Four CD’s of Beauty and Wonder

Howdy loyal patrons, friends, enemies, and all other readers who don’t fall into those categories!

We have four new exciting CD’s in for your perusing benefit!

Intimate Letters – Juilliard String Quartet – CD 10394

Hanson Conducts Hanson – Howard Hanson – CD 10395

Toward the Unknown Region – Vaughan Williams – CD 10396

Sprung Rhythm – Inscape – CD 10397

Come by and check them out!

Also, the Hanson and the Vaughan Williams are on reserve since the AU Symphony Orchestra will be performing selections included on these discs on April 24th and 25th.


AU Musical Events: A Little Night Music, 11/20

What a week for American University performing ensembles, huh? Looks like the absolute horror of finals season’s approach has inspired an impassioned response from the arts.

We already told you about our nite of jazz at “Jazz in the Fall” on Friday, but there’s another event coming even sooner: DPA professor and conductor Yaniv Dinur’s “A Little Night Music from Israel and America” tomorrow night!

This event is being put on in association with the Katzen museum as well as the AU Center for Israel Studies. Featuring our AU orchestra as well as performers Mary Voutsas on piano and Brian Prunka on oud (a fretless middle eastern string instrument), will follow Prof. Dinur’s journey from Israel to America, showcasing composers from both countries such as Ives and Cerrone from the U.S. and Weisenberg and Nebenhaus from Israel (both with the first name Menachem). Truly a unique assortment here!

This event will be tomorrow night (Thursday, 11/20) at 8pm in the Katzen Museum. It is free but you must RSVP. You can do that here, at the facebook event, and make sure to click “attending!” Hope to see you at this lovely night of exploring the musical and global progression of one of our beloved professors.

Symphony Season: the Numbers!

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra just compiled a very interesting batch of data based on the 2014-2015 season programming of 21 major national orchestras. The BSO (and by the BSO, probably some of their interns, but who knows?) aggregated the nation’s planned performances into the below infographic, which contains some very interesting (but, possibly, unsurprising) information about the performed material- age of pieces, gender/nationality of composers, popularity of certain composers, etc.

Enough out of me, peruse this fascinating (and very visually appealing) infographic (more writing beneath it)!

Orchestra Season Infographic

Like I said, this is a very interesting chart, but I’m not sure how surprising its revelations were. That said, it is quite staggering to see the actual numbers, such as 98% of all performed composers being male, and that the most performed living composer only gets 35 performances while the most performed composer overall gets 317. The nationality divide between most-performed composers overall vs. living is intriguing as well. All of these facts bring with them a litany of implications about the diversity (or lack thereof) in classical music performances, especially if you’re a fan of the genre, or if you want to become a professional classical musician.

My favorite thing about this infographic is the fact that the BSO actually put it together. I think it’s great that a major orchestra like the BSO is beginning to take strides to reassess the standards of what they and their peers perform. According to the original article, they will be publishing several pieces in the coming weeks analyzing their finds further, which is sure to be even more interesting.

In other news, a very happy birthday to Neil Young!

Sweet New Arrival: Become Ocean

Happy October! If you’re not buried in a punk documentary and are more the modern enviro-classical type, you’ll love our sweet new arrival!

John Luther Adams' new album, Become Ocean, comes out Sept. 30.

NPR recently did a “First Listen” feature on John Luther Adams, an Alaskan experimental composer whose previous works include a piece for 9 to 99 percussionists and a piece where the audience walks through the performing musicians. However, the focus of this feature was Adams’ new piece, a Pulitzer-winning work for three mini-orchestras called Become Ocean.

Become Ocean, like its forebear La Mer (Debussy), is meant to evoke, well, the ocean. The NPR review describes it as “sweeping… briny surges of sound”. The journalist also waxes philosophical on the implications of an ocean-themed piece in a time where the ocean is in flux due to global climate change. Whether or not this is but an intellectualizing of the art or not, the piece is a beautiful one.

And now you can play it, thanks to your friendly neighborhood Music Library! We just received the score this week. While you may not yourself be three mini-orchestras, you can still familiarize yourself with it, learn every part, show it to your conductor, whatnot. Here it is, get lost in the sea.

AU Musical Events: Unfinished Business 4/25-26

Unfinished business… The term itself causes my OCD tendencies to go haywire. There is a sort of bravery, a glorious abandon, in leaving business unfinished. And while most of the working world shudders at the admission that business will go unfinished, it happens quite often. Except for this post, which I will finish before my shift ends.

Anyways, and unsurprisingly, there are a great many pieces in the musical repertoire that remain unfinished. With the classical composers, constantly creating at a feverish rate, it’s understandable that some things would get left behind. Two of the most prolific of the great composers, Mozart and Schubert, were not immune to the curse of the unfinished, and this weekend our AU Symphony and Chorus will delve into two of the greatest unfinished works (an oxymoron?) in the classical repertoire.

Conducted by DPA professors Yaniv Dinur and Dan Abraham, the Symphony and Chorus will first tackle Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor, an epic and ambitious mass that proved to be too much so for the composer, who left it unfinished when he died. The second is possibly the most famous unfinished piece of all, Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, known as the “Unfinished Symphony.” Interestingly, after composing the first two movements, he simply never returned to it in the six years of his life that followed its composition.

Both pieces are revered, and are quite impressive even in their incomplete state. More impressive still are the implications: what was written was too great to be done up by any greater final movement. They gave it their all at the get-go. Come see the AUSO&C perform these pieces, as completely as possible, on Friday or Saturday night at 8 in Katzen. The event costs $15 to attend, but if you’re an AU community member you can get in for $10.

Event page:

Cool DC Events: Bach Sinfonia- C.P.E. Bach’s Sensitive Side

As you may or may not know, our very own professor Dan Abraham moonlights as the conductor and artistic director of the Bach Sinfonia, a Maryland organization which hosts concerts, lectures, and other events devoted to Baroque and Classical period music (hence the name). The Sinfonia’s first brush with internet fame on our blog came in January when they hosted a performance by Chatham Baroque.

This Saturday they are hosting their next event at the Cultural Arts Center at Montgomery College, Silver Spring. It is a showcase of the works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (son of the famous Johann Sebastian), in his Empfindsamer Stil (“Sensitive Style”). Turns out, C.P.E. knew exactly how to turn it down while keeping it passionate. This event is to celebrate his 300th birthday!

C.P.E: Strictly for the headz.

Featuring Douglas Poplin on cello and Adam Pearl on harpsichord, this event will include two symphonies, a cello concerto and a set of variations. There will also be the FIRST performance in North America of a recently identified Sinfonia by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Exciting!

It all starts at 8 pm on Saturday (4/5). Tickets are $30 but students get in for $15! Here’s the event page:

as well as Professor Abraham’s own page, if you’re interested in other upcoming events:

Sweet New Arrivals: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Run, people. Race back into the Church of Yeezy. He may have played the god card last year with Yeezus but nobody was surprised, given the kingmaking apparition of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy back in 2010. Remember this album? Pitchfork does. Nicki Minaj does (ughhh). Justin Vernon does (alright!). Rick Ross does (maybe?).

I was a high school senior in 2010-11, and this album was inescapable. I couldn’t be at a party without hearing “POWER” or “All Of The Lights.” The next year at college, I couldn’t be at a party without somebody clutching a glass of wine or a PBR and talking about how “Runaway” changed their life.

MBDTF is where Kanye West was finally able to reach a level of musical expression that was proportional to his own colossal ego. This album is a maximalist opus, 70 minutes long, unafraid to include any musical instrument, any layer of synth, any sample in any iteration (King Crimson, Black Sabbath, Bon Iver, Gil Scott-Heron, Aphex Twin), any guest star (with a double-digit number of features), any level of beauty (the gorgeous beat of “Devil In A New Dress”) and any level of grotesque (the delay on RZA’s mushy-mouthed shouts of “fuckin’ ridikkulus” on “So Appalled”). Every emotion is laid bare.

There’s too much to say about this album for a Sweet New Arrivals post alone- it covers too much ground to pick any one defining moment. It’s a perfect expression of Kanye’s spiraling relationship with the press, the American public, and his own sanity, a monster of a breakup album (no pun intended). It takes Kanye’s defining duality of narcissism and sensitivity and blows each side up to its logical extreme, where almost unlistenable braggadocio comes a verse before a shockingly honest portrayal of weakness.
While this isn’t my favorite Kanye album, or even one of my top three (those would be Late Registration, Graduation, and College Dropout), I still know every moment of it. It’s a part of my life, and millions of others’ as well. I stand in awe of the monumental stature of its art. I tremble before it, and you can too, because we have it in the music library now. Signing off.