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.

A string quartet and a solo cello breathe on Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 8th at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. Michael Hersch wrote the Sonata No. 1 for Unaccompanied Cello when he was all of 23 years old, and already, his dark, simple lines reached through the air to brilliance. The inner virtuosity of emotional movement looms over this music.

Simplicity and small steps also mesmerize within the writing of Lois V Vierk. Into the Brightening Air, inspired by Yeats and dedicated to composer/pianist Mel Powell, takes a quartet of strings on an unexpected journey past familiar landscapes. The windows are down and the wind in our face both soothes and surprises.

We remember Stephen Paulus in this rebroadcast, from last spring, of Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 1st at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. Paulus, who died on October 19th (see our remembrance here), wrote comfortably in every genre; we start the program with a short, sassy work played by pianist Lara Downes, his Prelude No. 3: Sprightly. Then guitarist David Starobin and composer William Bland go way back to their school days. Starobin loves playing Bland's music, and we'll hear six of a projected cycle of 48 Preludes.

We return to the piano for the 12 Preludes of Bernard Rands, covering a wide landscape of emotional and tonal range. Included are two movements in memoriam of composer colleagues of Rands, Luciano Berio and Donald Martino.

Pre-Halloween Suites

Oct 24, 2014

Let's have suites before Halloween on Now Is the Time, Saturday, October 25th at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. A Prelude, Sarabande, Burlesca, and Gigue make up the Partita (just another name for suite) for piano by Anthony Iannaccone. Guitarist David Starobin loves playing the music of Paul Lansky for, besides being a wonderful composer, Lansky also plays the guitar and knows the instrument very well. The recipe for his Semi-Suite includes Putative Prelude, Aimless Air, Crooked Courante, Shameless Sarabande, Awkward Allemande, and Partly Pavane.

Philadelphia composer Harold Boatrite's Lyric Suite for Piano is from his piano and harpsichord CD of a few years back, Sonatas & Suites. Andy Teirstein boils down a work for multiple strings, written for an outdoor procession, to a string quartet, for the final work on our program, simply, Suite.

It has to be 30 years ago now; I was sitting in a cafe with composers Jennifer Higdon, Rob Maggio, Sylvia Glickman, and a fellow in town from Minnesota, who was advising us on a composer organization start-up. He was already well-known in composer circles as the one who, with Libby Larsen, began in Minnesota what became the largest composer service organization in the world, the American Composers Forum. 

His name was Stephen Paulus. He died at age 65 on Sunday, October 19th. He had suffered a debilitating stroke on July 4th, 2013, saddening musicians and audiences everywhere. Now we mourn.

At that table, his enthusiasm and positive energy were contagious, but I remember most of all his kindness. His music reflects that, too. A few months ago I programmed a short work, his Prelude No. 3 for piano, on WRTI's contemporary American music program Now Is the Time. "Sprightly" is Paulus's subtitle, and it encapsulates what I always hear in his music—be it choral, orchestral, operatic. From his more than 500 works, what I always hear is simplicity (even with complicated materials) and melodic openness.

It's one voice among all on Now Is the Time, Saturday, October 11th at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. Two concertos—the ultimate one vs. many format—bookend a lone flute on this week's program. Meditation and Caprice are the two movements of the engaging, mesmerizing Violin Concerto by Kevin Puts.

Robert Baksa's Soliloquy from 1997, and from a CD of his flute music, is subtitled "Krishna's Song," as the Hindu deity is often pictured playing the flute. The energetic and moody Clarinet Concerto of Paul Moravec features soloist David Krakauer. Moravec wrote this while he was in residence at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton.

Classical covers pop on Now Is the Time, Saturday, October 4th at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. Cellist Maya Beiser's new CD Uncovered ranges over the landscape of hits with aggressive yet nuanced playing. The arrangements are by composer Evan Ziporyn; Led Zeppelin's Kashmir and Nirvana's Lithium get a workout here. Michael Daugherty brings a high-powered wind band to the house for Motown Metal.

The string quartet has its say in two works. Paul Schoenfeld imagined, in Four Music Videos, what MTV was all about, having admitted he'd never watched it, and creates magic. Jeremy Cohen's arrangement of Duke Ellington's The Mooche for his Quartet San Francisco makes you feel that the Duke wrote this just for them. Those slinky chords are so etched in our minds, all composers must wish they'd thought of them first.

Voices of Autumn

Sep 26, 2014

Say hello to fall on Now Is the Time, Saturday, September 27th at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. Jonathan Miller conducts Chicago a cappella in his setting of The Fall, a little poem about a boy, holding leaves over his head, pretending to be a tree. When he drops them, his parents say, "Look, it is fall." Composer/harpist Anne LeBaron joins with shakuhachi and koto in her trio Into Something Rich and Strange, and Ursula Oppens plays a piece that John Corigliano made up out of improvisations, Winging It.

Chanticleer sings the Buddhist chant–inspired Voices of Autumn by Jackson Hill, and from the CD As Falling Leaves comes Arabesques of Adolphus Hailstork, for flute and mallet percussion. Finally, the change in seasons reminds us of Keeping Time, which just happens to be the title of a work from Dan Becker's new CD, Fade.

Dancing Loops

Sep 19, 2014

Two versions of the same piece encircle Now Is the Time, Saturday, September 20th at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. Mathew Rosenblum wrote Möbius Loop for saxophone quartet and for saxophone quartet with orchestra—we'll hear both versions, one at the beginning of the show, and one at the end. The Raschèr Saxophone Quartet leads the way, with Gil Rose's Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

Electro-acoustical music of Rand Steiger is 13 Loops, with digital processing of some of the sounds accompanying the performers as they play. Paring all the way down to a single flute, however, is Whirlwinds Dancing by R. Carlos Nakai. Lisamarie McGrath solos on the Native American flute; the characteristic chiff at the beginning of the notes charm us into a circling reverie.

Dead Man Walking

Sep 12, 2014

Masks are worn and removed on Now Is the Time, Saturday, September 13th at 9 pm at and WRTI-HD2. The flutist and composer Katherine Hoover has greatly expanded the literature for her instrument with genial yet focused music. Masks, for flute and piano, includes the movements Haida Indian mask, Huichol Jaguar mask, Afro-American Death mask, and Clown mask. It succeeds in being charming and self-effacing at the same time.

The mask worn by murderer Joseph De Rocher slowly slips as Sister Helen Prejean visits, counsels, and shows love to him in Dead Man Walking, Jake Heggie's opera from just a few years ago. We have time for excerpts from both acts, including the riveting ending, with his confession and the echo of a gospel song. Joyce DiDonato, Philip Cutlip, and Frederica von Stade head the cast.

Musicologist and pianist Charles Rosen once quipped: "The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition." But it's tough to see much gloom when faced with the diversity of premieres and provocative programming around the country in the 2014-2015 season.