t amazes me how many films today have a soundtrack that isn't informed by the movie itself. This interchangeable claptrap has made it almost impossible to review. But composer William Susman flavors the setting of Sarah Sifer's Fate of the Lhapa beautifully. Interestingly enough, I saw this documentary many, many years ago, and it truly affected me, but I never knew the soundtrack was available until it was sent to me to review 13 years after its original release. Go figure.
While there are certainly traditional forms of Western instrumentation such as harp, Susman has incorporated sounds we would associate with Nepal: There is no list, but I believe we are hearing drums - such as the dhimay, madal, and khin - a bansuri (a bamboo flute), a plucked string (perhaps the tunga), tingsha cymbals, a sringa (a large "C"- or "S"-shaped horn which is also a political symbol), and more. Along the way is minimalism that is so transporting it would make Philip Glass proud, as it helps achieve a sense of bittersweet spirituality so prevalent in the film. (Glass is also a fierce proponent for Nepal's freedom and Buddhist principles - the latter evidenced in his opera, Satyagraha.)
At first, part of the fun for me was parsing out the instruments (wait - is this sound that conch shell that has both ritual and religious importance in Hinduism?), but magically by the seventh of eleven tracks, they merge into a higher plane of trance-inducing balminess that lovingly elucidates the subject matter. While it's accurate to say that the music of Susman (who also performs) blends that mysterious, uncanny long-established Asian music with those soul-moving Western strings evokes what the press notes call an "ancient healing tradition in danger of extinction," this is music that stands alone from the film - in fact, this journey requires you to listen with headphones on and your eyes closed. The mixing by Stephen Hart at Berkeley's Fantasy Studios makes everything sound crystal clear.
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James Whale's film classic Frankenstein (1931), starring Boris Karloff, was released without a musical score, as were many films in those early days of the talkie. A number of critics, including Leonard Maltin, have remarked that Frankenstein is badly in need of music. Michael Shapiro's 70-minute score is written to be played simultaneously with the screening of the film. For modern-day concert- and moviegoers, his haunting music adds significantly to the emotional impact of the film.
Harmonious World Podcast's Hilary Robertson interviews composer and conductor Michael Shapiro.There's a good chance that I'll be jumping on a plane as soon as such things are possible again - this time to see the operatic version of Michael's film score to the original film of...
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Ben Rosenblum plays both piano and accordion on this pastoral session with the blended horns of trumpeter Wayne Tucker, Jasper Dutz on tenor sax or bass clarinet, guitarist Rafael Rosa, bassist Marty Jaffe, drummer Ben Zweig and guests Jake Chapman/vib, Sam Chess/tb and Jeremy Corren/p. Chapman's vibes team with Tucker's horn on an Old World tango of a title track with added accordion atmosphere, with similar moods with Corren replacing Chapman on the European "Motif From Brahms". A fun tarantella with Tucker out in front gets you dancing on "Fight Or Flight" with the horns in gorgeous harmony on the elegiac "Bright Above Us" and the folk tune "Izpoved". The team takes a dreamy read of Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" with Neil Young's "Philadelphia" a rich vehicle for Rosa and Chess. Sounds of the piazza.
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Labrinth pulls off yet another pristine, passionate endeavour through his latest number ‘No Ordinary.' The British singer-songwriter has always displayed a knack for taking simple melodies and working wonders with them, and he does so again with this latest feature.
The composition is gentle but magical in its own way, especially when coupled with Labrinth's soulful, touching voice that seems to hit every feeling in the range. The first verse makes use of light bass instrumentation that is resounding without being overpowering; the vast majority of the focus is on Labrinth's phenomenal vocal range that's underscored at each and every step of the way. What gives the composition the extra edge is the vocal layering and overlapping that carries us all the way to the chorus. His voice is so powerful that even the moderate notes are charged with an all-consuming force. The lyrics refer to both ‘devotion' and ‘Holy Ghost,' hinting to the religious stylings of the melody, though they're never hammered in.
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NPR Music and Lara Downes announce the launch of AMPLIFY With Lara Downes, a new bi-weekly series of intimate and deeply personal video conversations with visionary Black musicians who are shaping the present and future of the art form, premiering Saturday, October 17 on NPRMusic.org, YouTube, and social media platforms.
Created and hosted by pianist and artist Lara Downes, and co-produced by NPR Music's Tom Huizenga, this series invites viewers to experience raw, revealing, and open-hearted conversations reflecting on how artists are responding and creating in this time of profound challenge and change. Downes and her guests-initially including MacArthur Fellow vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens, 2020 Avery Fisher Prize-winning clarinetist Anthony McGill, multidisciplinary artist Helga Davis, and vocalist Davóne Tines, with other guests such as Sheku Kanneh-Mason and family to follow-connect and reflect on highly relevant themes ranging from music and mission, legacy and lineage, to transformation and change.
Guests to include Rhiannon Giddens, Anthony McGill, Helga Davis, Davóne Tines, and Sheku Kanneh-Mason and family.
Series premieres today!! Saturday, October 17 on NPR Music.org and NPR's YouTube and social media platforms.
Says Downes of the series: "In this time of our collective reckoning about historical inequities in American life and art, I'm excited to amplify the voices of extraordinary artists of color, shining a bright light on a diverse and rich future that is, in the words of James Weldon Johnson, 'full of the hope that the present has brought us.'"
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What is multiple Grammy-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin's response to everyone wearing masks to stay healthy? "Welcome to my world!" she says. "I've been wearing an N95 mask for almost 20 years on every single airplane flight, and since doing that, I've never gotten sick from flying."
In this 90.1WRTI: Philadelphia TIME IN interview, Sharon talks about navigating the pandemic with more healthy habits, including Transcendental Meditation, and learning the technology to create new ways (beyond Zoom) of teaching her guitar students at Juilliard, where she directs the department she founded in 1989.
Sharon met with me on Zoom on September 22nd, 2020 to talk about life during the panedemic. Here are edited excerpts from our conversation:
For her latest studio album, pianist Hélène Grimaud travels to Salzburg where she creates a fascinating juxtaposition between the eternal Mozart and the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. In selecting the music for this album, Grimaud has carefully chosen music by Mozart that fits into an overall dramaturgy: from his famous unfinished D minor Fantasy, she transitions seamlessly into the great D minor concerto, K. 466. The C minor Fantasy then signals "the end of Mozart" and a new beginning: Silvestrov's The Messenger starts with a theme reminiscent of Mozart and creates a connection between the present and the world that existed before.
For October 15 2020, Hélène Grimaud: The Messenger is the WFMT: Chicago 'Featured New Release'
Inspired by the ground-breaking mission of NASA's Juno space probe and its ongoing exploration of Jupiter, Juno to Jupiter is a multi-dimensional musical journey through electronic, progressive, ambient, techno, orchestral, and vocal music.
Milan Records today announces the release of Luca Guadagnino's WE ARE WHO WE ARE (ORIGINAL SERIES SCORE) featuring music by producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, songwriter and vocalist DEVONTÉ HYNES.
Read the Transcript - Classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein is just back from Havana, where she performed with Cuba's National Youth Orchestra. She is also working with young people back in her hometown, New York. One of her goals? To introduce students to the composer she's best known for performing - Johann Sebastian Bach. She's taking digital pianos into public schools in a program she calls "Bach-packing."
Morning Edition host David Greene spoke to Dinnerstein about her trip, her methods for teaching kids about Baroque music, and her past four difficult years, which culminated in her most recent album, Broadway-Lafayette, including concertos by Ravel and American composer Philip Lasser and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.
Simone Dinnerstein: I was very surprised. You know, you go to Cuba, and it feels like, for me it feels like going to this secret world that existed all this time, but you didn't really know what was going on. Certainly, in terms of classical music, you don't really associate classical music with Cuba. It turns out that they're really being beautifully trained there, and it was a real joy to play Mozart with them.
The people in the orchestra were ages, I think, 15 to 25, and they just played so beautifully. They were really listening, and they're playing on really poor quality instruments. Actually, it's kind of fascinating - they can't afford to buy strings regularly for the string instruments, so they tune their instruments very low so that the strings won't break, which is really bizarre. We're used to the A being a certain pitch here, being A440, and there it's A336 to preserve the strings.
David Greene: I don't know much about this, but if you're higher, you're using tighter strings and there's a better chance of breaking - is that right?
Right. And also, some of the violinists there were using telephone wires as their E strings because they couldn't afford E strings. It's incredible.
That's amazing. That makes you appreciate the sound that they were creating even more.
I know. It's really amazing, and I wish I could just buy them a whole lot of strings and send them over there.
Dinnerstein wants to train kids in New York to listen, "especially how to listen for multiple voices at the same time, which is something that hardly exists in popular music," she says.
Greene: What does that mean in classical music?
Dinnerstein: Well, in a very basic way, if I was to play a Bach two-part invention, my right hand is what I call one voice - it has one sort of song, one line, one melody that it's playing. The left hand has another voice that is being played, and there's this interaction and a kind of dialogue between those two hands or those two voices, as we call them. I'll have two children come up to the piano, sitting next to each other, and I'll give them just a few notes to work with. I'll have one of them play a pattern, just make up a pattern, and then the other child has to imitate that pattern.
Dinnerstein has had some trouble maintaining her busy performance schedule at times. She shared with NPR this deeply personal side of her life:
Dinnerstein: Well, actually, the past four years my husband and I really wanted to have another child. That's quite complicated to do, because I'm away about half of each month. Unfortunately, we went through lots of difficulties trying to make this happen, and did the whole going to fertility centers and trying that route. I wound up having four miscarriages over the course of three years. Last year, I was supposed to go to Havana, and I had a miscarriage right before I was going to go, and I couldn't go. It's a very, very draining process to go through. It was really very hard to be traveling and playing concerts and dealing with these losses that I had, and I had quite a few concerts I had to cancel that were big concerts - my Paris debut, my Milan debut. Those concerts were never rescheduled. It's made me feel very unwomanly. I have a son, but not being able to have another child made me feel really awful about myself, and it's very hard to get on the stage when you feel like that.
Greene: I am so sorry. This sounds like a really tough four years you've been through.
Thank you. While I was experiencing all these different pregnancies and this whole process, a very dear friend of mine, the composer Philip Lasser, was writing a piano concerto for me. Oddly, it took him the same amount of time to write the concerto as it took for me to go through all of these different miscarriages. He was creating this piece of music for me, and I was trying to create a child.
The name of it is The Circle and the Child.
Yes, The Circle and the Child. Which is not about my miscarriages at all, but it is about the cycle of life and innocence and experience and that circularity that happens. I've always thought of my CDs almost as my musical children. You create them very lovingly and carefully and then send them out into the world, and they're a small part of you that go out there. They affect people, and you don't know how. This CD has this concerto on it as well as two other concertos that represent something from this time period, and I think there was something cathartic for me about being able to record them and, you know, bring them to life.
Well, Simone Dinnerstein, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, and I wish you the best of luck with this CD and for happier times coming soon.
Sony Classical has released acclaimed pianist Simone Dinnerstein's new album, Mozart in Havana. The new album, recorded in Cuba, may be her most ambitious to date and is a testament to music's ability to cross all cultural and language barriers.For it, Dinnerstein has collaborated with the virtuosic Havana Lyceum Orchestra to perform Mozart's Piano Concerto Nos. 21 and 23. In June, the Orchestra will also make their American debut in a series of concerts, the first time an orchestra of this size has traveled to the U.S. from Cuba since the revolution.
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Sony Classical releases the new CD from pianist Simone Dinnerstein - Broadway-Lafayette on February 24, 2015. The music on this album celebrates the time-honored transatlantic link between France and America through the music of George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue), Maurice Ravel (Piano Concerto in G Major), and Philip Lasser (The Circle and the Child: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, written for Dinnerstein). The album was recorded with conductor Kristjan Järvi and the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra, by Grammy-winning producer Adam Abeshouse.
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Simone Dinnerstein's new CD of J.S. Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias has been released on Sony Classical. The pianist made the recording at the Academy of Arts and Letters in New York and worked on the project along with Grammy-winning producer Adam Abeshouse. Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias, originally written in 1723 as musical guide for keyboard players, remain a core part of the piano repertoire for students, amateurs, and professional musicians alike and have been lifelong companions for Dinnerstein.
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Sony Classical will internationally release pianist Simone Dinnerstein's second album Something Almost Being Said:The Music of Bach and Schubert. The new album combines J. S. Bach's Partitas Nos. 1 and 2, with Schubert's Four Impromptus, Op. 90, and was recorded at the Academy of Arts and Letters in New York by Grammy-winning producer Adam Abeshouse. The album's title is taken from English poet Philip Larkin's poem, The Trees.
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"An utterly distinctive voice in the forest of Bach interpretation..." The New York Times
Simone Dinnerstein's first album on Sony Classical Bach: A Strange Beauty sees the pianist return to Bach, this time combining three transcriptions of his Chorale Preludes with one of his English Suites and two of his Keyboard Concerti. Simone Dinnerstein's special affinity to the music of Bach was cemented when her self-funded recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations took the US Billboard charts by storm on its release in 2007. The album drew intense critical acclaim and Dinnerstein's unique playing garnered such impressive reviews as that from The New York Times "An utterly distinctive voice in the forest of Bach interpretation."
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