Arts

Arts and culture

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel — one of the most famous Venezuelans in the world today and one of the world's most prominent classical musicians — issued an open letter today to the president and government in his native country.

Long reticent to address politics directly, he has published his comments in a letter titled "Levanto Mi Voz / I Raise My Voice," in both Spanish and English. (The full text is below, in both languages.)

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

As a composer, I entered a profession in which I knew I could actively alter our fractious present using the incomparable tools of art. After all, the intellectually curious and essentially progressive landscapes of our concert halls and opera houses seem like the perfect arenas in which to harness momentum for change and, through the aspirational craft of music, feel the resurrection of hope in the midst of despair and apathy.

Jeff VanderMeer is that rare author who's about to become a household name.

One of his books, Annihilation, was made into a movie which Paramount Pictures scheduled for release this September. The film stars Natalie Portman.

VanderMeer's best-selling novel is an NIU "STEM Read" selection; that group held an event with the author Monday at the DeKalb Public Library.

For this week's show, Bob Boilen and I throw open the studio door to welcome a parade of guests from the NPR Music team, each sharing their favorite April releases. This includes Jake Witz, one of our fabulous Spring interns, who has some relatively restrained music from U.K. grime artist Mr. Mitch.

What will Bill Murray do next?

The beloved actor's curiosity seems boundless. It should be no surprise, then, to learn that his new project finds him paired with a classical cellist.

A 23-year-old, Russian-born violinist named Artem Kolesov is capturing international attention after posting a YouTube video in which he comes out as gay.

WNIJ/Chase Cavanaugh

A popular art trend has gained a firm foothold at the Edward Hines Veterans Administration Hospital, with 15 departments taking part in an “adapt a pallet” program.

The results are now strategically placed around the facility’s 147-acre campus.

“A clinical nurse manager actually started the program,” said Phil Chiaramonte, co-chair of the Hines Organizational Health Committee. “She teamed up with patients to paint the first pallet. Then she brought it to the Patient-Centered Care Committee to take it campuswide.”

Mike Doyle wasn't in Belvidere on April 21, 1967. The Rockford native was a freshman at UW-Whitewater when an F4 tornado ripped through Boone County.

But Doyle's been living with that twister for years.

His book, The Belvidere Tornado, was first published in 2008. It tells the stories of people who survived the storm, and the 24 who didn't.

When Doyle finished the manuscript, he got up from his desk and walked into the living room.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Du Yun, a 39-year-old composer, musician and performance artist, today won the Pulitzer Prize for music for her opera Angel's Bone. The Pulitzer jury describes the piece as a bold work "that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world." Angel's Bone, which has a libretto by the versatile Royce Vavrek (Missy Mazzoli's Breaking the Waves and David T.

Chinese-born composer Du Yun has taken home this year's Pulitzer Prize for music for her opera Angel's Bone, it was announced today during a ceremony in New York.

It's a curious thing how ancient music can sometimes sound so contemporary. Listen to "Morgunstjarna," and it's as if three centuries' worth of music history evaporates. The anonymous song from 17th-century Iceland sports a catchy, bittersweet melody and rhythmic hook that pop outfits like Peter Bjorn and John might be happy to whistle.

The opera firmament was shaken yesterday when a New York Times article, headlined "The Diva Departs: Renée Fleming's Farewell to Opera," landed online.

Every Mother's Day, millions of Americans take Mom to brunch. Kids try to repay a year of home-cooked meals with breakfast in bed. And those remembering a departed mom place flowers at the cemetery or raise a glass to her portrait.

This year, WNIJ listeners can write a poem and maybe read it on the air. We launched our first-ever Mother's Day Poetry Contest this morning.

Ingrid Christie

Would you read your diary aloud in public? David Sedaris has been doing it for years as part of his live shows.

The award-winning essayist and humorist will perform at Rockford's Coronado Theater on April 24. During this show, he'll share some of the entries from his forthcoming book, Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002).

But don't expect juicy details about his past, private life or dreams. "Nobody cares about anyone's dreams," he says.

Although it closed 60 years ago, Black Mountain College keeps on giving. In its heyday, the liberal arts institution near Asheville, N.C., counted many of the mid-century's great artistic thinkers, including John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Buckminster Fuller, Francine du Plessy Gray and Robert Rauschenberg, among its faculty and students.

The first opera hit the stage over 400 years ago. More recently, the art form has been adapted to modern media: In the 1920s and '30s, operas were written to be performed on the radio, and in 1951, NBC commissioned Gian Carlo Menotti to compose Amahl And The Night Visitors for television.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


The great Beethoven specialist András Schiff says, "Whatever we do on the piano is a collection of illusions." If that's true, then Volker Bertelmann, the German pianist who goes by the single name Hauschka, is a master illusionist.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Piotr Anderszewski might be one of the most revered pianists of his generation, but he's also one of the most impulsive.

In 1990, at age 21, the young Pole entered the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition. He was nearly finished with his semi-final performance when he quit playing — just walked off the stage. He felt he wasn't good enough to continue. It was a gutsy move that actually helped launch his career.

Rockford Area Arts Council

The Rockford Area Arts Council (RAAC) has named Sharon Nesbit-Davis as Executive Director. Nesbit-Davis  had been Interim Director since August of 2016. She  served as RAAC's Education and Engagement Director for twenty-one years, prior to which she worked as an Artist in Residence for the Illinois Arts Council and RAAC.

There is metal between those strings. In a video for "Limonium," Brooklyn-based composer Kelly Moran interrupts the stretched piano wire with corkscrews, forking the paths of sound.

In music, a coda is a passage that brings a musical composition to an end. This is the coda to a musical saga — the story of the Stradivarius violin that was stolen 37 years ago from my late father, violinist Roman Totenberg, and recovered in 2015.

That violin, made by Antonio Stradivari in 1734, was my father's "musical partner" for 38 years as he toured the world.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Band students from DeKalb High School will make their way to the Emerald Isle Sunday. That’s because they will be one of several bands marching in the Dublin, Ireland Saint Patrick’s Day parade next week.

DeKalb High School band students began their rehearsal outside. It was about 35 degrees, and they marched several times around the perimeter of the high school.

Review: Jacaszek, 'KWIATY'

Mar 9, 2017

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Polish composer Michał Jacaszek's new album KWIATY, which translates as "flowers," strives to locate beauty in desolation. These aren't the kaleidoscopic gardens of Victorian manors. They're the dried petals inside old acrylic paperweights, their life cycles frozen in time.

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