Music + Culture

 

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.

Carnegie Hall's Barnstorming Youth Movement

Jul 17, 2013

This is the kind of opportunity most classical musicians can only dream about: to be invited to spend part of the summer with an orchestra touring the world — Washington, Moscow, St. Petersburg and London — with two of the biggest names in classical music, conductor Valery Gergiev and violinist Joshua Bell.

Leonard Bernstein, in a New York Philharmonic Young People's Concert, once summarized the late 19th century as the "kindergarten period" of American music and proceeded to make fun of George Whitefield Chadwick, Boston's leading composer from that period. But in citing Chadwick's Melpomene Overture, Bernstein stacked the deck.

It's a hot summer afternoon and the recital hall at Purchase College is abuzz with excitement and nervous energy. One hundred and twenty teenagers, from 42 states, are about to embark on an extraordinary musical and personal journey.

Clive Gillinson, executive director of Carnegie Hall, steps up to the podium to greet them. "Welcome to all of you," he says. "It's wonderful to welcome you here to the first-ever National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America!"

Music Is The Mission, Not Money

Jul 8, 2013

One of the great summertime classical gathering spots in America is the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Our country's culture is a vast conglomeration of more than 200 years of influences from all over the world. We have taken what began as an extraordinary European tradition and expanded that legacy on American soil. We have added our essential egalitarianism, our love of experimentation, our inclusiveness and our boldness to the very form of the symphony. Americans have not been bound by one definition of the symphony, and composers have applied that formal name to pieces of varying length, structure and content.

Critics and fans love a good debate over the great American novel or great American movie. But what about the great American symphony?

Is there one? If not, why? If so, which symphonies are good candidates for the title? (Check out our Spotify list for some contenders.) And in the land of the melting pot, what does it mean for a symphony to be "American" in the first place?

It's a brave new musical world. Between downloads, iPods, music sharing websites and the good old CD, we have more easy access to the songs and symphonies we love than ever before.

The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and on the big day, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture will be heard from coast to coast, complete with fireworks and cannons. But how did a Russian composition, depicting the rout of Napoleon's Army, end up as the unofficial soundtrack for our most quintessentially American holiday?

The Wunder Years: Sloppy Johann

Jun 28, 2013

Got an idea for a classical cartoon or a reaction to this one? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist working with sculpture, drawing, photography and performance. His new book is Helguera's Artunes. You can see more of his work at Artworld Salon and on his own site.

Summer is heating up and so are dozens of classical music festivals all around the country. We couldn't possibly list them all, but here's a sampling of some of the best events, from open-air venues and seaside spots to historic concert halls. Been to a great summer festival we've missed? Feel free to pass along your own reviews in the comments section.

EAST

In Sharpness And In Tune

Jun 21, 2013

Got an idea for a classical cartoon or a reaction to this one? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist working with sculpture, drawing, photography and performance. His new book is Helguera's Artunes. You can see more of his work at Artworld Salon and on his own site.

The violin, though centuries old, remains a popular yet remarkably unwieldy instrument. Just squeezing the contraption between your chin and shoulder, then raising your bow arm to the proper height, is enough to induce a pinched nerve. Yet every day countless numbers of people try to make the instrument sing.

Wired: Come Hear New Music That Uses The Manhattan Bridge

Jun 17, 2013

Playing Mozart — On Mozart's Violin

Jun 14, 2013

The violin and viola that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played himself are in the United States for the first time ever. The instruments come out of storage only about once a year at the Salzburg Mozarteum in Austria. The rest of the time, they're kept under serious lockup.

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