Classical Music Happenings

Some neat-o classical music stuff:

  • This article about the possibility music helps humans cope with cognitive dissonance won’t surprise anyone who pays attention to anything

  • Head here to learn about (and hear portions of) MIT professor Tod Machover’s crowd-sourced symphony; it debuts at the Edinburgh International Festival, which looks like an amazing way to spend late summer.

  • The CBC has a program called The Signature Series, created by Paolo PietroPaolo. It’s an interesting discussion about key signatures. If you visit SoundCloud, you can hear some of the audio. Key signatures have significant meanings, and while much of that might be lost as a result of equal-temperament, it’s legitimate to consider the characteristics of pieces based on their key. Didn’t mean to nerd out about that, but it’s true. Check it out.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Aug. 27 to Sep. 3

Tuesday, 2 pm: Live from the State Fair, Performance Today welcomes Brooklyn Rider.

Wednesday, 8 pm: Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals Concert.

Thursday, 3 pm hour: The Lakes Area Community Concert Band, and the University of Minnesota Concert Band..

Saturday, 7 pm: Song of America, Part 9: “There Is No Gender in Music.”

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Regent’s Report.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: From the BBC Proms, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with pianist Nikolai Lugansky in the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Teacher and writer Bruce Kramer.

Tuesday, 8 pm: Musical Memories of the High Holidays, with Itzhak Perlman.

Shorter Days . . . But Things to Look Forward To

The Summer Solstice was little more than two months ago. The late summer darkness makes biking home a bit sadder. But my beloved leaves the back-porch light on for me. That always makes me smile.

Love knows no season and neither does the beautiful “stuff” of Classical MPR. Heading into the Fall you’ll hear the SPCO live, new voices on Music with Minnesotans and our very own artists-in-residence. Classical MPR will also continue to produce its series of videos for classroom music instruction and later this year, you’ll see a newly designed and easier-to-use website.

So while the days get shorter, there are good reasons for you to tune in more often . . . and staying longer too. The porch light is on.

Switched on Wendy

This morning, I (sort of) helped a pal over at The Current find a recording of Wendy Carlos’s Switched on Bach. East Side Digital remastered Carlos’s original recordings for release in 1999, and it’d been a while since I listened to any Carlos, so I dove right in.

I was careful about my first choice, going straight for her renditions of the Brandenburg Concertos. THESE ARE AMAZING. They’re amazing for all the right reasons.

Scoff at the cliche all you want, but Johann Sebastian Bach had preternatural abilities. A musical genius that cannot be surpassed no matter how tough a case you make for any other composer.

Point in fact, the Brandenburgs are delightful no matter what the instrumentation, acoustic or synthetic. The counterpoint always wins. If you’re unclear on what counterpoint is, there are a couple ways to think about it and hear it.

Perhaps the most used analogy for counterpoint is to think of it as a conversation. I find this explanation a bit muddy, since a conversation tends to imply that someone is listening while another is talking.

I prefer to think of counterpoint as a dance, because both parties are actively involved at all times. They respond to each other, sometimes following, sometimes leading – but always taking that journey together.

If you’d rather hear what counterpoint sounds like, listen to the opening moments of Carlos’s version of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, and I highly recommend doing so with headphones, or on a stereo where you can hear left and right. Wendy split the audio so you can hear the counterpoint unfolding between the left and right channels.

Listen for how the music in your left ear is interacting with the music in your right ear, and vice versa.

The other thing Carlos captures that so many other synth composers miss about Mr. Bach is the bounce. The vast majority of instrumental music written before about 1750 was more intricately linked with dance than anything written after the Baroque era’s end.

Carlos has always been in tune with that crucial aspect of Bach’s music.

Additionally, the music is mixed perfectly. It’s like a playground for the ears. I get especially blown away by the first movement of Bach’s 5th Brandenburg. The cascades of sound are no less impressive on a Moog.

And yes, each of those notes was programmed in one at a time. One at a time. I shake my head in amazement at her devotion to that craft, and her ability to create an experience in which you can marvel at its construction and musicality.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Aug. 20 to Aug. 27

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Erin Keefe, Tony Ross and Timothy Lovelace play Tchaikovsky in Minneapolis.

Saturday, 7 pm: Song of America, Part 8: Arthur Farwell, American Pioneer.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Women Work.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Mahler Chamber Orchestra, from the BBC Proms.

Monday, 7 pm: Roll Credits: Top Film Scores

Tuesday, 2 pm: Live from the State Fair, Performance Today welcomes Brooklyn Rider.

Involved in the Music

I stumbled across two articles this morning that piqued my interest. One talks about the music in Chipotle restaurants. The other is about an indie singer/songwriter from England named Imogen Heap, who rocketed to fame after folks heard her song “Hide and Seek“. Imogen is doing an admittedly simple crowd-sourced project on her upcoming album.

You can read about Chipotle’s incredibly intricate playlist selection here.

As far as Imogen goes, she’s inspired plenty of musicians to cover the aforementioned song, like this kid and this totally adorable German group called Invivas. On her upcoming album, she plans to incorporate voices of anyone who’s willing to contribute via Soundcloud.

Granted, she’s not asking them to sing (like Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, for instance), but I still appreciate the gesture. She wants her fans to help her create music. You can read that article here.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Aug. 6 to Aug. 13

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Chamber music of Poulenc, performed at the Lakes Area Chamber Music Festival in Brainerd.`

Saturday, 7 pm: Song of America, Part 6: Ives the Chronicler.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: New Sounds from St. Mark’s.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: From this year’s BBC Proms, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra and pianist Jan Lisiecki.

Monday, 7 pm: Roll Credits.

Tuesday, 8 pm: Jerome Moross: The Big Country and Beyond.