Arts

Arts and culture

The music of Penguin Cafe is like no other. Its origins date back to the early '70s, within fever dreams Simon Jeffes had that were brought on by food poisoning. In those dreams he imagined a dispassionate world "where everyone lived in big concrete blocks and spent their lives looking into screens. In one room, there was a couple making love lovelessly. In another there was a musician sat at a vast array of equipment, but with headphones on, so there was no actual music in the room." Eerily accurate.

Fame Is A Boomerang

Jun 7, 2017

As far as flashy, oversize coffee table books go, opera star Maria Callas is a fitting subject. A larger-than-life figure, she had a complicated off-stage story that played out with as much searing drama as the operas she sang. With hard work and sacrifice, Callas vaulted to the top of her art while pushing it to new levels of intensity. In her personal life, she searched for love, found it, then lost it and died young.

Rock Valley College Starlight Theatre begins its 51st season Wednesday night with the musical “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” The production is the company’s first under a new director in more than three decades.

Renée Fleming and Francis Collins have something unexpected in common: music.

Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, plays guitar. Fleming, of course, is a renowned soprano.

For many people, New Orleans is practically synonymous with jazz; it's the birthplace of both the music and many of its leading lights, from Louis Armstrong to Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. But now, one organization is working to draw attention to the city's history of opera music.

How is this for a first day on the job: Maurice Murphy, the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO)'s late principal trumpet player, spent his very first day with the orchestra recording Star Wars' iconic opening theme, with its incredible brass fanfare — and Murphy leading the trumpets.

If the word "aura" is defined as a pervasive atmosphere, then it's a perfect title for this piece by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, who has a knack for creating vivid sonic environments.

Phil Masterton/WNIJ

Prostate cancer usually is not a laughing matter, but Ed Asner’s one-man show, “A Man and his Prostate,” manages to bring a lot of levity and information to a very important subject.

He presented that show three times in the Chicago area this month, including one at the Woodstock Opera House, one in the Windy City itself, and one at The Garlands of Barrington, to which an old pal of his has retired.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Asner loves returning to the Midwest. He says he “loves Chicago,” where he cut his acting teeth. He considers the area “his roots.”

NIU Jazz Ensemble Fills WNIJ's Studio A With Music

May 23, 2017
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

The NIU Jazz Ensemble performs Ralph Moore's "Freeway" in WNIJ's Studio A.

The NIU Jazz Ensemble performs Roy Hargrove's "All Over Again" in WNIJ's Studio A.

When John Luther Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2014 for his undulating orchestral piece Become Ocean, you'd be forgiven for thinking of him as something like the Jacques Cousteau of contemporary classical music.

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

Eric Johnson said there’s something about the music of Timothy Takach -- something deep, and for him, appealing.

“For lack of a better word, there’s a soul in the music,” Johnson said, “There’s a great care taken to understanding the poetry or the lyrics, the text as its own entity and allowing that to inform and grow into whatever the music becomes.”

A video of Russian President Vladimir Putin taking a turn at the ivories in Beijing is currently making the Internet rounds.

Wisconsin Village At Epicenter Of Presidential Campaign, Gay Marriage Debate

This could be the headline of a Leo Townsend article about the conflict in his hometown of Endeavor, Wis.

The fictional reporter might include his efforts to get an exclusive interview with the first openly gay man who's a serious candidate for the White House. Leo might add details about his family's failing farm -- plus his troubled relationship with his father and a secret kept by his younger brother Eddie.

Carl Nelson

The judge for our Mother's Day Poetry Contest, Susan Porterfield, selected five poems that were broadcast during WNIJ's Morning Edition. However, among the 85 entries we received, Porterfield had a soft spot for one more, "Ode to Mother's Day," which we'll feature here.

Carl Nelson

NASCAR meets Mother's Day in today's featured poem. All week we're showcasing the winners of our Mother's Day Poetry Contest. Our judge, Susan Porterfield, picked "Hot Rod Mama!" for a variety of reasons:

Carl Nelson

Food -- the sight and smell of it -- is a powerful trigger for memory. The aroma of a freshly-baked pie, for example, can take us back decades to when we were children in our mother's kitchen.

When we launched our Mother's Day Poetry Contest, poet and judge Susan Porterfield suggested she might someday write a poem about her mother's ballet shoes.

There's a musical asterisk on French president-elect Emmanuel Macron's bio: He is an avid amateur pianist. It's a facet of his life occasionally noted in passing, as in this piece from the French radio network Europe 1 titled "The Things You Don't Yet Know About Emmanuel Macron." Along with mentioning his abiding fondness for karaoke, Europe 1 reported that he studied piano for 10 years at the music conservatory in Amiens, where he won third prize.

Carl Nelson

We all do this: Stand in the greeting card aisle, staring at the mass of manufactured sentiments, trying to decide which will suffice because we can't write something original.

With Mother's Day approaching, there's a good chance you're doing it right now -- or will later today.

Another day, another study undercutting the myth surrounding the 18th-century Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari.

Since the early 20th century, musicians and instrument experts have been trying to figure out what, if anything, makes the violins he made sound better.

Carl Nelson

Remember when we launched our Mother's Day Poetry Contest? Our judge, Susan Porterfield, picked five winning poems out of the 85 we received.

The authors get to read their work on WNIJ this week during Morning Edition. Porterfield also picked a runner-up which we'll tell you more about on Friday.

For professional musicians, the instrument on which they play is more than just a tool of the trade. It can also be a muse, a partner and a voice.

Min Kym started playing the violin at age 6 and won her first competition at 11. Now, the former child prodigy is the author of a new book: Gone: A Girl, A Violin, A Life Unstrung, in which she shares her story of finding her perfect partner — only to have it stolen away.

Although more women have been winning Pulitzer Prizes for music lately, it's still next to impossible to hear works by female composers performed by America's symphony orchestras.

This year's Pulitzer winner, Du Yun, has a lot to say about the situation.

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