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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

On Thursday, January 27, Shara Worden will bring her synergetic mix of classical music, cabaret, and punk to Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series — and we’re thrilled that she’s given us  an exclusive sneak preview of a song she wrote for the event.

Worden is probably best known for her classical/rock project My Brightest Diamond and her collaborations with The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, and David Byrne.

Last Friday, she and the yMusic ensemble stopped by Studio 360 and premiered “We Added It Up”:

It’s a performance that showcases Worden’s syncretic style.  She told Kurt the song was inspired by President Obama’s recent “shellacking” speech, in which he conceded midterm election losses, saying we need to “learn to disagree without being disagreeable.”  The song draws that premise wide, picking up on its productive friction and extending it from politics to include lovers, atoms, and the idea that the world, itself, is held together by opposites.

Listen to Studio 360 this weekend to hear Kurt’s full interview with Worden and another live performance.

-Michael Guerriero

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What, you think you’re too cool for Christmas records?  You’re going to like this one, and so will your grandma.

The LA-based a cappella group Sonos has just released December Songs, filled with music for the season – several originals, plus some strange and soulful covers of classics.  The group’s “Ave Maria” is an especially beautiful, surprising arrangement of the hymn, which morphs from traditional madrigal to pop anthem:

Sonos stopped by Studio 360 last year and performed some of the group’s best-known work: inventive covers of pop songs, including Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place.”  They told Kurt that they sometimes get grief from purists (Sonos happily uses special microphones, loop pedals, and digital effects to alter the sound of their voices).  But they also get major props from us for pushing the form in new directions:

– Jenny Lawton

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Earlier this week, one-of-a-kind comedian/musician Reggie Watts rocked WNYC’s Jerome L. Greene Performance Space for a special “Studio 360” all about Theoretical Physics. That’s right…Theoretical Physics.  Here at 360, we like a little science sprinkled in with our arts and culture.

It turns out that Reggie Watts – an improviser who seeds audiences with disinformation (some of it in musical form), confusing them into fits of sublime, disoriented laughter – is also a well-versed physics enthusiast.  Watch him raise the curtain on our show, and tune the crowd to his unique frequency:

Over the course of the evening, Reggie talked physics with Kurt and astrophysicist Janna Levin – they even had a sort of informal science smack down (you can watch the full show here).  Reggie closed the evening with another song – a hip-hop ballad dedicated to perhaps the most ambitious topic, ever: the universe.

– Michael Guerriero

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Last weekend, Studio 360 was all about art as medicine. We had stories about how music helps patients recover in a burn unit; why a children’s cancer doctor turns to fiction writing; and medical students learning how honing their narrative skills will make them better doctors.

When we were doing research for the show, we called our colleagues in the WNYC archives – a treasure trove of nearly a century of media made or collected at the station. Here are a few things found in the stacks – click on the images to see them up close:

This three-record set came with a guide to exercises including the “Liberty Bell march” (No. 1) and the “Salut d’amour” (No. 3 – not unlike the now-hip “sun salute”?).

Try out the “Salut d’amour” yourself – listen here:

And to finish your workout, two exercises from Dr. Erich Klinge (recorded sometime between 1903 and 1926) – Nos. 9 and 10, in bracing German!

Special thanks to New York Public Radio’s Andy Lanset and Marcos Sueiro Bal.

– Jenny Lawton

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Lee Friedlander, Montana, 2008, from the series America by Car, 1995-2009. Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco © Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

In the 1960s and 70s, the photographer Lee Friedlander took his family on summer road trips.  Along the way, he took pictures that established him as one of the most acute, celebrated, modern chroniclers of America.  He captured vast swaths of the American landscape, lonely billboards, drive-thru kitch in stark black and white.

Forty+ years later, he’s still at it — and these new images feel just as remote and nostalgic, maybe more so.  “Lee Friedlander: America By Car” (featuring work from 1995-2009) is on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, through Sunday November 28.

For those initial expeditions, Friedlander’s young son Erik was sitting in the back seat.  He grew up to be an innovative cellist – and he made an entire album of music inspired by those trips, all performed on solo cello: Block Ice and Propane.  The tracks recall Erik’s summers on the road: picking up big blocks of ice to keep the food fresh; sitting above the cab with his sister, watching the stars as his father drove through the night.  It’s a quiet, varied album ranging from rootsy Americana to tracks that sound dissonant and modern.  Much of the music was generated while improvising in the studio.

Back in 2007, Kurt asked him to improvise in our studio.  We were working on episode around the theme of “On the Road” (it was the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s novel).  When Erik came by to talk about his album, Kurt asked him to riff on a passage from Kerouac’s travelogue.  The result was pretty terrific:

(Kurt reads the passage at 8:30, followed by Erik’s response at 9:25)

– Jenny Lawton

In the 1960s and 70s, the photographer Lee Friedlander took his family on summer road trips.  Along the way, he took pictures that established him as one of the most acute, celebrated, modern chroniclers of America.  He captured vast swaths of the American landscape, lonely billboards, drive-thru kitch in stark black and white.  You can see some of those photos in “Lee Friedlander: America By Car,” an exhibition now on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, through November 28.

Friedlander’s young son Erik was sitting in the back seat.  He grew up to be an innovative cellist – and he made an entire album of music inspired by those trips, all performed on solo cello: Block Ice and Propane.  The tracks recall Erik’s summers on the road: picking up big blocks of ice to keep the food fresh; sitting up in the cab with his sister, watching the stars as his father drove through the night.  It’s a quiet, varied album ranging from rootsy Americana to tracks that sound dissonant and modern.  Much of the music was generated while improvising in the studio.

Back in 2007, Kurt asked him to improvise in our studio.  We were working on episode around the theme of “On the Road” (it was the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s novel).  When Erik came by to talk about his album, Kurt asked him to riff off of a passage from Kerouac’s travelogue.  The result was pretty terrific.  (Kurt reads the passage at 8:30, followed by Erik’s response at 9:25)

– Jenny Lawton

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The Taqwacores: Muslim Punk in the USA (Photographs by Kim Badawi)

There’s a new movie out about Muslim-American punk rockers living in upstate New York.  Sound familiar?

Last year we aired a story about Michael Muhammad Knight, an Islamic convert from upstate New York who wrote a novel about Muslim-American punk rockers. It was called The Taqwacores and as far as he was concerned, it was pure fantasy.  At first, Knight sold the book out of the trunk of his car, but eventually it gained a following among rebellious Muslim teenagers on the web — including the members of a Pakistani punk band from Boston called The Kominas.  It was only a matter of time before Knight and The Kominas got together.  What happened next was the stuff of great fiction… or was it real?  Listen to our story to find out.

– Derek L. John

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Recordings of choral music can be discouraging: soft and diffuse, like the music is coming through cotton balls, evaporating like fog.  Even live performances can prove disappointing when lyrics are lost to the acoustics of a venue, and you experience a wash (rather than a wall) of sound.  I think the best place to hear a choral performance is inside of one — but then you have to work for your pleasure.

That’s what so fantastic about Janet Cardiff’s sound installation “The Forty-Part Motet,” now on view at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.  The Canadian artist presents the wickedly complex work of 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis with brilliance and clarity.

Tallis wrote “Spem in Alium” (“I have hope in none other than Thee, O Lord”) for eight choirs of five singers, each singing a unique part – that’s 40 distinct vocal lines.  Cardiff recorded the Salisbury Cathedral Choir singing the piece, putting each voice on a separate channel.  For the installation, each voice gets its own speaker – arranged in a circle, you can wander between the voices, checking in with various singers, catching the interplay of melodies.  Stand in the center and the voices combine into something truly transcendent.

Atsushi Nakamichi/Nacása & Partners Inc. Courtesy of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès, 2009, Janet Cardiff, Luhring Augustine, New York and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

"The Forty-Part Motet" in Tokyo (Photo by Atsushi Nakamichi/Nacasa & Partners Inc. | Courtesy of the Fondation d'enterprise Hermes, 2009, Janet Cardiff, Luhring Augustine, New York and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin)

You can really feel the changing shapes, colors, and textures of the music – qualities so rich and real you almost see them: “It reveals the piece of music as a changing construct,” Cardiff explains. “I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.”

You can get a taste of “Spem in Alium” (performed the traditional way) in this episode of BBC Radio 3’s “Discovering Music.”

“The Forty-Part Motet” is on view (for free) in the Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center through Saturday, November 13 as part of Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival.

– Jenny Lawton

recordings OF CHORAL MUSIC CAN BE discouraging: soft and diffuse, like the music is coming through cotton balls, evaporating like fog.  Even live performances can prove disappointing when lyrics are lost to the acoustics of a venue, and you experience a wash (rather than a wall) of sound.  THE BEST PLACE TO HEAR A CHORAL PERFORMANCE IS INSIDE OF ONE, . . .  BUT THEN YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR YOUR PLEASREU But I’m biased – I love choral music because I sing in a choir and I get to experience it, literally, from the inside.

That’s what so fantastic about Janet Cardiff’s sound installation, “The Forty Part Motet.”  Cardiff presents the wickedly complex work of 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis with brilliance and clarity.

Tallis wrote “Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui” for eight choirs of five singers, each singing a unique part – that’s 40 distinct vocal lines.  Cardiff recorded the Salisbury Cathedral Choir singing the piece, putting each voice on a separate channel.  For the installation, each voice gets its own speaker – arranged in a circle, you can wander between the voices, checking in with various singers, catching the interplay of melodies.  Stand in the center and the voices combine into something truly transcendent.

[IMAGE]

You can really feel the changing shapes, colors, and textures of the music – qualities so rich and real you almost see them… but, of course, you can’t. And that’s the point: “It reveals the piece of music as a changing construct,” Cardiff explains. “I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.”

“The Forty Part Motet” is on view (for free) at Jazz at Lincoln Center through Saturday, November 13 as part of the White Light Festival.

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