s dreaming or waking life that week.

“The podcast’s only specificity is its relation to what is happening in my life at the moment,” Jorgensen said. “I often use snippets of things I am obsessed with on the internet, or things I happen to hear on the radio, or musical improvisations I come up with that day or week or right in the moment of recording. It might sound like a slowly drifting change of radio stations or the randomly associated thoughts and patterns that drift through one’s mind as they stare out a window or are in a state between sleep and wakefulness.”

Photo by James Holt.

The atmospheric podcast, which Jorgensen began about a year and a half ago, caught hold of Holt’s ear—and when Common Tone Arts asked him to curate a performance on their Universal Language Project series, all of the pieces came together.

“Erin Jorgensen is one of the most inspiring musicians I know, a longtime friend, and someone with a wholly unique musical voice,” Holt said. “The mix of live performance, improvisation, spoken word, and creatively mixed sound design really blew me away—and when I saw that she could do all of this live, kind of like a one-woman-band, I wanted more people to experience it.”

Jorgensen and Holt worked together to integrate these nebulous musical musings with additional solo piano music by three other composers. The result is an evening of music which seamlessly drifts between (and beyond) Jorgensen’s surreal musical subconscious and Valdés’s ethereal piano performances.

“I love the atmosphere that Erin sets up in her podcasts,” Valdés said, “Where the listener feels almost as if they’re having an out of body experience and is able to see and hear things both close up and from afar.”

Photo by James Holt.

At this weekend’s concerts, Valdés will become a part of that musical atmosphere with her performances of Ryan Brown’s softly twinkling “Ceramics,” Madeleine Cocolas’s interstellar “Static” and “If You Hear Me, I Hear You Back,” and two piano miniatures from Whitney George’s somber Extinction Series, which is comprised of musical obituaries for extinct animals. Though wide-ranging in their musical inspirations, each work connects back with Jorgensen’s original podcasts through a larger musical stream of consciousness.

“Erin has a gift for creating musical worlds that encourage you to retreat into your mind and contemplate ideas, think about the world around you, and ponder why we do and say the things we do and say,” Holt said. “The audience can expect the opportunity to do that during these performances. It will be something beautiful and it will be something you surely haven’t experienced before, but will want to experience again.”

Of course, Jorgensen’s music presents an opportunity to not only look inward, but also far beyond ourselves—to quietly dream into distant galaxies and imagine the space between the stars.

Photo by James Holt.

“‘Outer space’ in this context is more of a poetic metaphor for me,” Jorgensen said. “I like the idea of floating in space or the idea of the undiscovered space around us—“us” being individual humans or the entirety of planet earth.”

Though as Jorgensen points out, humans can’t actually hear anything in outer space, at least not in our traditional understanding of sound.

“I think the actual music of outer space would sound like something humans aren’t able to comprehend yet,” Jorgensen said. “For me personally, outer space music could be tuning in to all the different sounds and thoughts that are happening all over the universe, just for a second.”


Performances of Undertones are this Friday, March 31 at 8pm at Resonance at SOMA Towers and this Saturday, April 1 at 8pm at the Alhadeff Studio at the Cornish Playhouse. For tickets and more information, please click here.

NEW VIDEOS: Seattle Marimba Quartet

If you missed Seattle Marimba Quartet’s stellar performance at Resonance at SOMA Towers earlier this month as part of On Stage with Classical KING FM, we captured a couple of videos that will wrap you in a warm embrace of sound. First, their own arrangement of Eric Whitacre’s Sleep and a great “rethink classical” portrayal, reading straight from the pages of Ravel’s String Quartet score.

If you love outside-the-box classical concerts, there are two more on KING FM’s season this year! Saturday, April 15, join the Seattle Rock Orchestra Quintet with Tamara Power-Drutis for a modern take on of art songs and Saturday, May 13, join Edmund Stone, host of The Score and pianist extraordinaire Michael Refvem for a LIVE version of this famous radio program featuring stories, visuals and live music exploring the finest in cinema scoring.

Both performances begin at 7:30pm at Resonance at SOMA Towers in Bellevue. Click here to learn more and buy tickets!

Seattle New Music Happy Hour: Monday, March 27 at 5:30pm

Same time, new place!

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The next edition of New Music Happy Hour (co-hosted by Second Inversion & Live Music Project) is TONIGHT, Monday, March 27 at 5:30pm at Stoup Brewing!

Join Seattle’s vibrant community of musicians, music-lovers, and open minds for an evening of casual banter and meaningful dialogue about music and art in Seattle and beyond. RSVP and invite your friends.

Please note: Stoup does not a have a kitchen, but offers “a rotation of tasty nibbles in the tap room,” and tonight, 15% off delivery orders from the Ballard Pizza Co! Click here for more info on all of that.

Sign up for alerts for future happy hour dates and day-before reminders so you won’t miss a beer, er, beat.

Women in (New) Music: Women’s Day Marathon Reprise

by Maggie Molloy

Back by popular demand! To those who missed our 24-hour marathon of women composers on International Women’s Day: you’re in luck. Today we’re bringing back another 24-hours of music by women composers from around the globe. Tune in all day to hear works by 220 women who have helped shape, inspire, and expand the world of classical music.

Maggie Molloy, photo by Nicole Schlaeppi.

Plus, in Seattle tonight our Women in (New) Music Founder and Director Maggie Molloy presents a lecture on the history of women composers at the Seattle Opera SOWING Circle’s signature Wine Music Chocolate event.

The SOWING Circle (Seattle Opera Women’s Initiative Group) is a group of women dedicated to embracing and expanding the opera and classical music community in Seattle. As curator and host of this year’s Wine Music Chocolate event, Maggie will share five musical selections by women composers from across history, each paired with a wine by a woman vintner.

To learn more about the SOWING Circle and Wine Music Chocolate, click here.