Now is the Time

Saturday, 9 to 10 pm on HD-2 and the Classical Stream

Contemporary American music is being recorded all the time, and Now is the Time to take a listen and explore the music of American composers today. All types...all styles...listen to contemporary American music every Saturday night with host and composer Kile Smith.

As the popular AMC series Mad Men comes to an end, listen back to a revealing and humorous interview with Mad Men Music Editor David Carbonara from March, 2012, as he shares the inside story on how he writes music for Mad Men, how creator Matthew Weiner chooses the '60s songs, and how it's all mixed together to make a hit TV series. And how did he get this gig, anyway?

David, a former trombonist, spices the show with jazz-tinged music that lends flavor as much as the crisp dialogue and mod decor.

The vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth consists of eight classically trained singers incorporating Tuvan throat singing, Appalachian yodeling, operatic trills, rhythmic exhalations and whispered speech into music written by some of the most exciting young composers of the 21st century.

Andy Kahan

Philip Glass is one of the most influential composers of the last 50 years. He’s not the only composer to use slowly changing repetition as a formal device, but his prolific output and the legacy of decades of performances by the Philip Glass Ensemble, have made his sound-world recognizable to millions.

He’s composed numbers well into the double digits of symphonies, operas, and film soundtracks, along with string quartets, concertos, ballets, songs, and so much more. His autobiography Words without Music recounts what Ornette Coleman told him: there was a difference between the music world and the music business. It's a lesson he never forgot.

He worked in his father’s Baltimore record store, and was a furniture mover, cab driver, and plumber. He studied at Juilliard and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, then formed his ensemble and began touring. Operas, beginning with Einstein on the Beach, made him so famous that Peter Schickele poked fun with a P.D.Q. Bach opera, Einstein on the Fritz. Philip Glass loved it.

He's worked with Ravi Shankar, Martin Scorsese, Samuel Beckett, and David Bowie, and broke down the wall between uptown classical and downtown vernacular. The sound of contemporary music is due, in no small part, to Philip Glass.

Forms traditional, and those not so, arise on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 18th at 9 pm. Composers often wrestle over titles, hoping to trumpet putative musical originality with a never-seen-before moniker. Paul Moravec, however, writes a piece for string quartet plus piano and calls it what it is: Piano Quintet. With the Lark Quartet, with pianist Jeremy Denk, and with his keen ear for profound energy, Moravec has that ease to call things what they are, and we are rewarded.

John Hodian’s six-part MMU-14 is mysteriously-titled but engagingly entertaining. Written way back in the 1980s, it’s a work of surface repetition, but listen closely, as it’s rare that any two measures are exactly like the next two. For overdubbed acoustic instruments, MMU-14 uses just a soupçon of electronics to produce an attractive yet propulsive drive.

Passover and Remembering

Apr 10, 2015

Passover passes and remembrance continues on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 11th at 9 pm. The composer and guitarist David Leisner tells the story, in Acrobats, of circus performers on a concentration camp-bound train who mistakenly end up at a circus. Life-and-death decisions are made in split seconds. Raphael Mostel was concerned with the Second World War destruction and eventual liberation of Rotterdam, but as he composed in September 2001, a plane headed to the World Trade Center flew over his building. Shofars and brass shudder in Night and Dawn.

John Morton recalls, by way of a modified music box, a Passover meal’s interlude in The Parting. Conductor Gerard Schwarz is also a composer, and wrote In Memoriam for the passing of a friend. It premiered at a Holocaust memorial concert, and featured as soloist Schwarz’s cellist son Julian. The Hebrew term for the Red Sea actually translates to “Sea of Reeds,” so that may be the body of water that the Israelites crossed in their Exodus from Egypt. From the Sea of Reeds CD by Gerald Cohen is a work for violin, clarinet, and piano, an extended blues called Variously Blue.

The Women at the Cross

Apr 3, 2015

Two Philadelphia composers explore sacred themes on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 4th at 9 pm. Holy the Firm is the song cycle by James Primosch on texts by Denise Levertov, Annie Dillard, Susan Stewart, and the 7th-century John Climacus, whose monastic treatise The Ladder of Divine Ascent takes its inspiration from the angels in Jacob's dream. From Primosch's Sacred Songs CD, this is magical and colorful writing for soprano and small orchestra.

Curt Cacioppo's Women at the Cross, from his recent CD Ritornello, is a suite for string quartet and piano focused on the week of the Passion of Christ. The movements are Maria gratia plena (Mary, full of grace), Procula, Veronica, Maddalena, La terza Maria, Salome, and Sons of Thunder; the finale refers to James and John, called "Boanerges" or "Sons of Thunder" by Jesus, and thought to be the sons of one of the women disciples, Salome.

Candace diCarlo

The door closed behind Jennifer Higdon. She was in the office of her college conducting professor, Robert Spano, seeking advice about what to do. She had just heard back from the Curtis Institute of Music - they had accepted her application for graduate studies, but so had other music schools. She needed guidance.  "I'm not letting you out of here," Spano said, until she agreed to accept the spot from Curtis.

It’s all whispers and shadows on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 28th at 9 pm. Deliciously riffing on Shakespeare takes us to where comedy, tears, and romance meet, in Daron Hagen’s Much Ado for orchestra. JG Thirlwell produces sweeping cinematic drama in his Brooklyn studio with 10 Ton Shadow, and the glorious sounds of Chanticleer revolve William Byrd around Walt Whitman’s “Whispers of Heavenly Death” in Whispers by Steven Stucky.

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project performs Lewis Spratlan’s Apollo and Daphne Variations, an extensive metamorphosis on the myth of change to escape predation. Carleton Macy closes the program with Elusive Dreams for saxophone quartet.

Everything's numbered on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 21st at 9 pm. Rudy Davenport comes up with Seven Innocent Dances for harpsichord, and for piano are the Bagatelles of Paul Chihara, subtitled Twice Seven Haiku.

The Ancia Saxophone Quartet performs David Bixler's Heptagon, and Joel Chadabe electronically modifies the playing of Esther Lamneck on the tarógató, the Hungarian single-reed instrument related to the saxophone, in Many Times Esther. Lucas Ligeti writes about three places he's visited in Triangulation, for the electronic percussion instrument called marimba lumina.