Arts

Arts and culture

Iranian-Canadian-American composer Kamyar Mohajer says he draws on his multicultural background for inspiration. An example of that blend of traditions will be premiered at this weekend's concert by the Rockford Symphony Orchestra. But even as he balances those influences, he also has to balance composing with a career in Silicon Valley.

Mohajer was born in Iran in 1976. He says that’s where his interest in music began.

Sessions from Studio A - Funktional Family

Feb 8, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

WNIJ's Sessions from Studio A has a growing reputation as a showcase for energetic performances, and Funktional Family brought their A game. This band features members of Backwoods Bunny Fight, another band we featured.

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.

Pendiente Trio Performs In Studio A

Feb 2, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

A group of current and former Northern Illinois University students recently made a visit to WNIJ's Studio A for a performance. Pendiente Trio is comprised of Andrea Salcedo on guitar, and Aaron Marsala and Brandon Bott on percussion. The trio performed four songs on their visit:

  • "Rompeserones"
  • "Amanecer"
  • "Buleriano"
  • "Al Likindoy"

At first, there's just a drip: a gentle pulse from a marimba. Then a bewitching melody played on a set of tuned cowbells enters and the music comes into focus. The four musicians in the Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion let the piece unfold deliberately. They play as if they're a single, eight-armed organism.

Sessions from Studio A - The Bare Hambones

Feb 1, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

The Bare Hambones stopped by WNIJ’s Studio A to give an energetic hoedown of a performance! This Chicago-area band mixes the sounds of bluegrass, folk, rockabilly, and outlaw-country with the texture of piano and mandolin -- the main instruments. The band includes Tim Larsen on piano and lead vocals, Michael Brown on acoustic guitar, Brad Riverdahl on drums, Tony Kubicek playing bass and Mike Marshall on mandolin. Since their performance in Studio A, The Bare Hambones added a sixth member to the band named Jeff Cali, playing lead guitar.

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.

In these days of wireless earbuds, streams and podcasts, the notion of people gathering to hear a lone classical singer (with a pianist) perform densely structured art songs in a foreign tongue seems almost laughably quaint.

Sessions from Studio A - Go Go Torpedo

Jan 25, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Go Go Torpedo performs "Golden Death Sun" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find Go Go Torpedo on the web at Facebook or gogotorpedo.com.

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.

Musician and composer Nils Frahm must feel like a chef who has finally assembled his dream kitchen. Frahm's new album, All Melody (due out Jan. 26), was crafted at Saal 3, a vintage studio space he was offered in an old East Berlin broadcast facility built in the 1950s.

In 1983, the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto tried a grand experiment. While the singers performed Elektra in German onstage, simultaneous translations in English were projected above the stage. These "supertitles," as they've come to be known, were quickly adopted at opera houses and are now an expected part of the opera-going experience.

Sessions from Studio A - Goose Doctor

Jan 18, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Goose Doctor performing "Pulsating Arteries" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find Goose Doctor on Facebook.

To create her wide-ranging music, New York-based artist Lea Bertucci has used a wealth of instruments and compositional techniques. But her primary creative tool is the saxophone, and on her new album, Metal Aether, she delves into it perhaps further than she ever has.

When we invited Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov to play a Tiny Desk concert, we rolled out the big guns. In place of the trusty upright, we wedged a 7-foot grand piano behind Bob Boilen's desk in preparation for the artist who The Times of London called "without question the most astounding pianist of our age."

Sessions from Studio A - Sarah Eide

Jan 11, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Sarah Eide performs "Challenge and Victory" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find the music of Sarah Eide online at saraheide.com

Updated, Jan. 11, 4:00 p.m. ET: This article was updated to include new allegations of sexual assault made against Dutoit.

What the world needs now is another cat video. Seriously.

Today our colleague Robert Siegel is retiring after four decades at NPR. He's covered everything from peace movements in East and West Germany to the Republican revolution of the 104th Congress, the mentally ill homeless and the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China.

Over his 30-year tenure as host of All Things Considered, Robert has also chased one of his lifelong passions — classical music. He's interviewed dozens of today's most compelling musicians.

Sessions from Studio A - Things Falling Apart

Jan 5, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Things Falling Apart performing "Adama" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find the music of Things Falling Apart at Bandcamp.

Robert Mann, a violinist and one of the founders of the Juilliard String Quartet, died on Monday at home in Manhattan. He was 97 years old.

When he was a youngster in Portland, Oregon, Mann dreamed of being a forest ranger. But destiny apparently had other plans for him: instead, he became a legendary musician.

Several years ago, Claire van Kampen was composing music for a London theater production. During a break, one of the singers asked her if she knew the story of Farinelli, the famous 18th century opera singer.

"'You'd really like the bit where he goes to Spain and sings to King Phillipe who has this bipolar disorder.' And then I started to think: Now that's an interesting story that I haven't heard about, seen."

Sessions from Studio A - Celestial Motion Wagon

Dec 28, 2017
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Celestial Motion Wagon performs "Interstellar" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find the music of Celestial Motion Wagon at Bandcamp.

In 1946, Nat King Cole became the first recording artist to wrap his lush vocals around what would become a standard of the holiday season, "The Christmas Song." But that song was written by a different crooner: Mel Tormé.

NPR's Noel King spoke with Mel Tormé's youngest son, James — an accomplished jazz singer himself — to get the story behind the creation of this Christmas classic.

Ben Shirley's story is one of redemption. He'd been playing bass in bars, clubs and arenas in the Los Angeles area since he was 15 when he fell down a path of drugs and alcohol. Four bottles of vodka and $360 worth of heroin a day brought him down hard on Skid Row.

It was at the non-profit The Midnight Mission where Shirley turned his life around in 2011. Now, at 53, he's an undergrad in The San Francisco Conservatory of Music's program of Technology and Applied Composition. He debuted an original piece, "We Need Darkness to See the Stars," earlier this month.

Sessions from Studio A - Make it a Double

Dec 21, 2017
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Make it a Double performs "Cold Sheets of Rain" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find Make it a Double at Facebook.

Updated, Dec. 21, 10:45 p.m. ET and Dec. 22, 12:09 p.m.: The responses of various orchestras to the allegations were added to this article.

The Associated Press has reported allegations of sexual assault against the famed conductor Charles Dutoit made by four women, in incidents that span from 1985 to 2010 and that took place in five different U.S. cities.

Goran Bregović is one of the Balkans' most beloved musicians and composers. He grew up in the Bosnian town of Sarajevo and witnessed the atrocities of war in the 1990s. But he channeled his home region's pain, as well as its endless humor, into his music, and got his big break composing for films like Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies.

Collaboration. It's at the heart of many of NPR Music's finest moments. And it's in the DNA of the intrepid Kronos Quartet, which some 40 years ago began working with composers around the globe to spotlight new music.

Opening our 10th anniversary concert at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., Kronos, true to form, gave an appreciative audience both a world premiere and an extraordinary surprise collaboration.

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