Kile Smith

Classical Host

Kile Smith hosts the contemporary American music program Now Is the Time on Saturdays at 9 pm on HD-2 and the classical stream, and co-hosts Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection on the first Saturday of every month at 5 pm with Jack Moore. Discoveries takes a fresh look at music in the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia, where Kile was curator for 18 years. He also fills in as an on-air classical host.
 
When he's not producing podcasts of CD reviews for WRTI, writing for the Broad Street Review, or teaching private composition, Kile is busy composing orchestral, choral, chamber, and liturgical works. His music is praised by critics and audiences for its emotional power, direct appeal, and strong voice. Gramophone magazine calls his Vespers "spectacular," possessing "sparkling beauty." The Philadelphia Inquirer describes his music as "breathtaking."
 
He's composed for The Crossing, Piffaro, Orchestra 2001, and the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival. He's also written for David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Jennifer Montone, Philadelphia's principal horn, and Anne Martindale Williams, principal cello of the Pittsburgh Symphony. His website is kilesmith.com.

The weeds in his ever-widening gardens hint that he needs to get outside more.

Ways to Connect

Out of machinery, music on Now Is the Time, Sunday, July 28th at 10 pm. Dan Trueman combines hi- and lo-tech into gear that audibly shines in neither Anvil nor Pulley. He founded and directs the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, but fell in love with the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle (pictured). That sound, and its rustic, dust-raising energy infuses this work. nAnP features that fiddle, Trueman's computing expertise, a turntable, and his brilliant collaborators So Percussion.

A computer is a tool "that hides its purpose," Trueman says, but a piano is a machine we think we know well. One of the more difficult tasks in composing is to write a work for two pianos that make both pianos sound necessary. Riffing in Tandem succeeds by joining the lyricism of Rodney Rogers with virtuosity that is always musical. How can music come from machines, even machines we know well?

Heat isn't all there is to summer on Now Is the Time, Sunday, July 21st at 10 pm. Gao Hong not only composed Guangxi Impressions, but also plays the pipa, or Chinese lute, on her work, along with the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet. It includes Summer Cicada and Celebrating the Harvest. Ronald Perera follows with Five Summer Songs of Emily Dickinson, looking at changing gardens, jostling winds, and reveries.

Two composer/guitarists round out the program. Van Stiefel always wondered why there weren't more violin/guitar duos in the literature, so he wrote one, Smoke and Mirrors, using violin with electric guitar. John King's Lightning Slide imagines blues for the string quartet Ethel. Its movements are Swing, Sweet, and Sweat: if heat isn't all there is to summer, sometimes it just seems that way.

Two guys buy a cheap guitar and get all their friends to write for it on Now Is the Time, Sunday, July 14th at 10 pm. Nick Didkovsky and Chuck O'Meara set some ground rules: keep the guitar for a week, don't alter it, and pay to send it to the next person. Other than that, just have fun. Out of two CDs' worth of short pieces on the album they call The $100 Guitar Project, we'll hear a dozen, ranging from metal to metaphysical, from downtown to out there.

Keeping to the guitar motif is George Crumb's paean to the dogs in his family over the years, Mundus Canis for solo guitar and percussion. There's also lots of guitar and percussion in a live excerpt from Annie Gosfield's written-and-improvised Daughters of the Industrial Revolution. David Leisner's trio for flute, guitar, and cello sounded vaguely Italian to him, so he gave it an Italian title, Trittico. Finally, Steve Bowman assembles his keyboard/computer electronica from live performances; Gutterball sounds all the world like electric guitar to us; other than that, it's just fun.

We reflect on the Battle of Gettysburg’s 150th Anniversary on Now Is the Time, Sunday, July 7th at 10 pm. Warren Swenson sets the Civil War poetry of Moby-Dick author Herman Melville in Battle Pieces. Infused with the musical accents of the time and with riveting word pictures, Battle Pieces honors, in Lincoln’s undying phrase, “the last full measure of devotion” given at Gettysburg.

Dedications of other sorts round out the program. In the short brass piece Numbering the Stars, Rodney Rogers quotes the 19th-century hymn “Wondrous Love.” Sarah Meneely Kyder sets a poem of her sister’s, using text from their father in World War II, in Letter from Italy, 1944. With Zoë Cansdale of Hartburn, Dick Hensold remembers the life of a young woman taken too soon, in music for pipes that is both poignant and uplifting.

Joseph Hoch was an influential lawyer in 19th-century Frankfurt whose father had been mayor, and whose mother and wife both were of Swiss aristocracy. Money he had plenty of, but no children, so he decided to leave his fortune to the founding of a Frankfurt conservatory for the arts. The Hoch Conservatory began training students in 1878, almost four years to the day after Joseph’s death. With faculty luminaries such as Clara Schumann, it quickly rose to be a leading German institution, competing with Leipzig and Berlin for students from Europe and elsewhere.

Stories of suffering and joy define our culture on Now Is the Time, Sunday, June 30th at 10 pm. Elena Ruehr’s Averno sets the poetry of Pulitzer-winning Louise Glück, the 2003-04 U.S. Poet Laureate. The door to the underworld in Roman myth is at Lake Averno or Avernus. Averno the cantata explores cycles of death and growth in the story of Demeter’s daughter Persephone and her abduction by Hades.

Chelm in Poland is the venue for countless tales of Jewish humor, such as the man who leaves for a new city, gets turned around during the night, and walks back to his hometown thinking it’s a new place. There are three sections to Sages of Chelm by Matthew H. Fields; we’ll have time to hear the last. Following I. Khutzpah and II. Tsores (“Troubles”), we’ll listen to the happy resolution in Simchas, which means “Joy.”

Now is the Time—contemporary American music on WRTI-HD2 and online, Saturday nights at 9—ought to have theme music, I thought in the weeks leading up to our first broadcast on June 1st, 2008. I started looking through works of mine, as I did with the theme for Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, to see if anything would fit.

I looked over everything that had survived ritual burning up to that point, and the only piece that came close was a curious Four Hymns for Four Guitars, written in, wow, 1985 for the amiable Philadelphia Guitar Quartet. Wonderful guys all, astute musicians, and very helpful when I was working on it.

It's surprising remembrance on Now Is the Time, Sunday, June 16th at 10 pm. In her Cantata da Requiem, World War II Poems of Peace, Gloria Coates gathers unlikely texts—including a BBC 1942 weather report—into a haunting cry.

Philip Blackburn remixes Robert Moran's 9/11 memorial Trinity Requiem, combining the shards of that beautiful piece into something new and lovely, Requiem for a Requiem.

David Chesky's Psalm III for string orchestra hints at resurrection, and the Quartet No. 3 of Philip Glass, a memorial to the Japanese author Yukio Mishima and originally for string quartet, is made new in the liquid playing of the Oasis Saxophone Quartet.

It's all movement and angles on Now Is the Time, Sunday, June 9th at 10 pm. Sergio Cervetti's two harpsichord pieces Candombe and Alberada spin and dance, while Elizabeth Brown's chamber work Liguria bends deliciously (she's also the flutist).

Another composer/performer is the Philadelphia area's Steve Bowman, whose electronic Odd Angle of the Isle is mixed down from live club dates (no sequencers! no multi-tracking!). Steven Winteregg imagines an orchestral bullet train speeding through France with a brisk TGV, but David Evan Thomas's Thrum nudges the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet through layers and soft waves to close the program.

It’s two large works—one for piano, one for string quartet—on Now Is the Time, Sunday, June 2nd at 10 pm. The Sonata for Piano Solo by Judith Lang Zaimont shows its depth through color and a confident use of materials: not afraid to echo Beethoven’s “Pathéthique” Sonata in the second movement, she carries it off beautifully. The Van Cliburn Competition used the third movement of this sonata in 2001.

As a child growing up in New York City during World War II, Steve Reich traveled East Coast to West Coast and back by train. He later learned that there were other people on other trains at the same time in Poland, in Hungary, who were being taken to their deaths. Different Trains places the Kronos string quartet against its recorded self, along with the voices of some who survived the Holocaust.

Pages