VIDEO PREMIERE: Memory Palace by Christopher Cerrone

by Maggie Molloy

Still frame from Mark DeChiazza’s video for Christopher Cerrone’s Memory Palace.

The method of loci is a mnemonic strategy dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The idea is this: you memorize the layout of a building or geographic space, then assign memories to any number of discrete locations within itand to recall the information, you imagine yourself walking back through the space.

In composer Christopher Cerrone’s Memory Palace, he takes that method one step further: instead of imagining a geographic space, he creates a sonic one. Composed for solo percussion and electronics, the piece is performed on a collection of homemade instruments and field recordings. In Cerrone’s memory, the palace is built of crickets and cheap guitars, wind chimes and wooden planks, beer bottles and quiet breath. The result is a vivid mosaic of music and memory—an intimate retrospective of a life lived in sound.

Memory Palace is a kind of paean to places and people that have deeply affected me,” Cerrone said. “The sounds in the piece are signposts; they help me remember—and more important, understand, who I am.”

Percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum premieres Cerrone’s Memory Palace in this brand new video by Mark DeChiazza:

ALBUM REVIEW: Unbound by the Jasper String Quartet

by Maggie Molloy

Photo by Dario Acosta.

Over the course of their decade-long career, the Jasper String Quartet has become pretty familiar with the famous quartets of historic masters like Haydn, Beethoven, and even Bartók—so when it came time to record a new album, they decided to look for new musical inspiration a little closer to home.

Unbound is a collection of 21st century works that burst through the boundaries of traditional Western musical styles and forms. The Jaspers—comprised of violinists J Freivogel and Sae Chonabayashi, violist Sam Quintal, and cellist Rachel Henderson Freivogel—explore the furthest reaches of the string quartet repertoire with new works by seven of today’s most dynamic composers.

Featuring compositions by Caroline Shaw, Missy Mazzoli, Annie Gosfield, Judd Greenstein, David Lang, Donnacha Dennehy, and Ted Hearne, the album unfolds as a survey of today’s spectacularly diverse and dynamic string music landscape, each piece stretching the string quartet tradition in new and inventive ways.

The album begins with Caroline Shaw’s tangy and succulent “Valencia,” the video for which we premiered just last week on Second Inversion. The Jaspers bring precision and playfulness to Shaw’s billowing harmonics and bold bow strokes, evoking the brilliant colors and juicy texture of the fresh, flavorful fruit.

Missy Mazzoli’s contribution to the album, by contrast, is a bit more narrative-driven. “Death Valley Junction” is inspired by a small American town of the same name, where a woman named Marta Becket resurrected a crumbling opera house in the late 1960s and went on to perform weekly one-woman shows there for over 40 years. An airy, sparse, desert-inspired soundscape gradually gives way to a wild and exuberant dance, evoking Becket’s colorful imagination and unshakable optimism.

It’s followed by Annie Gosfield’s “The Blue Horse Walks on the Horizon,” a piece she wrote specifically for the Jaspers. Inspired by the surreal radio broadcasts and codes used by European resistance groups during World War II, the piece unfolds through shifting, repetitive figures that evoke the abstract coded messages.

Group dynamics are the key theme behind Judd Greenstein’s contribution to the album. “Four on the Floor” is an energetic, fast-paced work which explores different instrument pairings working with and against one another in constantly changing teams.

Photo by Dario Acosta.

David Lang’s “almost all the time” explores a different type of evolution. The piece begins with a simple cell of a musical idea—what he calls “a little 10 note strand of musical DNA”—but across 18 minutes expands and evolves into a beautiful genetic mutation, each detail carefully crafted under the Jaspers’ fingers.

Donnacha Dennehy’s “Pushpulling” is more elastic in its movements. Frenetic bow strokes speed ever-forward, but are slowly and patiently pulled back to silence each time—pushing and pulling the listener along for the ride.

The album closes with Ted Hearne’s circular “Excerpts from the middle of something,” the first movement of his Law of Mosaics. Unusual in its form, the piece consists of a climactic build-up that, instead of resolving, is simply repeated and revised several times. And yet, each time it is convincing: the Jaspers play each rendition with the explosive energy and enthusiasm of a grand finale.

It’s an exclamation point at the end of the album but also a metaphor, perhaps, for the album’s overarching theme: the string quartet repertoire did not die with Haydn or Beethoven, but is still alive and still evolving to this day.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Liquid Voices by Melia Watras presented with Sono Luminus

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photo: Michelle Lewis-Smith

Melia Watras: Violist, Chamber Musician, Composer, Professor of Viola, Sono Luminus Recording Artist, Chair of Strings at the University of Washington. And to top it all off? One of the nicest people you could possibly meet.

Second Inversion has had the opportunity to review her album Ispirare, film a video with her and Michael Jinsoo Lim in our studios, host the two of them on The Takeover, and now we’re thrilled to premiere the video for Liquid Voices, a piece from her upcoming album 26 to be released on Sono Luminus on January 27, 2017.

Melia Watras wrote Liquid Voices in 2013, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s short story, The Fascination of the Pool. Watras was taken with the story’s fluidity, imagery and depth, which helped shape the structure and basic concept for the piece: voices floating on top of each other. Liquid Voices was recorded by Michael Jinsoo Lim, violin and Melia Watras, viola and this video was created by Ha Na Lee.


If you’re in the Seattle area, take note that Melia’s 26 album release show will be on Friday, February 24 in Brechemin Auditorium (University of Washington School of Music) at 7:30pm. The program includes selections from 26, a video presentation, and commentary from the artist.

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VIDEO PREMIERE: Ken Thomson’s “Restless” featuring Ashley Bathgate and Karl Larson

On Friday, October 28 on Cantaloupe Music/Naxos releases Composer/Bang on a Can All-Star Ken Thomson’s new album, Restlessfeaturing cellist Ashley Bathgate and pianist Karl Larson performing two “vinyl-side-length pieces,” Restless for cello and piano and Me Vs  for solo piano.

We’re thrilled to premiere this video, by created Ken, Ashley, and Karl, giving you not only an earshot of the music, but great insight into the inspiration behind the music.

This primarily vinyl release harkens back to the classic approach of listening to art music, encouraging one “to sit down and listen to something for 20 minutes at a time,” explains Ken, though the album will also be available digitally.

We highly recommend throwing a listening party for this album which portrays Ken’s notorious difficulty (“It’s the kind of thing that pianists have looked at me and said, OMG you have to be kidding me!” – Ken on Me Vs.) and showcases “a major addition to the repertoire,” the unanimous comment they’ve received about Restless. Enjoy, and pre-order your copy today!

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VIDEO PREMIERE: Heyr þú oss himnum á by Anna Thorvaldsdottir (Skylark Vocal Ensemble)

by Maggie Stapleton
8865168Skylark is a professional chamber choir of world-class musicians with a passion for small ensemble performance and their new album, Crossing Over, demonstrates a strong dedication to music composed in the 20th and 21st centuries.

To celebrate its March 25 release on Sono Luminus, we’re excited to present the video premiere of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s gorgeous, evocative, and other-worldly setting of an ancient Icelandic psalm: Heyr þú oss himnum á. 


Skylark: Crossing Over 
Matthew Guard, Skylark Artistic Director
[1] Elegy by Daniel Elder (b. 1986) [4:16]
[2-9] Butterfly Dreams by John Tavener (1944-2013) [12:13]
[10] Otche Nash by Nicolai Kedrov (1871-1940) [2:03]
[11] Requiem by Jón Leifs (1899-1968) [4:41]
[12] Heliocentric Meditation by Robert Vuichard (b.1985) [9:12]
[13-15] Carols of Death by William Schuman (1910-1992) [9:42]
[16] Heyr þú oss himnum á by Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b. 1977) [4:27]
[17] Funeral Ikos by John Tavener [5:55]

Pre-Order the album here.

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Photo: artsatl.com

Skylark is a premiere a cappella vocal ensemble of leading American vocal soloists based in Atlanta and Boston. Formed in 2011 by Artistic Director Matthew Guard, Skylark has been described as “a gem… soloists who come together to create a dynamic and inspiring whole” (ArtsATL). Skylark strives to set the standard for innovative, engaging, well-researched, and dramatically presented programs that re-define the choral experience for audiences and singers alike. Since its founding five years ago, Skylark has branched out to perform its innovative programs in museums, concert halls, and churches in six states. In 2015, Skylark became one of the only chamber choirs in the U.S. to successfully perform Francis Poulenc’s Figure Humaine. In 2016, Skylark will make its Spivey Hall debut with a chamber performance of Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil. Skylark Artists have performed with other internationally renowned groups including Blue Heron, The Handel & Haydn Society, Lorelei, The Pheonix Chorale, Sante Fe Desert Chorale, Seraphic Fire, Trinity Wall Street and the Yale Choral Artists. A not-for-profit entity, Skylark also performs educational outreach programs with high school students in Atlanta and Boston and across the U.S. during its concert tours.

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Photo: Saga Sigurdardottir

Anna Thorvaldsdottir frequently works with large sonic structures that tend to reveal the presence of a vast variety of sustained sound materials, reflecting her sense of imaginative listening to landscapes and nature. Her music tends to portray a flowing world of sounds with an enigmatic lyrical atmosphere.

Anna’s music is frequently performed internationally, and has been featured at several major venues and music festivals such as Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in NYC, the Composer Portraits Series at NYC’s Miller Theatre, ISCM World Music Days, Nordic Music Days, Ultima Festival, Klangspuren Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Tectonics, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Her works have been nominated and awarded on many occasions – most notably, Anna is the recipient of the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize 2012 for her work Dreaming, and The New York Philharmonic’s Kravis Emerging Composer Award.

Some of the orchestras and ensembles that Anna has worked with include International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), BIT20, Musiques Nouvelles, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Yarn/Wire, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the CAPUT Ensemble, the Oslo Philharmonic, and Either/Or Ensemble.

Anna holds a PhD from the University of California in San Diego.

VIDEO PREMIERE: Spektral Quartet’s “Hack” by Chris Fisher-Lochhead

by Maggie Stapleton

Spektral Quartet

Spektral Quartet – photo credit: Drew Reynolds

We are thrilled to present the video premiere of Hack by Chris Fisher-Lochhead! This is an amuse-bouche (literally) for Spektral Quartet’s upcoming album, Serious Businessfeaturing three world premieres (and one not-world-premiere by Haydn), all thematically centered around humor in classical music.

Hack (2015) takes painstaking transcriptions of bits from famous stand-up comedians (including Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, George Carlin, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Pryor, and many more) as the piece’s launch point, and mines the nonverbal elements of humor: cadence, pitch, and timing. The staggering score is by turns rapturous, heady, and hyperkinetic.

Serious Business is released on January 29 on Sono Luminus. Stay tuned for Second Inversion’s album review!

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VIDEO PREMIERE OF THE WESTERLIES’ “SWEETER THAN THE DAY”

by Maggie Stapleton

Hello, world.  Do you know The Westerlies?  Here’s a warm introduction, if not.  They’re a brass quartet based in New York, but all four musicians are Seattle natives and longtime friends, anddedicated to the cultivation of a new brass quartet repertoire that exists in the ever-narrowing gap between American folk music, jazz, classical, and indie rock.”

We are thrilled here at Second Inversion to present the video premiere of The Westerlies’ “Sweeter than the Day” from their album Wish The Children Would Come On Home: The Music of Wayne Horvitz.  The album, which Horvitz produced, was recorded in August 2013 and was recently released by Songlines Recordings.  In between takes, they shot this video outside the studio on Lopez Island, one of the most peaceful and relaxing places in the Northwest, especially on these clear, summer evenings (yes, we have them and yes, I’m giving away one of our best Northwest secrets).

The Westerlies will be all over the west this summer in CA, OR, WA, and Vancouver BC.  Upcoming Seattle performances to note:

Friday, June 27, 8pm @ Seattle Art Museum (Opening for HUMAN FEEL)
Sunday, August 3, 8pm @ Café Racer (Curating the Racer Sessions)
Friday, August 8, 8pm @ Royal Room (Official CD release party!)
Monday, August 25, 8pm @ Good Shepherd Center (Album Release Tour)

Stay tuned for more Second Inversion coverage of this talented, innovative ensemble!

The Westerlies

Photo: Adam Guy