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 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

ALBUM REVIEW: Partita for 8 Voices Remixes

by Maggie Molloy

caroline-shawIn 2013, at the ripe old age of 30, Caroline Shaw became the youngest ever recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her a cappella masterpiece Partita for 8 Voices.

Shaw had originally composed the piece for her boundary-bursting vocal group Roomful of Teeth, and it appeared on their Grammy Award-winning debut album the year prior. Modelled loosely after the tradition of Baroque dance suites, the 25-minute masterwork makes full use of the eight-voice ensemble’s four-octave pitch range, exploring a bold sonic palette of speech, sighs, whispers, murmurs, wordless melodies, spoken prattle, throat singing, and more.

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But all musical intricacies aside, the concept behind the piece is really quite simple.

Partita is a simple piece,” Shaw said of the work. “Born of a love of surface and structure, of the human voice, of dancing and tired ligaments, of music, and of our basic desire to draw a line from one point to another.”

That line stretches clear in 2017 with Partita’s most recent reincarnation: an EP of remixes created by six different New York-based electronic musicians and sound designers. Originally created for New Amsterdam Records’ 2013 fundraiser, the Partita Remixes were only just recently released to the public alongside the first ever vinyl-edition of the original work.

The six remixes featured on the EP are as varied and daring as the six artists who created them: electro art pop composer Olga Bell, synth-driven sound designer No Lands, sound artist and software engineer Morgan Packard, dreamy gloom-pop powerhouse Violetness, electro-folk experimentalist Aaron Roche, and hair-raising hypno-techno minimalist Lorna Dune.

The album begins with Olga Bell’s infectious, beat-driven remix: a 21st-century play on the “dance” element of the original Baroque partita form. Roomful of Teeth’s vocals bounce across a danceclub-worthy drum beat before crescendoing into a kaleidoscopic climax of layered vocals and electronics.olga-bellNo Lands takes quite a different approach with his remix: he transforms Shaw’s original partita into a synthy slow jam of airy, wordless vocals and echoing melodic motives that transport the listener straight into sonic hypnosis.

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Self-proclaimed “laptop musician” Morgan Packard takes the hypnosis a step further: his transfixing techno-infused partita is a barely-recognizable rendition of the original. Heavy repetition of short vocal snippets creates a patterned pulse that turns Shaw’s partita into a spellbinding trance.

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Violetness, by contrast, transforms Shaw’s partita into a siren song: a noir-pop concoction of haunting electronics and ethereal ambience. Roomful of Teeth’s vocals slither through an industrial soundscape of dancing ghosts and ghoulish laments—a whirring choir amidst a sea of synth.

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Folk-infused avant-gardist Aaron Roche offers an eerie, softly echoing sonic landscape of Shaw’s slowly-evolving melodic motives. Recorded by layering recordings of Shaw’s original composition as projected through speakers in Manhattan’s Clocktower Gallery, the piece captures the building’s resonant frequencies as much as its haunting transfixion with the passage of time.

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The album closes with experimental pianist and electronic minimalist Lorna Dune’s remix: a dreamy synthscape of airy vocals and typewriter techno drum beats, the voices echoing higher and higher into the stratosphere as the piece floats upward.

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Clocking in at just 30 minutes, the Partita Remixes EP is only a small glimpse into the vast musical possibilities of New Amsterdam Records—a chance to hear the music of our time through the ears of some of today’s most promising new music luminaries. Because in the end, that’s really what the album is really all about: reimagining the music of the past through the sounds of the future—our desire, as Shaw says, to draw a line from one point to another.

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.

ALBUM REVIEW: “Holographic” by Daniel Wohl

by Maggie Molloy

In the realm of contemporary classical, the line between acoustic and electronic is sometimes blurred. In the realm of L.A.-based composer Daniel Wohl, that line simply does not exist.

download photo by Nathan Lee Bush

Photo by Nathan Lee Bush

Wohl’s newest release, titled “Holographic,” bends the rules of light and sound altogether, creating a new dimension in art and music. Released on New Amsterdam Records, the album blends electronic elements with the musical talents of the Mivos Quartet, Mantra Percussion, the Bang on a Can All Stars, Iktus Percussion, Olga Bell (of Dirty Projectors), and Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw (of Roomful of Teeth). Not a bad roster for an electro-classical experiment.

The album begins with “Replicate,” a dense two-movement tapestry of sound featuring Iktus Percussion and a whole lot of electronics. Pitched percussion figures circle above a two-note drone, creating a warm, tranquil sound world that slowly builds in density as the piece progresses. The first movement is liquid, like echoes rippling across an ocean of sound—but the second movement picks up the pace, transforming into a chaotic wind tunnel of machines clinking, glass breaking, foghorns blasting, and electronics oscillating.

Mivos Quartet and Mantra Percussion team up with Wohl to perform “Formless,” a five-minute musical soundscape which oscillates from ear to ear. The string players slither and slide through cyclical harmonies amidst a web of muted electronics and softly pulsing percussion, blurring the boundaries between acoustic and electric, man and machine.

The album’s title track is more kaleidoscopic in nature. Performed with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the two part “Holographic” is a something of an aural illusion—it is filled with small clusters of musical material which distort and transform to create ever-changing colors, timbres, and musical textures. It’s no wonder the work was originally conceived as a multimedia piece (which, by the way, featured a synchronized visual component designed by artist Daniel Schwarz). And though the album doesn’t include any visuals, the piece is just as vivid without them.

In keeping with vibrant musical imagery, Wohl’s next piece on the album is perfectly titled “Pixelated.” Performed with Mantra Percussion, the piece sounds sort of like a cross between a winning slot machine and a bag full of brightly-colored bouncy balls flying off the walls. It is light, bright, colorful chaos, like spilling rainbow sprinkles all over the kitchen floor.

“Source” is slightly less frenzied, though every bit as striking. The wordless vocals of Olga Bell and Caroline Shaw flow in and out of focus in this eight-minute rumination on computer music and sampled sounds, as if ghosts in an eerie electronic landscape. 

The album climaxes with the hyperactive “Progression,” a maverick mashup of unusual sonorities and even more unusual rhythms. The frantic strings of Mivos Quartet intertwine with the frenetic percussion of Mantra to create this fast-paced and fretful sound world.

The album ends with Wohl’s atmospheric “Shapes,” co-written with the L.A.-based experimental music outfit Lucky Dragons. Mivos Quartet’s transparent strings mingle with humming electronics in this ethereal meditation, immersing the listener in warm waves of sound.

And in these liquid musical moments, it’s difficult to tell exactly where one instrument ends and another begins. The beauty of this album is that with each piece, Wohl artfully erases the line between acoustic and electronic, creating three-dimensional, holographic sound worlds which engulf the listener in their textures, timbres, shapes, sounds, and of course, their shimmering colors.

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LIVE CONCERT SPOTLIGHT: June 27-28

by Maggie Stapleton

This week’s Seattle new music events offer cross-genre flavors at the Crocodile, a world premiere by Timo Andres, and a homecoming for the Westerlies!

Town Music: Town Hall Seattle and Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras present John Adams’ ‘Shaker Loops’ and original work, commissioned by Town Hall from Timo Andres 

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Town Music Artistic Director (and Second Inversion’s Artistic Advisor!) Joshua Roman will conduct the Seattle Youth Symphony (current members and alums!) in the Town Music season finale.  This talented group of musicians will present the world premiere of a new work by Timo Andres, who “achieves an unhurried grandeur that has rarely been felt in American music since John Adams came on the scene” (The New Yorker). His new work was commissioned by Town Hall and will be a great fit amidst John Adams’ Shaker Loops and Bartok’s Divertimento for Strings.

Second Inversion will present this concert as a LIVE BROADCAST.  You can tune in at bit.ly/SI-stream and RSVP to our Facebook Event!

The performance is this Saturday, June 27 at 7:30pm (doors at 6:30pm) at Town Hall Seattle on First Hill.

STG Presents Son Lux and Olga Bell 

55427c656c2cc3.93172918Son Lux’s leader is Ryan Lott, who was named “Best New Artist” by NPR’s All Song’s Considered in 2008.  Lott “works at the nexus of several rarely-overlapping Venn Diagrams (Pitchfork)” which couldn’t be a better description of what we seek to showcase on Second Inversion.  His composition “Beautiful Mechanical,” for yMusic instantly caught our attention and is in frequent rotation on our 24/7 stream.  He has also collaborated with a multitude of other prestigious artists including Richard Reed Parry, Chris Thile, Lorde, Beyoncé producer Boots, Sufjan Stevens, Matthew Dear, Busdriver, Vijay Iyer, Nico Muhly and Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw.

Son Lux will perform selections from their latest album Bones (released June 23), the premiere release from the newly formed trio, including Guitarist-composer Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang.

Olga Bell joins Son Lux for this event.  Olga’s elite training as a classical pianist paved way for the pursuit of electronic composition and songwriting. Second Inversion regulars are likely familiar with Bell’s 2014 New Amsterdam release Krai, which is a tribute to edge towns in her birth country of Russia. Olga Bell is also noted for her work with Nothankyou, Charlift, and Dirty Projectors.

 

The performance is this Saturday, June 27 at 9pm (doors at 8pm) at the Crocodile in Belltown.

The Westerlies: Summer Show at The Royal Room 
SAA_0954_cSashaArutyunova2014_1600pxWEBThe Westerlies (“prevailing winds from the West to the East) are home from another year of Conservatory training in NYC and return to The Royal Room for a special performance of brand new music soon to be recorded on their second album!

This brass quartet composed of Riley Mulherkar, Zubin Hensler, Andy Clausen, and Willem de Koch navigate between American folk music, jazz, classical, and indie rock and have expanded the repertoire by premiering over 40 original brass quartets.  Second Inversion hosted them for an in-studio video session back in January and we’re always thrilled to have them back in town.

 

The Westerlies will be joined by Brooklyn based indie-alt vocalist Julia Easterlin. Vocals. Loops. Drums. Drones. Beatz. The Westerlies and Easterlin – a great combination!

 

The performance is this Sunday, June 28 at 5pm (doors at 4:30pm) at the Royal Room in Columbia City.