Composer

The Mystery of Music as an Art Form

Jan 9, 2017
Credit: Jeff Herman

Music can be mysterious, even to those who spend their lives creating it. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, composer Christopher Rouse ponders the profound power of music with his concerto for organ and orchestra.

Classical composers have long had their patrons: Beethoven had Archduke Rudolph, John Cage had Betty Freeman. For contemporary opera composers, there's Beth Morrison. She and her production company have commissioned new works from some of the most innovative emerging composers today.

Ben Johnston doesn't follow the rules of music. Sure, he's got degrees from two colleges and a conservatory. But from an early age, Johnston heard music differently. When he was growing up in Georgia, he questioned the standard scales he was taught in school. "I played by ear and I invented my own chords," he says.

Ennio Morricone is as about close as a film composer can come to being a household name — and, at age 88, he's still going strong. This year, he was signed to a new record label and has now released a new recording, Morricone 60, named for the number of years he's been in the business.

John Williams, so famous for his award-winning film scores including Jaws, Star Wars, and Schindler’s List, wrote a violin concerto that transcends the personal story behind it. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more.

Brian Eno. David Bowie. Kraftwerk. Radiohead. Aphex Twin. The National. These are just some of the contemporary artists and bands who have looked up to American composer Steve Reich.

Credit: Opera Philadelphia

WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston considers a question of operatic proportion, with notable librettist Mark Campbell.

Tomorrow, two final works from composer James Horner will reach American ears: a concert piece being released on CD, and his score for the remake of the Western adventure The Magnificent Seven. The composer died a little more than a year ago in a plane crash, after creating more than 100 film scores over nearly 40 years.

Talk to nearly any classical music critic about heroes of the trade and one name usually comes up: Virgil Thomson. Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times advises: "Every practicing and aspiring critic today should read Thomson's exhilarating writings."

 

In 1930, The Philadelphia Orchestra gave a successful U.S. premiere of the 10th symphony of a revered Russian composer—Nikolai Miaskovsky—sometimes called "The Father of the Soviet Symphony." As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, the work and the composer, both little known in America in today, are being championed by one of today's leading conductors.

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