Music + Culture

 

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.

An Inconvenient Tune

Jun 14, 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.

Composer Mark Adamo has made beautiful music out of classic books. His Little Women is among the most produced American operas today. He also wrote the words and music for his operatic adaptation of Aristophanes' Greek drama Lysistrata.

His latest work, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, has proved more controversial. The opera, which premieres June 19 at the San Francisco Opera, tells the story of Mary, Jesus and his disciples.

Winners of 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition were announced Sunday night in Fort Worth, Texas. The competition was held over 17 days.

Vadym Kholodenko, 26, of Ukraine, won the top prize of $50,000, but he said the rankings don't mean that much.

"It's kind of fun for audience, for press. It's interesting to put first, second, 10th and so on. But in life, not so important," Kholodenko says.

And, he says, so much of life involves competing no matter what you're doing.

The Emerson String Quartet is one of the most acclaimed chamber groups in the world of classical music. Since their founding in 1976, the group has won nine Grammys for its recordings. Now, it has a new album out called Journeys: Tchaikovsky, Schoenberg — and it's the last recording with cellist David Finckel, one of the quartet's longtime members.

The Cage-y Consumer

Jun 7, 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 atArtworld Salon and on his own site.

Six finalists for the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition were announced last night in Fort Worth, Texas. For the first time since its inception more than 50 years ago, the contest is taking place without its namesake. Cliburn died in February of cancer, and the competition is dealing with his loss and other changes as well.

It's easy to think of opera as little more than an affected flock of singers warbling onstage in lacy brocade with pancake makeup, chandeliers and champagne.

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Not everyone gets to celebrate his or her 19th birthday the way Conrad Tao will: On June 11, he'll release a major-label debut album and curate the first day of his own three-day new music festival in Brooklyn. But if any musician is primed for such a workload at this age, Tao might just be the one.

Amid The Pulsars Without A Pulse

May 31, 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.

100 Years After The Riot, The 'Rite' Remains

May 29, 2013

One hundred years ago, a landmark of modern music was unveiled before a Paris audience. And that audience famously and mercilessly greeted it with boos, jeers and hisses. It was the premiere of the Ballets Russes' The Rite of Spring.

We Asked, You Created: Your 'Rite Of Spring' Videos

May 29, 2013

A few weeks ago, we asked you to take the last minute of Stravinsky's famous music for The Rite of Spring, transform it into something new and post your creations to YouTube. And boy, did you guys deliver, just in time to mark the ballet's 100th anniversary — it premiered May 29, 1913 — in brilliant fashion.

Colors Swirl In A Real Rite Of Spring

May 28, 2013

One of the most brilliant and exciting commemorations of the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring is a new work that references the Russian composer's music — but in an entirely new cultural framework. It's a pairing of film and music called Radhe, Radhe: Rites of Holi.

A 100-year-old ballet, composed by a Russian for a French audience, has become something of a jazz standard.

Watch A Mind-Blowing Visualization Of 'The Rite Of Spring'

May 28, 2013

One hundred years ago this week, a ballet premiered that changed the art world. Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du PrintempsThe Rite of Spring — was first seen by the public on May 29, 1913, in Paris. As the orchestra played The Rite's swirling introduction, the audience at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées began to murmur. Then the curtain opened.

If you think all the twitchy rhythms and random shards of melody flashing through Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring sound complicated, consider the poor musicians who have to learn it. And then there's the conductor, who needs to perfectly place every piccolo tweet and bass drum boom.

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