Music + Culture

 

The vocal quartet New York Polyphony delights in surprises — whether it's a matter of singing some rather raunchy Italian madrigals or making a video to introduce their album Times Go By Turns (released on BIS Aug. 27).

PhoTones_TAKUMA / Flickr

In the next couple of weeks, Northwest symphonies are reaching out to the gamers. The Port Angeles and Seattle Symphonies will both be showcasing video game music in upcoming concerts and while lush orchestral music is now present in many game soundtracks, it’s taken quite a while to get there.

"Last Night of the Proms"

Sep 6, 2013
Parnall, C H (Lt) Royal Navy official photographer / Wikimedia Commons

The “Last Night of the Proms,” one of the biggest classical music parties of the summer, is tomorrow night with performances in London, Belfast and Glasgow.

Why Aren't Composers Writing More Symphonies Today?

Sep 5, 2013

At 8 years old, I scrawled my first and last Symphonies — nos. 1, 2, and 3 — on ruled notebook paper. They were short duets for clarinet and trumpet for myself and my brother to play. Why did I call them symphonies? I can't remember, but I suspect that it was a desire to tie these efforts — and me, by extension — to a grand and venerable tradition.

The symphony after World War II appeared to be headed for extinction as composers took divergent paths to experiment with musical language and forms. But the evidence of recent decades shows that the genre was never really on the verge of disappearing.

The British classical magazine Gramophone announced today the latest round of winners of its annual awards, now in their 90th year. With an expansive roll call of noteworthy albums ranging from early music to opera, the Gramophone Award honorees represent a tantalizing range of musical achievement — but it's a smaller array than in years past.

Remembering Marian McPartland

Aug 22, 2013
RJ Capak / SCETV (via NPR)

Jazz legend and public radio host Marian McPartland died of natural causes Tuesday night at the age of 95.

Marian McPartland, who gave the world an intimate, insider's perspective on one of the most elusive topics in music — jazz improvisation — died of natural causes Tuesday night at her home in Long Island, N.Y. She was 95.

Over the course of the 20th century, the symphony as a genre — originally an inheritance from Europe — increasingly became a transnational tradition, flowing across the Atlantic and back again.

Life is Short, Opera is Long, but Wagner is Forever

Aug 15, 2013

This month, Seattle is abuzz with excitement over Seattle Opera's Ring Festival, which began last week and continues until August 25th. Every four years, Seattle Opera produces Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, the set of four operas totaling fifteen to sixteen hours.             

Left-Handers Day Coup at Northwest Public Radio

Aug 13, 2013
Kevin Rinker

The Northwest Public Radio studios are in a state of chaos today, as resident left-handers Kevin Rinker and Robin Rilette celebrate “Left-Handers Day.”

Early this morning Rilette was seen forcing….um….rather….engaging in cultural sensitivity  training by gently encouraging “Morning Edition” host Sueann Ramella to use the radio board and mouse with her right hand held behind her back.  As you can see from the expression on her face it was not easy. 

Dario Acosta

You don’t have to have roots in Walla Walla to become the world’s favorite defender of the art form known as opera, but the Grammy-winning opera star Thomas Hampson does, and he knows how to use them. In a surprisingly buzzworthy confrontation on a BBC show called Hardtalk, Hampson (raised in Spokane; studied at Eastern Washington; endowed a scholarship at Walla Walla U.) faced down a hostile interviewer’s accusation that opera is only for elitist rich people.

This summer, NPR Classical has been looking for the great American symphony — or at least some idea of what it might sound like.

Chris Thile Looks Back To Bach

Aug 11, 2013

With an interview show named HARDtalk I suppose the host might be expected to come out swinging. And recently the BBC's Sarah Montague did not disappoint.

Bruce Bradberry

Back in the 1960's, tourists to Tijuana would sit on a zonkey and have their picture taken. It was a good living for the owners of the zonkies (donkeys striped with lady's hair dye) but times have changed.

Remembering Toby Saks

Aug 5, 2013
Seattle Chamber Music Society

Northwest music lovers are mourning the death of Toby Saks, founder of the Seattle Chamber Music Society. A major figure in the musical and civic life of the Pacific Northwest, Saks was well known in the region's classical community. Two of Northwest Public Radio's classical announcers remember her:

British National Trust

Perhaps you’re enjoying a cold Northwest craft brew on an August evening and listening to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose sweet orchestral sounds often keep you company on Northwest Public Radio.

In 2007, I was interviewed by a journalist over lunch a day before the premiere of my Violin Concerto. One of his first questions was, "So why do you write in these old forms, the symphony, the concerto ... ?" I told him that these were simply titles which imply nothing about the form, which was another thing entirely. But it led me to ask myself: What is a symphony these days? If it no longer comprises a four-movement structure with an energetic first movement, a slow movement, a scherzo, and some kind of quick rondo, then what exactly characterizes it?

It's not quite the quest for the Holy Grail, but we're in pursuit this summer of the "Great American Symphony." And in many respects, our journey is just as important as our destination.

To say that you're writing a symphony today is a statement, especially for a young composer like me. The challenge is to find just the right way to commandeer the age-old form, to render it fresh and vital once again within an American context.

NASA

Have you seen this latest photo of our home?

I hope someone is composing some new music, expressing the feeling of that photo, the feeling that renews our sense of what “home” means.

The High, Heavenly Voice Of David Daniels

Jul 24, 2013

"You very quickly forget whether it's a male voice or a female voice. ... Because he's such a terrific musician, and so expressive, the fact that it's a man singing in a woman's range becomes irrelevant, and what we hear is the music."

Throughout the summer we're searching for the "Great American Symphony." It's not exactly a popularity contest. Instead, we're pondering American symphonic music from both the past and the present. Some composers like the young Kevin Puts and the veteran Martin Boykan, are labeling their pieces as symphonies. Others, like Michael Daugherty, can prefer more playful titles.

It's not every day a great opera diva makes it to the century mark. So let's take a moment to cheer for Licia Albanese, the beloved Metropolitan Opera star, who celebrates her 100th today and who most likely would not care to be called a "diva."

Iraq veteran Brian Castner wrote a book about his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder for his kids, so they could someday know what he'd been going through when he came home from war.

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