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.

CONCERT PREVIEW: Seattle Marimba Quartet

Join us Saturday, March 11 at 7:30pm as we present the Seattle Marimba Quartet as part of On Stage with Classical KING FM at Resonance at SOMA Towers! Get your tickets now – it’s a small venue and will easily sell out!

SMQ thinks way outside the box when it comes to percussion – and classical music. Join us for a showcase classical favorites (Bach, Mahler, Ravel), a unique blend of drumming styles from around the world, and modern marimba repertoire from the 20th and 21st centuries. Best of all, YOU will have a chance to learn and perform Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, and African drumming rhythms right along with them! Presented by Second Inversion, KING FM’s project dedicated to rethinking classical music. 

SMQ formed in 2007 by members Christian Krehbiel, Chris Lennard, Craig Wende and Brian Yarkosky while earning music degrees at the University of Washington. SMQ strives to engage audiences with their unique blend of drumming styles from around the world, as well as modern marimba repertoire from the 20th and 21st centuries. Much of their current repertoire consists of their original mallet keyboard arrangements with works by such composers as Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Mahler, and Bach. SMQ’s showcase of the diversity of percussion makes for an interesting and entertaining concert experience.

And – SMQ has just released their new album, A Thousand Pictures, which offers a great preview of what you’ll hear live on Saturday, March 11!

SNEAK PEEK AUDIO LEAK: Loop 2.4.3’s Time-Machine_music

by Maggie Stapleton

Second Inversion presents new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre… and we mean NEW. Sneak Peek Audio Leak is your chance to stream fresh sounds and brand new music of note with insights from our team and the artists.

LOOP243_Kozumplik_(c)Jamal_Ahmed

Loop 2.4.3 has been producing percussion and electronics-driven music since 2004. Founder Thomas Kozumplik guides the ensemble, varying in size from solo to octet (but most often 2-3 performers), through his vision of exploration and freedom. The group’s name comes from a place near and dear to Thomas’ heart – Powers Hall 243 at Central Michigan University, where he and a “Loop,” of close friends spent countless hours making music together.

Time-Machine_music is an entirely solo composition and performance venture for Thomas. This 6-track collection has juxtaposing acoustic and electronic textures in every pore and fiber of the 36 minutes. Thomas’ electro-acoustic percussion set-up includes Chinese tom-toms, Indian bells, crotales, log drums, tambourim, bass drum, percussion sample pad, tape echo, and delay. The fun doesn’t stop there – he also plays marimba, vibraphone, Thai gongs, piano, Wurlitzer, steel drum, kalimba, and uses vocal samples.

(this album is no longer available for streaming via Second Inversion, but you can visit Music Starts from Silence to order your copy!)

As the name of the album implies, time is of the essence, and explores manipulations of time through a cathartic journey. Thomas goes on to elaborate that Time-Machine_music, “explores the vast and tiny spaces, the worm holes, or the connections between points in time, and even singular points of time where an overwhelming multitude of thoughts, ideas, and emotions occur simultaneously. It acknowledges that brilliance and sagacity may come from a place that is entangled with conflict, controversy, emotional instability, and the surreal, hyperreal, hallucinatory receptors of the mind. It explores the illusion of the individual trapped in the phalanx of society, moving forward, backward and sideways all at once. It is an overwhelming cry for life and freedom, an escape from a world trapped under its own weight.”

Loop 2.4.3’s sound is rooted in classical chamber music, but with psychedelic rock, jazz, and improvisation influences, stemming from Thomas’ upbringing playing in garage bands, metal bands, thrash bands, and jazz bands in Michigan. I might describe it as minimalism meets heavy metal meets techno DJ beats. “Art music” is how Thomas best describes it, and goes on to say, “It’s definitely longer listening than pop music. It takes time to build, but then you get the reward. I suggest you turn it up really f*ing loud (laughing).” Agreed! The opening track, “Out to War,” is anything but a subtle introduction. The opening throaty, dark, repetitive “Mind Control” chanting hearkens back to acidic rock from the past, but soon breaks free to ambient piano, steel drums, and textures that are beautiful, calming, and serene.

The use of human voice is eerie and captivating throughout the disc. Events in Thomas’ life inspired the lyrics, but tie into broader topics. Stay tuned for the full scores with lyrics which will soon be available from MusicStartsFromSilence.com. Voice sampling opens “MK Ultra,” unfolding in a long form to cascading, pattering, sounds of the marimba that interweaves with the voice and flow back into the keyboard percussion.  The title track, clocking in at a significant length of 12 minutes, was the genesis for the body of work and holds the foundation of instrumentation, sounds, and approach. The voice is presented differently here, in single-word, echoing samples from this poem by Thom:

“Stories of power, control, love, and enlightenment are a constant in the history of man. Our idea of TIME is shaped by personal and cultural events.

The history of man floats in the ether of deep SPACE. We must venture there, to learn the secrets of our elders.”

While much of the material in this work has a rather dark quality, “Moving Finger of Time” has a lighter feel to it – more straight-ahead in form and with a bit of humour. The final track in the collection, ironically called “Prelude (for Sophia)” brings the distortion of time full circle. The dedication to Sophia means something to Thomas, like much of the other music here “is open for immersive experience and interpretation.”

Ultimately, I was curious about Thomas’ goal with Time-Machine_music. His response? “I’m not sure it’s about a specific accomplishment. The need to create and express things is most important. I suppose I hope to share it with people. Maybe the biggest accomplishment would be keeping my sanity by spending time working through things and being absorbed in the music. I hope that people will listen to it and know that it’s okay to feel things…to confront the darkness but also to see the beauty. Sometimes the world makes you want to scream… and sometimes maybe you should.”

Whether you scream, cry, laugh, it’s always better out than in. Go forth and express!