Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

Today is January 27, and it’s Mozart’s birthday. I know I don’t have to tell you how wonderful Mozart’s music is to listen to… but if you’re not a musician yourself you may find it interesting to know that Mozart’s music is also wonderful to play. And it’s not that it’s easy—in fact it’s usually pretty hard, and sometimes very hard. 


The members of the violin family—the violin, viola, cello, and double bass—are made of wood. But on any one instrument you may find four or even five different kinds of wood. The top, also called the “table,” or “belly” of the instrument, will be made of spruce—a strong, light, but soft wood. The back, and the sides—which are also called the ribs—will almost always be made of maple, which is a very hard wood. 


Did I ever tell you that I once won ten dollars from Leonard Bernstein? When I was a student at Juilliard I learned the Viola Concerto by William Walton, and one evening I played through it for my violinist friend Alexis Galpérine. Alexis noticed that the Walton reminded him very much of the Violin Concerto in D Major by Sergei Prokofiev, and on closer examination we saw that there was no question that Walton had indeed patterned his concerto directly after the Prokofiev.  


Folk Songs

Jan 24, 2017

For at least six hundred years, composers have been borrowing the melodies of folk songs and incorporating them into their compositions. And there’s a good reason: they’re good melodies; they’re melodies that have stood the test of time—that have never lost their hold on people. 


Miloš Karadaglić
Miloš Karadaglić/Mercury Records

Classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglić began performing as his country, the former Yugoslavia, was being torn apart by war. He entered the Royal Academy of Music in London, and his hard work paid off with an acclaimed 2012 solo concert at Royal Albert Hall. In this session, Karadaglić showcases his love of Latin music with pieces by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos and Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla.

News Stations: Sun, Jan 29, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Jan 29, 6 pm

Kendra Shank
John Abbott

From a background in visual arts and French literature at the University of Washington, Kendra Shank has been pursuing a successful singing career from Seattle to Paris to New York, where she is currently based. Shank’s sensuous phrasing and crystal clear tone have earned praise from critics and fans alike. On this Piano Jazz from 2007, Shank’s thoughtful yet emotional voice illuminates Jerome Kern’s “Long Ago and Far Away.” Shank also shows off her skill on the guitar, as she joins McPartland for “In the Days of Our Love.”

Mozart Flute Quartets

Jan 23, 2017

In a famous letter to his father, Mozart once wrote, “you know I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument I cannot bear.” He was talking about the flute, and the occasion of the letter was a commission Mozart had received to write several flute concertos and quartets for flute and strings. In fairness to Mozart, neither the flutes nor the flutists of his day were terribly reliable, but it’s also possible that Mozart had just been procrastinating, and inventing an excuse to give his father. 


Syncopation 2

Jan 20, 2017

Syncopation disturbs the regular flow of rhythm and it shifts the emphasis in music from strong beats to weak beats, or to in-between beats. I’d like to stress, though, that syncopation is a general term: there’s no limit to the number or variety of possible syncopated rhythms or syncopated patterns, and no limit to the ways they may be used. 


Syncopation 1

Jan 19, 2017

There’s an old joke about the husband who’s been out late drinking, and when his wife asks him where he’s been, he latches onto a word he saw on the cover of a book in the window of a music store, and he says that unfortunately he had come down with a case of… syncopation. 


Scherzo 2

Jan 18, 2017

Beethoven replaced the minuet in his four-movement pieces with the scherzo. Scherzo means “joke,” in Italian, but in Beethoven’s scherzos you won’t usually find anything that qualifies as out-‘n-out funny. What you usually will find is a certain playfulness, with lots of fast notes, abrupt accents, surprises, and quick changes of musical direction. 


Scherzo 1

Jan 17, 2017

During the time of Haydn and Mozart, the third movement of a four-movement piece such as a symphony or string quartet was invariably a stylized dance movement called a minuet. By the end of the 1700's, though, Beethoven, in one of his many innovations, had largely replaced the minuet with a movement he called a “scherzo.” 


Lily Frost
Ivan Otis

In the ’90s, Canadian singer-songwriter Lily Frost got her start with the cabaret-inspired band The Colorifics. She’s since made the jump to solo artist and songwriter. Her musical mentor, the late Ray Condo, inspired her album Lily Swings, which recalls Regina Spektor and Feist. On this Song Travels, she performs her original song "Enchantment," as well as a few old favorites.

News Stations: Sun, Jan 22, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Jan 22, 6 pm

Lalo Schifrin
Price Rubin and Partners

Composer, arranger, and pianist Lalo Schifrin trained classically as a young man in Argentina. He went on to study at the Paris Conservatory as he developed a career as a jazz musician, playing and recording in Europe. He has written more than 100 film and television scores and has won multiple Grammys and Academy Award nominations. On this 1997 Piano Jazz, Schifrin treats listeners to a solo version of his composition “Down Here on the Ground” from the hit movie Cool Hand Luke.

News Stations: Sat, Jan 21 , 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Jan 22, 7 pm

Already during their lifetimes, Antonin Dvorák and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky were among the most famous composers in the world. Their music is extremely sophisticated, the product of highly skilled composers, and their beautiful melodies have always been especially beloved.

It’s Martin Luther King Day.   While many state and federal workers have the day off, I hope you’ll take the time today to celebrate the life and ideals of the influential civil rights leader.  Today is a great time to start donating your time and working with a volunteer or community action group in your area.

Bobby McFerrin
Courtesy of the artist

Vocalist Bobby McFerrin is best known for his 1988 hit “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” which was the first a capella song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won three Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year. McFerrin also has five Grammy wins for Best Male Jazz Vocal and has created a concert version of Porgy and Bess. This week McFerrin stops by Song Travels’ studio to talk about his endless creativity and the enduring appeal of the Gershwins.

News Stations: Sun, Jan 15, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Jan 15, 6 pm

Jeannie Cheatham with her late husband, Jimmy Cheatham.
Courtesy of the artist

Pianist and vocalist Jeannie Cheatham began piano lessons at the tender age of five and at 13 became intoxicated with the sounds of jazz. Cheatham toured with such blues artists as Jimmy Witherspoon, T-Bone Walker, Odetta, and Big Mama Thornton.

In the 1950s she met her husband, bass trombonist Jimmy Cheatham, and the pair formed the Sweet Baby Blues Band. On this 1989 Piano Jazz, Cheatham performs “Midnight Mam.” McPartland and Cheatham join forces for a swinging duet on “Perdido.”

News Stations: Sat, Jan 014, 8 pm | Classical Station: Sun, Jan 15, 7 pm

Bruch's Birthday

Jan 6, 2017

Some great composers have been pioneers and musical radicals, and some have been fundamentally conservative. Max Bruch was a conservative to his bones, and it served him well. He established his musical principles early and stuck to them his whole life, regardless of whatever fads, fashions, or new developments were swirling around him.


    

Atonality and dissonance are often linked in listeners’ minds, but they’re not the same thing. Dissonance, from the Latin words for “sounding” and “apart,” is the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes to produce a clashing, or unpleasant effect. Its opposite is consonance, a pleasing sound, a “sounding together.”

Chamber music rehearsals are very different from orchestra rehearsals. In an orchestra rehearsal, it’s the conductor’s job to make the overall musical decisions and to ensure that the members of the orchestra carry them out.


Women's Voices

Jan 3, 2017

In operatic singing, there are three principal voice types for women. From high to low, they are soprano, mezzo-soprano—mezzo meaning “middle” in Italian—and contralto.


Toots Thielemans

Jan 2, 2017
Toots Thielemans
Jos Knaepen

This week Piano Jazz remembers Jean-Baptiste “Toots” Thielemans (1922 – 2016), unrivaled master of the jazz harmonica. He was recognized the world over for his trademark style and tender sound, and he worked with greats such as Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, and Quincy Jones. With a list of recording credits including the theme for Sesame Street, alongside film scores and commercials, Thielemans was a legend. In this session from 2005, he exchanges stories with McPartland and joins her for “Giant Steps” and “Georgia.”

Today is the second of January, and on this date in 1881, the Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate was in Paris to play the premiere of the Violin Concerto No. 3 by Camille Saint-Saëns.


Ann Hampton Callaway
Courtesy of the artist

Tony Award-nominated actress, vocalist and songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway has sung with top orchestras and big bands the world over. As a songwriter, she penned tunes for Barbara Streisand and wrote and sang the theme to the hit sitcom The Nanny. On this Song Travels, she performs a set of standards, including “Our Love is Here to Stay.”

News Stations: Sun, Jan 08, 2 pm | Classical Stations: Sun, Jan 08, 6 pm

Brahms Premiere

Dec 30, 2016

Johannes Brahms had worked on and off for fifteen years to complete his first symphony, but the second took him only four months. He wrote it in a small village by a beautiful lake, and he was apparently inspired by the setting.


Casals' Birthday

Dec 29, 2016

Today we celebrate the birthday of Pablo Casals. Casals, called Pau Casals in his native Catalan language, was born on December 29, 1876, and he lived for almost a century, dying in 1973.


Old-Timey Piano Music

Dec 28, 2016
Courtesy of Artist

Ethan Uslan is a Charlotte based pianist who composes and improvises ragtime and jazz.  On this piano podcast a special edition of Your Compositions. Ethan talks about and performs two of his original compositions. Scroll down for audio. 

Have you ever wondered how the violin came to play such an important role in the history of classical music? Well, it starts with singing. The invention of opera, in late 16th century Florence, marks the beginning of the Baroque period in music, and with it the rise to supremacy of the musical style known as “melody and accompaniment.”


The Violin Family

Dec 27, 2016

The members of the modern violin family are the violin, viola, cello, and double bass. These instruments are descendants of various kinds of medieval fiddles—fiddle, by the way, being an older word than violin—and the medieval fiddles themselves were bowed stringed instruments that were originally imported to Europe from the Middle East.


The Oboe

Dec 26, 2016

The modern oboe most likely originated in France in the 1600's. The word oboe, which is the instrument’s name in both English and Italian, comes from the French name, hautbois, meaning “high wood,” or “loud wood.” Oboes are usually made of African blackwood, which is sometimes called grenadilla.


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