Denk had yet to release his latest album, c.1300-c.2000, when he performed at Meany Centre. So he chose to focus mainly on Beethoven. The program did include John Adams’ I Still Play, which he wrote for retired Nonesuch Records president Bob Hurwitz.
Carolyn Shaw, Piano Concerto, Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, Feb. 2
I think Shaw lost me in the second movement of her piano concerto, when the opening melody in the piano repeated. And repeated. And repeated. The first movement established this piece wasn’t minimalist, so why become one in the second movement?
When I first started exploring classical music, I bought a cassette tape with Sergei Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony and Lieutenant Kije Suite. His Symphony No. 7 was tacked onto the album to fill out space, so I listened to it quite a lot. I haven’t explored other Prokofiev symphonies, but I have a fondness for the seventh.
I had planned to attend the Seattle Symphony’s performance of Heiner Goebbels’ Surrogate Cities, but it was scheduled on the day I was flying back from London. The concert was rescheduled a day earlier, and I traded my ticket for Amaedus Live. I was glad to learn it was the theatrical cut.
Emerson String Quartet, Meany Hall, March 6
The program on this concert included the Barber Adagio, a Razumovsky quartet by Beethoven and the Britten’s String Quartet No. 3. I particularly looked forward to the Britten quartet, having stumbled across recordings of his quartets at the thrift shop.
Morsel Trio, Good Shepherd Center, March 8
My violin teacher (Luke Fitzpatrick) and my music theory T.A. (Daniel Webbon) had pieces on this program.
Michael Tilson-Thomas, San Francisco Symphony, Benaroya Hall, March 19
I’ve known about Michael Tilson-Thomas for years, and I even have a number of his recordings as a pianist. So I wanted to hear him with the San Francisco Symphony before he ends his tenure in July 2020. The centerpiece of the concert was Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. I love the first movement of the piece, but I’ve never really internalized the remained of it.
untitled 2, Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, March 22
Pierre Boulez never struck me as a person you’d really want to meet in real life, and that impression has spilled over into his music. So I don’t think I really heard a piece by Boulez until this concert. It wasn’t as grating as I was expecting it to be.
Perfume, Paramount Theatre, Apr. 10
I’m sure there were parts of this concert that were … prefabricated, but I didn’t mind. It was visually stunning, and Perfume were entirely gracious to Seattle fans. If I hadn’t gotten out of the hospital a few days before, I probably would have stood in the excessively long line at the merchandise table.
When the orchestra finished playing the premiere of George Walker’s Sinfonia No. 5, one audience member didn’t even wait for conductor Thomas Dausgaard to signal for the applause. It was a pretty monstrous piece.
Alexander String Quartet and Joyce Yang, Meany Hall, May 22
Samuel Carl Adams has followed his father’s footsteps into the world of composition. His father is John Adams. Alexander String Quartet and Joyce Yang performed a piece by the younger Adams, and he sounds nothing like his father. In fact, I would like to hear more from Sam Adams.
untitled 3, Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, June 7
A reimagning of Schubert and Schumann. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In the Spotlight: Bolcom, Jolley, Poteat & Hausmann, Octave 9, June 11
Seattle Symphony transformed its education space into a high-tech venue to showcase more experimental programming. I’m looking forward to attending concerts in this new space.
Torche, Highline, Sept. 15
Sturgill Simpson made me realize I was getting too old for rock shows, so I almost decided against seeing Torche, despite loving the new album. Then I saw they were playing at a venue that is a 6-minute walk from my apartment. I’m glad I went.
Bugs Bunny on Broadway, Seattle Symphony, Benaroya Hall, Oct. 5
I wasn’t going to miss hearing What’s Opera, Doc? performed live. Even the 3-d animated new shorts weren’t too bad.
This first untitled concert of the 2019-2020 season showcased works for brass, and alternated between early and modern music. At the end of the concert, I was asked what I thought. I answered, “It was more conservative than I prefer.”
John Williams, Violin Concerto, St. Louis Symphony, Powell Hall, Nov. 3
I debated whether to take in a St. Louis Symphony concert while I was attending WordCamp US. A Sunday matinee seemed like a good option for someone navigating an unfamiliar city without a car. The light rail and bus system got me to the concert hall, which has a really nice sound. James Ehnes was the soloist for the Williams concerto, and yes, it’s unmistakably John Williams. For an encore, Ehnes did Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 3.
Sleater-Kinney, Paramount Theatre, Nov. 23
I chose to sit in the mezzanine for this show because, yes, Sturgill Simpson.
Kronos Quartet with Mahsa and Marjan Vadat, Placeless, March 22
This album is already available on streaming services, which means I’ve had a chance to listen to it. Unfortunately for Kronos and the Vadats, the new Solange album has also monopolized my attention.
Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 3 (Beth Gibbons, Krzysztov Penderecki, Polish National Radio Symphony), March 29
I don’t know about this one. Portished has never been a band I could internalize, and while I like Górecki’s third symphony, its reputation has become a bit outsize. I’m wondering how Penderecki got roped into it.
Emerson String Quartet and Evgeny Kissin, The New York Concert, April 12
The works on this program are tamer than what I normally pursue, but I like both the Emerson and Kissin.
Björk, Vespertine: A Pop Album as an Opera (Nationaltheater Mannheim), April 12
I’m willing to give this one a chance, if only because Vespertine is one of the few Björk albums I no longer own. I couldn’t get into it when it came out, so I welcome a chance to hear it in another context.
Jack Ingram, Ridin’ High … Again, April 26
I’ve been wondering what’s up with Jack Ingram. I stopped following him when he decided to make friends with country radio, but he left that behind at the end of his Big Machine contract. His 2016 album, Midnight Motel, is breezy and off-the-cuff, so I’m curious to hear what’s next.
NUMBER GIRL, OMOIDE IN MY HEAD 1 ~BEST & B-SIDES~, May 1
More time has passed since NUMBER GIRL’s break-up than the band was ever together, and a large portion of the band’s discography is out of print. So on the heels of their reunion tour, this collection of singles and b-sides gets reissued for a generation who missed out the first time.
A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.
Instead of providing an extended list for 1993, I rag on a number of critical favorites from the year. I’ve mellowed out about Björk’s Debut and U2’s Zooropa, but Siamese Dream and janet. are still overrated.
Duran Duran, The Wedding Album
Bill Frisell, Have a Little Faith
John Zorn / Naked City, Absinthe
Judy Dunaway and the Evan Gallagher Little Band, Judy Dunaway and the Evan Gallagher Little Band
Spiny Norman, Crust
The Love Gods, Hujja Hujja Fishla
Michael Nyman, The Piano
Wayne Horvitz / Pigpen, Halfrack
Emerson Sting Quartet, American Originals: Ives / Barber String Quartets
Other favorites from the year:
Kate Bush, The Red Shoes
Emmylou Harris, Cowgirl’s Prayer
Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Cypress Hill, Black Sunday
Digable Planets, Reachin’
Julee Cruise, The Voice of Love
Sting, Ten Summoner’s Tales
This time, I’m providing an extended list, and it demonstrates where I was as a listener and where I am.
That Favorite 10 is stuffed to the gills with some really avant-garde titles, the kind put together by a young person trying to be more cosmopolitan than his peers.
The extended list includes music that would have been ignored by the person who compiled the Favorite 10.
My younger self would have scoffed at my older present self for deigning to include hip-hop, and my older self would tell my younger self to examine what social pressures may be coming to bear for his opposition.
Younger self would complain about how hip-hop culture is fetishized by his ethnic cohorts, which older self would acknowledge but caution against succumbing to the racial dynamics of the country.
Younger self would have no idea what older self would be talking about, since younger self hadn’t yet moved to he Mainland US to see these dynamics in action.
All that to say maybe I’ve been resistant to hip-hop because the music that most appeals to me is made predominantly by upper middle class white men.
I’m not the kind of person who has to post selfies or photograph everything I’m eating or doing.
That would be Janet Jackson pictured with this entry.
JACK Quartet, Meany Hall, Jan. 10
I ran into my music theory TA at this concert, and we both we a bit meh about the program. JACK is a great quartet, but I honestly can’t remember much beyond the Morton Feldman piece which opened the concert.
The [untitled] series introduces me to a lot of new music of which I never follow up after hearing it. I still love going to these concerts, though.
University of Washington Modern Music Ensemble, John Zorn: Cobra, Meany Hall, March 1
I’ve known about Cobra for years, but this performance was the first I’ve attended. Recordings can’t do this piece justice. It must be experienced live to understand it.
Seattle Symphony, Aaron Jay Kernis: Violin Concerto, Benaroya Hall, March 18
Violinist James Ihnes has a lot of creative capital in Seattle as director of the seasonal chamber music festival, so I think the audience was willing to give Kernis’ concerto a chance. The piece and the performance went over well.
Japan Nite Tour, Chop Suey, March 22
Damn, had it been five years since I’ve attended a Japan Nite concert?
Emerson String Quartet, Meany Hall, April 21
There’s no way I would miss an Emerson concert with Shostakovich or Bartok on the program.
Seattle Symphony, [untitled 3], Benaroya Hall, April 28
A program centered around Andy Warhol concluded with a “popera”, which actually was far more engaging that I expected.
University of Washington Harry Partch Ensemble, Oedipus: A Music Theater Drama, Meany Hall, May 6
UW has a number of Harry Partch’s custom instruments, which were put to use in a production of Oedipus. Without the visual element, they pretty much sound like gamelan.
Midnight Oil, Moore Theatre, May 31
Yeah, definitely my favorite show of the year. The set list covered the entire span of their career, and just about everything I wanted to hear live I did.
Low + MONO, Neptune Theatre, June 16
I’ve known about Low for a long time — mostly through the band’s cover of “Africa” by Toto — but I was never curious enough to seek them out. I was duly impressed, even if I don’t think I’ll own anything other than Things We Lost in the Fire. MONO, of course, brought it.
The Revolution, Showbox, July 15
The band crafted the set list incredibly well. It started off with some obscure but recognizable stuff, but the second half kicked off the favorites. And everyone left pleased.
Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Paramount Theatre, Sept. 12
Jason Isbell delivered a flawless performance as usual. The audience, though, was weird. It was a Tuesday night, and the Seattle Freeze was in full force, with half the audience sitting and the other half standing.
Sam Amidon, Fremont Abbey, Sept. 22
If nothing else, you really must go to a Sam Amidon show just to hear him talk between songs.
Janet Jackson, Key Arena, Sept. 27
I held onto my ticket after two cancellations, and I was glad I did. No opening act. Just Janet dishing out hit after hit in an epic DJ mix, only live.
Concert reviews were always something I wanted to write for this site, but I never drummed up the gumption to jot down my thoughts about shows after I attend them. In reality, I didn’t want shows to become means to an end, in the same way album purchases had become source for reviews.
Still, I go to a lot of concerts, and it feels awkward not mentioning them at least once.
So I’m going to do a year-end overview of all the shows I’ve attended in the past year.