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music articles from NPR Music

All composers have obsessions. For John Adams, a composer who decidedly broke with the past, that obsession is Beethoven, as heard in the new album Absolute Jest.

Back in 1986, Allen Toussaint told All Things Considered that he could write a song from the scraps of a joke, or from snippets of conversations. If the occasion called for it, he could even fashion writer's block into verse.

"Well, how do you write a song?" he offered, playfully. "Do you make it short? Do you make it long? Is there any right? Is there any wrong? Just how do you write a song?"

The Brazilians call it saudade. It's an elusive, almost intoxicating mix of emotions suffused with longing, loss and memory, best evoked in music. Perhaps Ukrainians have their own word for it. But if not, it can surely be heard in Valentin Silvestrov's Nostalghia, a solo piano work from 2001 that may just leave you a little lightheaded and yearning for something inexplicable.

Jeffrey Curnow has a serious funny bone. In his cartoons, he pokes fun at symphony orchestras, conductors and musicians from his perch as the associate principal trumpeter of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

You don't often hear "football" and "bel canto" in the same sentence. How about the same opera?

Outer space is silent, and that may be one reason why a lot of movies about space have iconic scores — in addition to helping advance the the plot, the music in films like Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey must fill a literal void.

It was 30 years ago today that a single American hostage was killed by terrorists during the hijacking of a cruise ship by pro-Palestinian terrorists in the Mediterranean Sea. Leon Klinghoffer's death was the inspiration for a controversial opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, composed by John Adams, with a libretto by Alice Goodman and directed by Peter Sellars.

Stephen Sondheim is widely viewed as the greatest living composer in American musical theater. "Send in the Clowns," from the show A Little Night Music, may be his most famous work — and yet you might not recognize the song as reimagined for solo piano by Ethan Iverson of the band The Bad Plus.