Arts

Arts and culture

 Carl Nelson and I have spent our first day riding the Rock River Trail. We started in Theresa, Wisconsin— which is not locally pronounced “Ter-ree-sah,” like the saint, but “the Riza,” like the Wu-Tang Clan fellow. Though it was raining hard, Carl and I headed out in good spirits. 

We met up with Greg Farnham, who coordinated the Rock River Initiative, and George Marsh, the president of the Village of Theresa. They gave us good advice about the ride, and Greg even chaperoned us several miles in his car.

The sun's season became official this past weekend — so what do you want to hear? Rooftop bops? Windows-down coasters? Sweated-through squall?

Back at the beginning of time, the human voice was the very first instrument. Probably close in second place were folks banging on stuff – in other words, percussionists. The quartet of gentlemen who form the Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion takes primordial pounding into a completely distinctive new league. To be sure, in this Tiny Desk performance, they'll play their sophisticated, modern marimbas and vibraphones, but be on the lookout for the subtleties of tuned cowbells and 3/4" galvanized steel pipes, like those found at the local hardware store.

The #MeToo movement has been a cultural reckoning across industries, from Hollywood to restaurants — but one of the oldest that's been affected is classical music. In March, James Levine, a longtime conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, was fired for allegations of sexual misconduct. And now, centuries-old works from Carmen to Don Giovanni are being challenged for misogynistic plots and themes.

Don't call Thea Musgrave a "woman composer."

"When I'm composing, I'm a human being," she insists. "It's not a question of sexuality."

Sessions from Studio A - Kendra Swanson

May 24, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Kendra Swanson performs "Heart Land" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find the music of Kendra Swanson at kendraswanson.com.

The "Back of the Yards" is a neighborhood near the old Chicago Stockyards. Since the early 20th Century, it housed immigrants who processed meat in the city that Carl Sandberg dubbed "Hog Butcher for the World" in his poem "Chicago."

Author Sandra Colbert grew up in this neighborhood in the 1950s and '60s, when it was largely Polish and Lithuanian. Her book Chicago Bound re-creates the lives of these residents through short stories that capture their grit, prejudice, violence and dreams.

In a suit filed Friday by the Metropolitan Opera, five men have made newly public accusations against conductor and pianist James Levine, who was closely associated with the Met for four decades. In total, nine men have now come forward, either by name or anonymously, with accusations against Levine.

The film On Chesil Beach opens with a cocksure Edward, played by Billy Howle, mansplaining the blues to his new wife, Florence, a classical violinist played by Saoirse Ronan. It's a snapshot of the young couple's relationship, which disintegrates throughout the course of the film due to mismatched expectations and fears of intimacy.

Sessions from Studio A - The Rooks

May 17, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

The Rooks perform "Bury Me Deep" in WNIJ's Studio A.

The Rooks perform "Secrets" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find The Rooks online at therooksband.com.

The myriad stories about Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson usually fall into two groups: the ones about her enormous, laser-focused voice and those about her rapier-sharp wit.

Call it a percussionist's answer to Flight of the Bumblebee — with a twist. "Filigree," by composer Robert Honstein, is a rapid-fire workout for solo vibraphone. The instrument's bars, however, are partly covered in tinfoil, which adds a unique layer of color to the music.

Matt Marks, a young composer, musician and founding member of the contemporary music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, died suddenly Friday, May 11. The group made an announcement Saturday on Twitter, with no cause of death given. Marks was 38.

Sessions from Studio A - Solar Pulse

May 10, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Solar Pulse performs "Shark in the Water" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find the music of Solar Pulse online at: solarpulse.bandcamp.com.

Aspiring orchestral musicians have long known that the road to a professional career is arduous and paved with risks. But new research from the U.K. shows that even attaining the brass ring of an orchestral job does not necessarily provide financial security. In fact, even with salaried, full-time employment, many British orchestral musicians are struggling to pay their bills.

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.

Sessions from Studio A - Jim Kanas

Apr 26, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Jim Kanas performs "Muddy Waters" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find the music of Jim Kanas at jimkanas.com.

Growing up as an avid violinist, Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings was one of my favorite and most rewarding pieces to play. The fact that it was a staple in the repertoire of the New York City Ballet, where my dear parents, Ruth and Lamar Alsop were orchestra musicians, made it even more special. As a kid, I watched in awe as the dancers of the NYCB, under the brilliant and ever watchful eye of choreographer George Balanchine ("Mr. B"), brought Tchaikovsky's music to life.

Arvo Pärt is one of the most popular, most performed living composers. He's beloved worldwide for his signature sound – a spacious, meditative music that tends to sound timeless.

But there's a lesser-known side to the 82-year-old Estonian's career. It's a story that can be traced in a new recording of Pärt's four Symphonies. The album is a musical journey spanning 45 years in fervently detailed performances by the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic, conducted by fellow Estonian Tõnu Kaljuste.

Sessions from Studio A - Althea Grace

Apr 19, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Althea Grace performs "Secrets" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find Althea Grace on the web at altheagraceband.com.

Sessions from Studio A - Lever

Apr 12, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Lever performs "Ms. Lead" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find Lever online at leverband.com.

RAAC

“As an artist, you don’t only create for yourself," according to Sharon Nesbit-Davis, Executive Director of the The Rockford Area Arts Council.

"You actually want to share it and let people see it," she said, "and there’s a special joy to that experience, as well.”

That experience is a primary purpose of the Council’s Spring ArtScene, which takes place Friday and Saturday, April 13 and 14.

Nesbit-Davis said the free event provides a great opportunity for the area’s many artists to show their work.

Stephanie Richards' trumpet sounds like deep space wrapped around your head, a flood in the endless void.

Cirque Du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil returns to Rockford this weekend with a show called "Corteo." We spoke with the artistic director about the story behind the show.

Like many of Cirque’s shows, “Corteo” features larger-than-life performances and a variety of acts. But artistic director Mark Schaub says they’re centered on the story of Mauro, a clown approaching the end of his life.

All Songs Considered's Robin Hilton chats with NPR Music's Lars Gotrich, Tom Huizenga, Marissa Lorusso, Sidney Madden and Ann Powers about some of the best new albums dropping on Apr. 6, from the scorching punk of Norway's Dark Times to the mesmerizing cello drones of Clarice Jensen, rap phenom Cardi B, dance pop singer Kylie Minogue's country turn and much more.

Featured Albums

  • Dark Times: Tell Me What I Need
  • Christina Vantzou: No. 4
  • Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy

Sessions from Studio A - The Threads

Apr 5, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

The Threads perform "I Got the Time" in WNIJ's Studio A.

Find The Threads online at thethreadsband.com.

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