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

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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 during the indicated hours below on Friday, November 11 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!

Olga Bell: Altai Krai (New Amsterdam Records)

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Olga Bell’s album Krai explores different federal subjects (states, basically) of Russia. The track exploring Altai Krai is engrossing, with its use of jaw harp and folk-influenced vocal style. This track imitates the throat singing native to this area.  Personally, I’m always up for throat-singing. Altai Krai blends the traditional sounds with modern ones, including the sound of an air-raid siren temporally stretched almost to the point of imperceptibility. This is a pleasing musical combination for this moment in time: exotic (for me) escapist music with just hint of doom on the horizon. – Seth Tompkins

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


Sam Sadigursky: The Dream Keeper / text by Langston Hughes (New Amsterdam Records)

a4117920324_16I wish I could share this music with everyone everywhere, right now. It feels like a personal address spoken by one human directly to another, but really it should serve to envelop whole groups of people in the arms of its melody and message. Monica Heidemann’s vocals provide just the right warmth and smoothness, and the dark wisps of Sadigursky’s clarinet sound provide the perfect accompaniment. Here is the text of Langston Hughes’ poem:

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

 Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 1pm hour today to hear this piece.


Andrea Mazzariello: Symmetry and Sharing (Unreleased recording shared by the composer and performers)1442463

In what could possibly be the world’s first SATB percussion quartet, Andrea Mazzariello has created a work that completely transports me to another world. A world where I feel comfort, peace, and want to stay for a long time. Symmetry and Sharing utilizes tuned metal pipes and wood slats, two deconstructed drum kits, a shared vibraphone, while the performers sing in four independent parts. Written specifically for Mobius Percussion, who take a keen interest in utilizing their voices and whose ranges happen to fit the SATB model, this piece is a very unique and special collaboration and definitely one to close your eyes and immerse yourself in. (Unless you’re watching this video, then keep your eyes open!) – Maggie Stapleton

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


Ed Carlsen: Cage (Moderna Records)

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“Courage” is my silent mantra, the guiding word I whisper to myself and the driving force pushing me toward every intimidation I face.  Given the current division in our country it seems like the perfect word for many people to cling to and gain strength from.  In Ed Carlsen’s “Cage,” it’s used in repeating lyrics amid electronic sounds, orchestral arrangements, and mechanical clicks and ticks.  It’s the perfect 5ish minute song to tenderly combat your insecurities, whatever their source. – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear this piece.