How much do you know about Richard Wagner? Probably two unfavorable facts: He wrote very long, grandiose operas and was Hitler's favorite composer. As true as they are, those simple examples barely hint at the complexity of this endlessly creative and confounding artist.
In German, it's wiegenlied; in French, berceuse; in Norwegian, vuggevise. In any language, the universal effect of what we know as the lullaby is, of course, to coax a baby to sleep.
Violinist Rachel Barton Pine had her own baby in mind when she decided to record a collection of lullabies. Her infant daughter appears on the cover of the new album Violin Lullabies — all folded up, fast asleep, so tiny she just about fits in her dad's hands.
Originally published on Tue April 30, 2013 12:40 pm
The pianist and composer John Beasley has one of the most formidable tasks of anyone associated with today's International Jazz Day, the celebration produced by UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. He's music director of the centerpiece concert to be live-streamed from Istanbul tonight (2 p.m. ET in the U.S.).
Comparisons have always helped me appreciate jazz. An artist plays a tune fast; another does it as a ballad. A trumpeter finishes his solo, and a saxophonist takes that closing phrase and morphs it in a different direction. A musician revisits a composition years later with a new arrangement and ensemble. Aligned side by side, you get a good sense of why jazz is a music of individual style, and of gradual accretion, and of friendly "Oh, yeah, watch this" motivation.
How do you write something like Partita for 8 Voices, the a cappella vocal piece that is this year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for music?
"Very late at night," says the composer, Caroline Shaw, speaking with NPR's Scott Simon. "Sometimes it comes from having a sound in your head that you really want to hear, that you've never heard before, and struggling to make that sound happen in any way you can."
This week — when many of us at NPR rushed to file our U.S. federal income-tax returns, then moved to a new headquarters — I'm reminded of a moment in jazz history. Namely, the mid-1940s, when a new style called bebop came into popularity.