Click on Classical: Badlands, band, and Brahms

Badlands small

Normally on Monday mornings at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories we’re featuring on our website. This Monday I won’t be on the air—I’ll be at the Minnesota State Fair participating in our live blogcast—but here are three recent stories you might have missed.

Taylor Brorby recommends a little-known delight: Children’s March by Percy Grainger. Though Grainger was an Australian composer, Taylor finds the music perfectly-suited to a walk around the Badlands.

Dan Nass writes about a new study demonstrating that music education can have positive effects on the teenage brain.

In a compelling essay, Cinda Yager writes about a scary episode with a man who was terrorizing her; and reveals how she turned to Brahms’s First Piano Concerto to help her manage the agonizing uncertainty.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Carl Lundstrom of Rochester, Minn.
Wednesday, 7:15 am & 5:15 pm: New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 1 pm: Performance Today: Music from four festivals.
Thursday, 12 noon: Live from the Minnesota State Fair: Dolce Wind Quintet, hosted by Julie Amacher.
Thursday, 1 pm: Performance Today: Film music from Frozen and from upcoming Star Wars films.
Friday, 3 pm: Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Saturday, 9 am: New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Organ and Orchestra at Disney Hall.
Sunday, 11 am: Top Score.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Singers, BBC National Chorus of Wales, Sakari Oramo, conductor; Lars Vogt, piano; Chrisopher Maltman, bass-baritone; from the 2015 BBC Proms.
Monday, 8 pm: Carnegie Hall Live: National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America with Gil Shaham, violin.
Tuesday, 12 noon: Live from the Minnesota State Fair: Copper Street Brass, hosted by Alison Young.
Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans.

Band class and the teenage brain

Austin High School Wind Ensemble (Courtesy of the ensemble)
Austin High School Wind Ensemble (Courtesy of the ensemble)

A recent study shows that music learning improves hearing and language skills in teenagers, suggesting that music training can help students do better in school.

In a news release, Nina Kraus — director of Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory and senior study author — states, “While music programs are often the first to be cut when the school budget is tight, these results highlight music’s place in the high school curriculum.” She adds, “Although learning to play music does not teach skills that seem directly relevant to most careers, the results suggest that music may engender what educators refer to as ‘learning to learn.’”

40 Chicago-area high school students were recruited as part of the investigation, and were studied from shortly before the beginning of their freshman year to the end of their senior year. Nearly half of the students enrolled in band classes, involving two to three hours a week of group music instruction. The remaining students enrolled in an ROTC program, which focused on fitness exercises during a comparable duration.

Data gathered from the beginning of the study and compared to the figures gathered at the end showed that more rapid growth in the brain’s response to sound with the music students. In addition, those students demonstrated heightened brain sensitivity to sound details.

The findings were published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and can be viewed here.

Click on Classical: Listening to women, hot new tracks, recording da Vinci’s piano

20150819_jennifer_higdon

Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories we’re featuring on our website. Here are the features we’ll be discussing today.

Have women’s contributions to classical music been underappreciated? Yes, argues Emily Feld in an essay highlighting the many accomplishments of female musicians and composers.

You’re used to hearing New Classical Tracks on Classical MPR, but there are many more new releases each month than we’re able to highlight in that feature. For that reason, we’re pleased to have experienced music writer Terry Blain spotlighting five notable new releases each month; his first monthly roundup has just been published.

One of our most-read features this year has been a story about the “viola organista,” an instrument Leonardo da Vinci designed but never got to hear. Now, we have an update: a Kickstarter to record a complete album of music on the instrument has just met its funding goal.

Pianist tries Kickstarter to fund planned album on Leonardo Da Vinci instrument

Slawomir Zubryzcki, viola organista
Slawomir Zubryzcki, builder of Leonardo da Vinci’s viola organista

It’s quite an accomplishment to build the instrument Leonardo da Vinci envisaged but never realized. Now Sławomir Zubrzycki is taking it a step further. The Polish pianist and the builder of Leonardo’s viola organista plans to record an album of music performed on the instrument.

Zubrzycki has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the album, and with a bit less than a day to go, he’s getting close to his goal (Update, Thursday, Aug. 20, 5:30 a.m. CDT: Zubrycki has met his Kickstarter goal).

The Kickstarter page features additional video of the viola organista in performance (the one we posted proved quite popular with our audience).

And like any Kickstarter campaign, Zubrzycki offers incentives for potential backers, including a generous offer for the most generous donors: A house concert performed by Zubrzycki on Leonardo’s instruement. Zubrzycki has qualified, however, the recipient(s) of the house concert must live in Europe. He’s not planning to transport the viola organista overseas … at least, not yet.

We’re not sure if a concert, an album and a tour were among Leonardo da Vinci’s original visions for the viola organista, but it’s unlikely the feverishly inventive polymath would have disapproved.

You can view the original post of Zubrzycki performing on the viola organista here, and his Kickstarter progress can be tracked on that site.

French violinist/engineer designs the 3Dvarius

Engineer and violinist Laurent Bernadac, who created the 3Dvarius (YouTube screengrab
Engineer and violinist Laurent Bernadac, who created the 3Dvarius (YouTube screengrab)

French violinist/engineer Laurent Bernadac has designed the first playable electric violin created with 3D printing technology.

Based on the model of a real Stradivarius violin, the instrument is called the ‘3Dvarius’ and is printed as one single piece.

Learn more about the 3Dvarius on the project’s website. You can also get learn about it’s production via a making-of video.

See the Bernadac and his 3Dvarius in action in the video below.

On the Air this Week

Highlights from Aug. 18 to 25

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Maria and Ben Hanson of Rochester, Minn.
Wednesday, 7:15 am & 5:15 pm: New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 2 pm: Performance Today: Holst’s The Planets, from a performance at the BBC Proms.
Thursday, 1 pm: Performance Today interview with pianist Jade Simmons.
Thursday, 5:15 pm: Top Score.
Friday, 3 pm: Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Saturday, 9 am: New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: John Scott, in memoriam.
Sunday, 11 am: Top Score.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales; from the 2015 BBC Proms.
Monday, 8 pm: Carnegie Hall Live: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra Plays Beethoven and Shostakovich.
Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans.

Composer Corner: Debussy

Claude Debussy (Corey Sweeter for MPR)
Claude Debussy (Corey Sweeter for MPR)

August’s composer of the month is Claude Debussy (klawd duh-byoo-SEE).

 

Born: August 22, 1862

Died: March 25, 1918

 

Five facts:

• Debussy was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (near Paris), and was the eldest of five children.
• In 1884, he won the Prix de Rome for his work, L’Enfant prodigue. 
• The composer had an alter ego whom he referred to as “Monsieur Croche.”
• One of his most famous works, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, wasn’t a hit with everyone. After its premiere, one reviewer noted, “The faun must have had a terrible afternoon!”
• Debussy composed Children’s Corner for his three year-old daughter, Claude-Emma, and when it was published, the following dedication was included: “To my dear little Chou-Chou, with her father’s tender apologies for what is to follow.”

 

Three important works:

Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894)
La Mer (1905)
Children’s Corner (1908)

 

Audio Backpack playlist: Claude Debussy

Click on Classical: Shape note singing, minimalism debated, vocalists learning from instrumentalists

Shape Note Singing Fort Snelling

Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories we’re featuring on our websites. Here are the features we’ll be discussing today.

Shape note singing is one of America’s oldest and most unique choral traditions—and it’s going strong in Minnesota. Emily Feld visited a local gathering of shape note singers and shared what she learned.

Is minimalist music relaxing—or maddening? There are partisans on either side of the debate, but Rebecca Wishnia argues that no matter who you are, there’s some minimalist music you’ll enjoy.

Earlier, Gwen Hoberg explored the question of what instrumentalists can learn from vocalists. This week, she turns the question around and asks vocalists what they’ve learned from instrumentalists.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Aug. 11 to 18

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: University of Minnesota Entomologist Sabrina Hymel.
Wednesday, 12 noon: Interview and performance with the Ordway’s Pirates of Penzance cast. Hosted by Alison Young.
Wednesday, 1 pm: Performance Today interview with violinist Hilary Hahn.
Thursday, 1 pm: Performance Today interview with pianist Jade Simmons.
Thursday, 3:15 pm: Regional Spotlight: Miró Quartet.
Friday, 1 pm: Performance Today interview with mandolin player Chris Thile.
Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Salt Lake Celebration.
Sunday, noon: From the Top.
Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: BBC Philharmonic performing Haydn, Stravinsky and a new work by Austrian composer HK Gruber; from the 2015 BBC Proms.
Monday, 8 pm: Carnegie Hall Live: English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir Play Monteverdi’s Vespers.
Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans.