Mezzo-Soprano Megan Ihnen Announces New Album
Sleep Songs: Wordless Lullabies for the Sleepless
The First of Three Volumes Including Nine World Premiere Recordings
Release Date: January 1, 2021 (Odd Pop Records) | Downloads and CDs available for press upon request
“With clarity, charisma, and incredible vocal control, she breathes new life into music ranging from the modern sounds of Cage and Crumb to up-to-the-minute works of today’s top composers.” – Second Inversion
New Orleans, LA – Mezzo-Soprano Megan Ihnen, praised by I Care If You Listen for her “seamless transitions between characters” and “creating a superb overarching journey,” announces the January 1, 2021 release of her new album Sleep Songs: Wordless Lullabies for the Sleepless on Odd Pop Records. This collection, recorded and engineered by Andrew Rodriguez, showcases world premiere recordings from nine American composers including: Jay Derderian, Michelle McQuade Dewhirst, Lee Hartman, Julia Seeholzer, Arthur Breur, Griffin Candey, Tony Manfredonia, Jen Wang, and D. Edward Davis.
Born out of a tweet exchange in 2017, Sleep Songs: Wordless Lullabies for the Sleepless is an artistic response to a friend’s request for soothing sounds when sleep seemed too far away. Ihnen explains, “When I first began this commissioning project in 2017, I couldn’t have predicted the need for lullabies for the sleepless in 2020. I simply followed the impulse of a friend asking for wordless songs. But, the process of fundraising – with the help of 154 donors, commissioning 26 composers, rehearsing and preparing this hypnotic music, and finally bringing the first of the three albums to fruition has been a reassuring beacon during the bewildering past few years.”
While some of the works address a descent into rest for an anxious mind or a respite from swirling thoughts and the need for words – above all, the music on this album reflects the composers’ relationship to the liminal space of drifting off to sleep and dream.
An important part of this project is the Kickstarter campaign which funded the commissioning of the 26 composers involved in the overarching vision. A testament to her power as a new music community organizer, Ihnen raised over $6,500 in seven days. Composers featured in Volume 1 were inspired by the parameters of the project:
D. Edward Davis specified, “A lot of my recent work is concerned with the notion of intimacy. I often consider the intimacy that exists between the musicians on stage, between the composer and musicians, and between musicians and audience in my pieces. A lullaby—particularly a self-lullaby, designed to relax one’s own body and mind—is a perfect opportunity for me to explore a totally new kind of intimacy. I hope to contribute a work that is equal parts sensuous and conceptual.”
Griffin Candey remarked, “This very individual project really scratches an itch for me — it’s pretty darn rare that one writes a piece for a vocalist without the benefit of a text. While I love approaching texts and digging into their many layers, writing a vocalise covers entirely different territory — it allows one to focus solely on the voice, its limits, its timbres, its expressive capabilities. With a vocalist like Megan at the helm, this project is sure to kick up a wealth of beautiful, thoughtful, memorable pieces…”
Ihnen has performed with the International Contemporary Ensemble, Fifth House Ensemble, Latitude49, Great Noise Ensemble, Rhymes With Opera, and in her own voice/saxophone duo Megan Ihnen & Alan Theisen present… (MIATp). She has premiered over 50 works across the United States including at The Cube in Detroit, Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington D. C., National Opera Center in New York, and the Chicago Cultural Center. She has appeared as a soloist with conductors Brad Lubman and Alex Wen and has been featured on Classical KING FM Seattle, Classical Discoveries on WPRB Princeton, ClassiCAST Radio, Portfolio Composer, and the Lexical Tones podcast.
Sleep Songs: Wordless Lullabies for the Sleepless follows Ihnen’s recent collaboration Oil Islands (2019), composed by and recorded with Sleep Songs engineer/producer Andrew Rodriguez, which was featured in The Road to Sound and on Tonotopicalia (KUZU 92.9 FM out of Denton, Texas). Oil Islands blurs the lines of genre – mixing art song reminiscences with sensual synth pop. Vanessa Ague writes, “Ihnen’s powerful voice, supported by synthesizer, bursts with heightened drama and syllabic art song sensibility.”
Megan Ihnen, mezzo-soprano – Sleep Songs: Wordless Lullabies for the Sleepless – Odd Pop Records | Released January 1, 2021 | All Pieces Commissioned and Performed by Megan Ihnen
 Jay Derderian (Portland, Oregon): Veil (2017) 3:04
 Michelle McQuade Dewhirst (Green Bay, Wisconsin): Deep Rest (2017) 5:58
 Lee Hartman (Kansas City, Missouri): i/xhale (2017) 6:23
 Julia Seeholzer (Warsaw, Poland): It’s Okay, I’m Awake, Too (2017) 2:52
 Arthur Breur (Portland, Oregon): Alua Alueia (2017) 2:54
 Griffin Candey (Ypsilanti, Michigan): It’s All Coming Down, Darling (2017) 3:19
 Tony Manfredonia (Petoskey, Michigan): Charlotte’s Lullaby (2017) 2:52
 Jen Wang (Los Angeles, California): The Days Are Long (2017) 2:44
 D. Edward Davis (North Haven, Connecticut): sleep patterns (2017) 7:51
*each track is a world premiere recording
About Megan Ihnen: Megan Ihnen is a “new music force of nature.” The act of live performance is integral to Megan’s work and her performances thrive on elaborate sound worlds and fully-developed dramatic interpretations. Through narrative and non-narrative musical storytelling, she explores the subjects of memory, nostalgia, the perception of time, and relationships. Whether through chamber music, staged recitals, opera, or large ensemble soloist work, she emphasizes the full range of vocal sounds, timbres, colors, and uses that characterize the 21st century voice.
Ihnen’s interpretations of modern and contemporary repertoire have garnered growing acclaim. She is particularly recognized as an excellent recitalist. Her work as part of Megan Ihnen & Alan Theisen present… brings new music to audiences everywhere through theatrically informed voice/saxophone performances, curatorial projects, and collaborations across art forms. MIATp’s programs have been praised as “a fresh look at what it means to be artists in the 21st century.” She has also worked with violinist Martha Morrison Muehleisen and Rome Prize winner and video artist Karen Yasinsky to take audiences on a profound journey through György Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments through video and sound. Finally, Megan’s Single Words She Once Loved dramatic recital for voice and piano is a deeply personal exploration of the dueling forces of dementia, memory, and time.
Her devotion to the proliferation of new music extends beyond the commissioning and performing of music to teaching, workshopping, and mentoring of emerging artists in the field. She also works to increase the visibility and influence of new music through writing on the subject for multiple online and print publications. As a curator, she selected twenty works for mezzo-soprano and piano for the NewMusicShelf Anthology of New Music. Mezzo-Soprano, Vol. 1. Find out more about her touring programs, recordings, and more at meganihnen.com.
# # #
About the Kickstarter Campaign
This album was made possible with the support of 154 backers over the course of seven days who donated to the Sleep Songs: Wordless Lullabies for the Sleepless project on Kickstarter.
Sleep Songs: Wordless Lullabies for the Sleepless
Let me sing you to sleep with over 25 wordless lullabies written by living composers. Consider this your new music bedtime routine.
How Did This Project Come About?
If you don’t know Shaya Lyon yet, she is a one-woman powerhouse when it comes to building a sense of local and global community. As a former software product manager and news editor, she has been using her product lead, UX designer, writer, artist and organizing information super powers for good in the world of new and classical music. She is the creator and Executive Director behind The Live Music Project which is a community calendar for classical and contemporary classical music in Seattle. It builds visibility for local orchestras and ensembles while connecting new and returning listeners with live musical experiences. She is also the impetus behind Musochat which is a weekly conversation about new music on Twitter that began in July 2015. New Music Box wrote about it, and SoundNotion recorded us discussing it on their podcast, as did The Portfolio Composer.
Shaya is a friend I made originally via Twitter who has become one of my favorite people. Our friendship is a true testament to the power of digital platforms. We met initially because she happened to be in San Francisco while I was there for New Music Gathering the preeminent annual three-day conference dedicated to the performance, production, promotion, support and creation of new concert music. Whenever Shaya says, “have you ever thought about…” my ears prick up and my imagination goes into overdrive immediately.
Mentioning on Twitter that she has been dealing with insomnia recently, she tweeted about a fantasy commissioning project of “wordless lullabies for the sleepless” sung by me. I thought that was a pretty sweet idea. I’d love to do something like that. So, I quote tweeted her suggestions with, “Composers, can we make this happen?” and received an overwhelming response of people who were interested. That told me that this was a project that was ripe for the happening.
Composer Daniel Felsenfeld, who has written for everyone from Jay-Z with Alicia Keys and Nas to Chorus of Trinity Wall Street to ETHEL, replied back right away with, “I am the proud father of an amazing girl, so it stands to reason that I ought to be writing a lullaby, having improvised so many. And I’ll do anything for the amazingly gifted Megan Ihnen, so this is all falling into place…”
Let’s be honest…
Raise your hand
- if you can’t take listening to Enya one more time during a massage.
- if you wish you had something more musically satisfying to play for your children at bedtime.
- if you want to up your bedtime routine to Arianna Huffington status…
- if the chime-y, chant-y part of your yoga/meditation tracks are getting a little too repetitive.
- if you’d like to remind your friends that new classical music is a vast field with lots of different sounds being written all of the time.
Who Am I Commissioning?
I cannot believe the number of interested composers who are already on board for this project! We have composers from all across the United States and abroad. Check them out:
“Being from the UK, it’s really good to collaborate with people from America, and get my music heard in the USA. Furthermore, seeing how a number of different composers respond to the same brief will be really fascinating.” – C. Whitburn
“I love this project’s emphasis on the evocative nature of the voice itself, removing the imposition of lyrics entirely. When working with vocalists, a lot of time goes into the text and having it appropriately placed in the body. With wordless lullabies, however, the voice strictly becomes a conduit for timbre, melody, and ultimately, expression.” – T. Manfredonia
“This is a wonderful opportunity for me as a vocal writer who usually writes text to focus purely on melody and texture.” – D. Howell
“The twilight chill that unfurls off the heat of the day and coils up around your ankles; the suede midnight that embraces you, cool at first but immediately known; the weightlessness of the yearning for being sleep-drunk: that’s what this project says to me, and that’s what I hope I communicate with my humble contribution to it, all without saying a word.” – T. Dempster
“I am interested in composing works that have a set of difficult limitations without hindering the open-ended process of creation. There is so much to explore with the human voice without the semantic and syntactic limitations of words. Also, the idea of a lullaby signifies so many possibilities and limitations.” – C. Gentry
“If a melody contains its own unspoken harmonies, if a melody can be sung without accompaniment for that very reason, then it has its own genuineness.” – D. Solomons
“A lot of my recent work is concerned with the notion of intimacy. I often consider the intimacy that exists between the musicians onstage, between the composer and musicians, and between musicians and audience in my pieces. A lullaby—particularly a self-lullaby, designed to relax one’s own body and mind—is a perfect opportunity for me to explore a totally new kind of intimacy. I hope to contribute a work that is equal parts sensuous and conceptual.” – D. Edward Davis
“I’ve been thinking about lullabies recently, and when I saw a tweet about a wordless one I wrote a draft right away… I’m really looking forward to developing it further and hearing the finished version!” – K. Rose
“This very individual project really scratches an itch for me — it’s pretty darn rare that one writes a piece for a vocalist without the benefit of a text. While I love approaching texts and digging into their many layers, writing a vocalise covers entirely different territory — it allows one to focus solely on the voice, its limits, its timbres, its expressive capabilities. With a vocalist like Megan at the helm, this project is sure to kick up a wealth of beautiful, thoughtful, memorable pieces — I can’t wait to see the finished set!” – G. Candey