Thursday, March 7, 2019

Seattle Symphony's Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center Opening and Contemporary Music Marathon: Mar 23 - 24 | Heiner Goebbels' "Surrogate Cities": Apr 25 - 26 | Ludovic Morlot's Final Season with Seattle Symphony

While the 2019 season will mark the end of his tenure as conductor and Music Director at Seattle Symphony, since his arrival in 2011 Ludovic Morlot has launched a number of significant modern music initiatives. Alex Ross positing that from the week of his debut, the conductor not only stepping out with a strong start musically, but a reshaping of the orchestra's image, effectively in many ways, the "Symphony’s New Leader Took Seattle by Storm". Not least among his accomplishments, the late-night [untitled] chamber music series which brought contemporary works back into symphony's lexicon, after almost a decade of being remiss in the frequency of their performance. Morlot brought a higher profile and further prestige to the city with his commissioning of "John Luther Adams Pulitzer Prize Winning 'Become Ocean'" which was recorded with the Seattle Symphony in 2013. Last summer also saw the conductor's hand at work in Adams' continuation of the cycle, with the premier of "Become Desert". Yet the seasonal [untitled] program may prove to be Morlot's greatest contemporary music contribution during his tenure. The series' installments cumulatively reading as a who's-who of 20th and 21st Century avant-garde and modernism. Including in its breadth works by such notable (and rarely performed) composers as George Crumb, György Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, Terry Riley and Giacinto Scelsi. Other high points include 2015's performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen's groundbreaking electro-acoustic, "Gesang der Jünglinge", and the series' initiation with the realization of Olivier Messiaen's massive symphonic work, "Turangalîla". In the way of other contemporary works,  this next month Seattle Symphony performs a compelling and rare Heiner Goebbels piece on the march of history through the modern urban diaspora. Featuring additional sound design work from Ensemble Modern's Norbert Ommer, vocalist Jocelyn B. Smith's sultry intimacy, and the spectrum of noir radio inflection to Dada theatrics supplied by David Moss, this large scale conceptual work bears some correspondence to the postmodern music theater of it's text contributor, Heiner Müller. To quote ECM Records, "Surrogate Cities" is; "Concerned with the dynamic power and the power dynamics of the modern city, it is an examination of the concrete jungle in all its complexity, complete with musical-historical flashbacks. Literary quotations and text setting are also integral to the work, and it incorporates words by Paul Auster, Hugo Hamilton, and Heiner Müller".

As the 2019-2020 season commences, under the aegis of the symphony's new Music Director Thomas Dausgaard, one final grand project of Morlot's tenure is to be realized. The month of March sees the opening of LMN Architects reconceiving the former Southbridge Music Discovery Center into a nexus of technology and heightened acoustic experience as Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center. The features of the facility as a versatile technology-enhanced performance and multimedia community space are detailed in Seattle Symphony's announcement; "Combining a modular surround video screen with 13 moveable panels, 10 ultra-short-throw projectors, motion-capture cameras, and a state-of-the-art Meyer Sound Constellation Acoustic System with 42 speakers and 30 microphones, the technology can create a 360° shared virtual experience or be adapatable to disappear into the background for a more traditional setting. A series of custom system presets will provide supportive acoustic environments for a variety of ensembles, and additional settings can be customized producing a range of possible acoustic environments. Cellist and experimental artist Seth Parker Woods will become Octave 9’s first Artist in Residence for the 2019-2020 season. During his residency, he will premiere a number of new works for cello and multimedia from a diverse group of composers and visual artists." A set of local press including Met's "Octave 9 Is Another Symphonic World", and Seattle Times' "You Have to Hear it to Believe It: Seattle Symphony’s Octave 9", proceeded its its public opening on March 3. GeekWire's "Inside Octave 9: A High-Tech Venue that lets Seattle Symphony Explore the Future of Music" offering a more in-depth assessment of the facility's resources on offer. Yet it will be the venue's inaugural event, the Contemporary Music Marathon, spanning 24 hours beginning March 23, to day's end on March 24th, that will be the true test of Octave 9's resources. Encompassing a qualitative body of 20th and 21st century composers, the day-in and day-out performance by an array of ensembles will include such works as John Luther Adams' "The Light Within" & "Songbirds", David Lang's "Breathless", Annea Lockwood's "In Our Name", and Kaija Saariaho's "Spins and Spells". Beginning in the long hours of the first night, Helmut Lachenmann's rarely performed work, "Serynade" is then followed in the early morning by political composer Frederic Rzewski's "Piano Piece No. 3 & 4", and the afternoon is ushered in with American minimalists, represented by Terry Riley's "G-Song", and Philip Glass' "String Quartet No. 6".