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 Music Concerts: April 2016 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 drop us a line at least 6 weeks prior to the event.

Program Insert - April 2016 - onesided

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

Kaley Lane Eaton: ANIMAL
A psychedelic, post-minimalist kaleidoscope of Eaton’s recent work, dancing the tension lines between the body, the mind, the instrument, & the computer.
Fri, 4/1, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Second Inversion Presents: SRO Quintet
The Seattle Rock Orchestra Quintet transforms popular song into art song with Radiohead, Beck, Bjork and original emotional chamber works.
Sat, 4/9, 8pm, Resonance at SOMA Towers, Bellevue | $25

Seattle Modern Orchestra: Musica Electronica
SMO presents three electronic works from three different generations including works by Berio, Saariaho, & a world premiere by Ewa Trębacz.
Sat, 4/9, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $10-$20

Cornish Presents: A Tribute to Janice Giteck
Cornish celebrates the dedicated teaching career of Janice Giteck with a concert of her music performed by long-time friends & former students.
Tues, 4/12, 8pm, PONCHO Hall | $5-$10

Seattle Symphony: Silvestrov U.S. Premiere
Guest conductor Mikhail Tatarnikov leads SSO in the U.S. premiere of Silvestrov’s Symphony No.8.
Thurs, 4/14, 7:30pm, Benaroya Hall | $21-$121
Sat, 4/16, 8pm, Benaroya Hall | $21-$121

2Cellos
This Croatian cello duo breaks down boundaries between different genres of music, equally comfortable playing Bach or rocking out to AC/DC.
Sun, 4/17, 7pm, McCaw Hall | $36.50-$56.50 (+ fees)

Cornish Presents: Friction Quartet
This San Francisco quartet has established a reputation for edgy programming and exhilarating performance of contemporary string quartets.
Thurs, 4/21, 8pm, PONCHO Hall | $10-$20

(re)MOVE: Back Toward Again the (re)TURN Facing
This evening of dance & live music (by Horvitz, Owcharuk & Omdal) ventures into personal and feminist injustices of earth and the female body.
Fri, 4/22 & Sat, 4/23, 7:30pm, Velocity Dance Center | $15-$50
Sun, 4/24, 6:30pm, Velocity Dance Center | $15-$50

Erin Jorgensen
Soundscapes from a five-octave marimba, with intimate vocals, backing electronics, and destream-of-consciousness thoughts ideal for closed eyes.
Sat, 4/23, 8pm, Good Shepherd Chapel | $5-$15

Philharmonia Northwest: The New World
This performance features a world premiere by David Schneider, illuminating new forms of communication between computer and orchestra.
Sun, 4/24, 2:30pm, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church | $15-$20

Music of Today: The Music of Harry Partch
This performance of music by Harry Partch features the composer’s collection of handmade instruments, currently housed at the School of Music.
Tues, 4/26, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$15

UW Guest Artist Concert: Decoda
This Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall presents fresh insights into works both new and old as a culmination of a week-long residency at UW.
Thurs, 4/28, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $10-$20

UW World Series: Daedalus Quartet
Daedalus Quartet makes their Seattle premiere with Beethoven quartets and a commissioned work by UW School of Music composer Huck Hodge.
Fri, 4/29, 7:30pm, Meany Theater | $34-$38
uwworldseries.org

Northwest Symphony Orchestra: Johnston, Bassingthwaighte, Dvořák
Join the Northwest Symphony Orchestra for a world premiere flute concerto by Sarah Bassingthwaighte.
Sat, 4/30, 8pm, Highline Performing Arts Center, Burien | $12-$15

NEW VIDEOS: Paul D Miller (aka DJ Spooky): Peace Symphony (excerpts)

by Maggie Stapleton

In December 2015, Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and The Nouveau Classical Project presented the world premiere of Miller’s Peace Symphony: 8 Stories at Seattle’s Cornish Playhouse. Second Inversion was able to capture some of this piece, which you can read about below.

“Inspired by the everyday stories of the last remaining survivors of the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the idea behind this work came from Miller’s personal interaction with eight Hibakusha (被爆者 Atomic bomb survivors) on Peace Boat’s 83rd Global Voyage (Peace Boat is an international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment) where Miller recently served as a guest educator and artist-in-residence.  

Hibakusha’s stories highlight the humanitarian consequences of these weapons of mass destruction, educate youth, and help to bring about a nuclear free world.  Miller has sampled the words and stories of Hibakusha to create electronic and acoustic musical portraits that resonate with some of the deepest issues facing modern society.” – Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky)

The stories Miller engages come from several of the last survivors of the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and he takes their tales and weaves together a sound portrait of one of the most powerful moments of the 20th Century.

A few excerpts from an interview between the chair of Cornish College of the Arts with DJ Spooky about Peace Symphony:

Tom Baker: First of all, how in the world do you find the time for all that you do as a creative artist? And secondly, do you find the time to notice the rhythm of the space between things with what must be an incredibly busy life?

​Paul D. Miller: I would say everyone is feeling that they never have enough time in the 21st century. For me, music, art, and literature are all simply reflections of the same creative impulse. It’s a core issue in the 21st Century. Capitalism forces our attention span to be framed by the huge array of commercial advertising that inundate us. I guess you could say that I use my art and compositions to create more time and space to think about all the issues facing us, and distill it all in one form. Music is the language we all speak.

​TB: This new piece, Peace Symphony, draws on a dramatic and profoundly disturbing time in world history. I know that you were artist-in-residence for Peace Boat (an international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment). Was that experience an inspiration for this piece?

​PDM: Japan and Germany took radically different routes after World War 2. Japan has an amazing group of peace activists and so does Germany, but Japan has a very different relationship to its collective memory of the war. I wanted to talk about memory with the survivors to see what could be done with their story. It’s a story we Americans never get a chance to actually hear. That’s what this project bears witness to: it has to be about purple to people shared experiences. Anything else is government propaganda. I try make this as much about humanity as possible.

​TB: Your work encompasses so many disparate pathways, though there always seems to be singular vision at play, even in the midst of intertwined collaboration. How do you reconcile these diverse adventures and creative work into an aesthetic focus?

​PDM: Inter-disciplinary art is the legacy of some of my favorite composers – from John Cage on one hand and Nam June Paik on the other. Aesthetics in the 21st century is one of the most complex forces because it encompasses everything about what it means to be a creative person in this Era. DJ culture is a kind of template because it’s always about searching for new ways to reconsider history. That’s what a good mix does. It gives you a good idea of what is possible.

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Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky is a composer, multimedia artist and writer whose work immerses audiences in a blend of genres, global culture, and environmental and social issues. His written work has been published by The Village Voice, The Source, and Artforum, among others, and he is the Editor of Origin Magazine. Miller’s work has appeared in the Whitney Biennial; The Venice Biennial for Architecture; the Ludwig Museum in Cologne; Kunsthalle, Vienna; The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Miami/Art Basel fair, and many other museums and galleries.