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

VIDEO PREMIERE: Valencia by Caroline Shaw feat. Jasper Quartet

Fact: the Valencia orange was hybridized in Santa Ana, California in the mid-1800s and has survived through the decades. Whether you enjoy it soccer practice style in wedges or with slightly orange-tinted and moistened fingers after peeling the whole thing, the sweet flesh is a refreshing treat.

Fast-forward to 2017… we have a new interpretation of this fruit to enjoy, also tinged with a Valencia orange hue:

Cellist Rachel Henderson Freivogel of the Jasper Quartet says, “the vibrancy of Caroline Shaw’s “Valencia” is both an evocative representation of a humble orange and a stunning example of the brilliant compositions on Unbound, releasing March 17, 2017. The Jasper String Quartet is delighted to present the definitive recordings of these 7 new remarkable pieces. Packed with energy and brilliance, ‘Valencia’ immediately piques the listener’s imagination.”

Unbound is co-produced by Sono Luminus and New Amsterdam. You can pre-order this March 17 release here.

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, January 6 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!

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Unremembered: VIII. The Witch (New Amsterdam)

unremembered_cover-300x300“The Witch” is the 8th vignette in a 13-piece song cycle titled Unremembered from fabulous composer Sarah Kirkland Snider. Aggressive strings and a militant orchestration set the scene for a spooky narrative that takes us into shadowy woods full of subtle horrors. Shara Nova’s growling vocals capture both the beauty and foreboding of this imagistic and vivid score. Snider’s “The Witch” is layered, grisly and intense from start to finish. Highly recommended for listeners of all ages, just maybe not before bedtime. – Rachele Hales

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


Aphex Twin: Mt. Saint Michel performed by Alarm Will Sound (Cantaloupe Music)

acoustica_300dpi_cmykStarting the new year swamped with work and already behind from the previous year is not ideal, but it is the situation many of us find ourselves in this January. Alarm Will Sound’s version of Aphex Twin’s Mt. Saint Michael is the perfect music for this situation. Perhaps embracing the chaos along with pursuit of self-care

is the way forward. – Seth Tompkins

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


Conlon Nancarrow (arr. Evan Ziporyn): Four Player Piano Studies performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars (Cantaloupe Music)

55805527bd9c35da77388ee16ee84cb456d8fd53You could say the 20th century experimental composer and expatriate Conlon Nancarrow was a bit of an introvert. He lived most of his life in isolation, and for decades composed only for player pianos—working alone, by hand, to produce and perfect a massive library of swingin’ blues and boogie-woogie piano rolls, his famous 49 Studies for Player Piano among them.

Well, composer Evan Ziporyn decided to take a few of those piano roll etudes and put them into human hands—the hands of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Ziporyn created a mixed ensemble arrangement that retains the visceral intensity and mechanical energy of Nancarrow’s original rolls, but reimagines them through the Technicolor timbral palette of Bang on a Can. It’s snazzy, jazzy, and full of color—proof that although player pianos have become largely obsolete, Nancarrow’s music is still very much alive. – Maggie Molloy

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


Lisa Bielawa: Synopsis No. 12 “What I Did Over Summer Vacation” Michael Norsworthy, clarinet (BMOP/Sound)

bmop1017sI have to confess that I was super biased to love this piece even before I heard it; as a clarinetist, I am a huge fan of the unaccompanied clarinet repertoire, and as a musician, I am huge fan of Lisa Bielawa. Incredible, bizarre, enigmatic works have been written for clarinet alone by composers like Igor Stravinsky, William Bolcom, and Shulamit Ran. As they require one single voice to command the listener’s attention, they are tremendously difficult to compose and perform. Luckily, the clarinet’s huge range provides ample opportunity to create a wide variety of colors and characters, and a bit of extended techniques can help as well. Bielawa’s work presents the performer with a number of different fragments and gives them free reign to decide the order in which they are played, and how many times they are used. The idea behind “What I Did Over Summer Vacation” and the other 14 Synopses (all with six-word titles) is tied to Hemingway’s six-word short story “For sale, baby shoes: never used.” Apparently, Bielawa’s musical fragments each represent a different vacation activity. BMOP’s clarinetist Michael Norsworthy does a lot of trilling and running around the register of the instrument – sounds like he had a busy summer vacation.

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 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)

download

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)

cover

“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.

STAFF PICKS: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts share a favorite selection from their playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, October 28 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!

William Brittelle: High Done Know Why To (New Amsterdam Records)

a4015364653_16Whenever I need a random boost of energy, there’s a high likelihood I’ll reach for this track. From the get-go, the “HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH” and rhythmic vocal sounds send me into a goofy, bouncy side-to-side chair dance. From there, the smooth, gliding soprano vocals interspersed with pointillistic staccatos mingle with the forthcoming endless variety in the rest of the track. It’s just SO GOOD and totally pumps me up. (PS William Brittelle is a master  of quirk in his titles. Other favorites include “Hey Panda” “Them’s Lasers” and “Catwalk to the Multiplex.”) – Maggie Stapleton

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


Timothy Johnson: debussy in abstract (self-released)

4pp_jacket_MiniLP-139x126

A few years ago, composer and pianist Timothy Johnson asked the simple question “What if Debussy were a minimalist?” This piece is the answer he provided. This music contains the soothing sounds of Debussy, but has a strong flavor of the “furniture music” of Erik Satie.  This is music that will almost certainly improve your mood, even if you forget that it is happening. Push play on this track and let it transport you to a less anxious place. – Seth Tompkins

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


Poppy Nogood: Music for Mourning: V. it’s cloudy outside (Preserved Sound)

coverThis ambient piece is the closing track of Poppy Nogood’s album Music For Mourning, which seeks to explore the phases of loss. In the movement “it’s cloudy outside” Nogood uses his piano as an emotional rake, collecting denial, anger, bargaining and depression into a tidy pile of gentle, foggy acceptance that unfurls inside your ears. Nogood has approached mourning with grace, tenderness, and, perhaps most importantly, tact. It’s beautiful. – Rachele Hales

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 this Friday’s playlist. Tune in during the indicated hours below on Friday, July 15 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!

Mathew Rosenblum: Sharpshooter from Mobius Loop Gil Rose/Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP/sound)

1001564At first listen, Mathew Rosenblum’s tonal language and style in Sharpshooter seemed pleasant, if unremarkable.  However, as I dug into this piece, I realized that Rosenblum has woven microtonality throughout this piece so deftly that it seems an organic outgrowth of the musical expression, rather than a conscious “technique.”  Integrating microtonality so successfully is a remarkable achievement.  Additionally, Rosenblum’s use of repeating structures firmly plants this piece tantalizingly close to the leading edge of post-minimalism.  If there were any more variety here, the post-minimalist label would be useless.  In Sharpshooter, Rosenblum is clearly on the verge of what is next, whatever that is. – Seth Tompkins

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 10am hour today to hear this recording.


Tess Said So: “11-15” from Scramble + Fate (Preserved Sound Records)

a2869001528_10

If you’re looking for a gateway to classical music, or really, if you’re just looking for great music, I’d recommend Tess Said So’s recent release, Scramble + Fate. Tess Said So is an Australian duo featuring One Piano Player (Rasa Daukus) and One Percussionist (Will Larsen) who “adapt a pop sensibility to a classical format.” The track “11-15” has their signature composed, classical foundation peppered with refreshing pop-ballad flavors. It’s not too simple and it’s not too complex. The opening calm, slowly moving piano melody breaks way into piano onstinatos splashed with percussion, progressively building with a concluding recap to the opening. I feel a sense of nostalgia, and a slower reflection on what was once the present. – Maggie Stapleton

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


Corey Dargel: “Removable Parts” from Someone Will Take Care of Me (New Amsterdam Records)
a3457959849_16

When you’re in a relationship, you have to make sacrifices—and sometimes you lose pieces of yourself in the process. If you’re Corey Dargel, those pieces are quite literal.

“Removable Parts” is the title of Corey Dargel’s 10-part art song cycle about amputation fetishism. Yes, you read that correctly. Each song reimagines the sacrifices made in relationships as actual physical bodily amputations, with Dargel’s vocals drifting sarcastically above sappy piano and toy piano melodies. It’s like a collection of satirical love songs—radical, fanatical, and unapologetically self-indulgent.

And honestly, that’s pretty in tune with the rest of Dargel’s compositional discography. He writes electronic art songs which draw from contemporary classical and pop music idioms, combining deadpan vocal delivery with pulpy lyrics and deceptively cheery chamber music accompaniment.

Maybe it’s just my weird sense of humor, but I think it’s hilarious and original. Corey Dargel may have lost all his limbs and extremities, but at least he’s still got personality. – Maggie Molloy

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 6pm hour today to hear an excerpt from this recording.