Somber and meditative music makes for a contemplative edition of Extra Eclectic this week. Steve Seel features bracing music by Bryce Dessner, whose Aheym (a Yiddish word meaning "homeword") describes his memories of learning about his Jewish ancestry in his youth. Steve also features powerful works by New York classical innovator Michael Gordon, maverick composer/improviser Ingram Marshall, and much, much more.
A century ago, Debussy showed us that the sea was a subject with infinite possibilities for musical exploration. While in some ways La Mer is still the quintessential piece of music about water, it actually laid the groundwork for many composers to go exploring above and below the waves (and along its shores) in the years since. In conjunction with MPR's observation of Water Month, Steve features water-themed works by John Luther Adams, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Kate Moore, and many others.
On this eve of Independence Day, contemporary American composers are the focus - with some nods to uniquely American subject matter, too. We'll hear selections including John Adams' opera "Doctor Atomic" about the scientists who worked at Los Alamos on the first atomic bomb, and Stanley Grill's "American Landscapes," which the composer describes as being about the "idealized" America we hold in our imaginations. Plus, works from Missy Mazzoli, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and many others. Valerie Kahler guest hosts.
It's been a staple of classical music for centuries: writing a set of variations on a theme by another composer. We'll hear some contemporary examples, including Thomas Canning's "Variations on a Hymn Tune by Justin Morgan," Noam Sivan's "Improvisations on Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring," and even a "Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno" by Timo Andres - a timely inclusion given this week's announcement that Eno has had an asteroid named in his honor.
There are multiple ways humankind finds its path to wisdom and enlightenment - be they physical, philosophical, scientific, or religious means - and Steve explores several of them this week. Michael Torke's "Four Proverbs" takes a trove of Old Testament wisdom and fractures it into an irresistibly bouncy, pulsating work for soprano, winds and strings, while Paul Gibson's "Ritual Dances of the Divine Trinity" echoes the liturgical music of the Benedictine monks he heard at an abbey while growing up in France. The spiritual is balanced by the physical in works such as Nico Muhly's "Fast Dances" and Henrik Schwarz's "Walk Music," and the program culminates with the suite from Johann Johannssen's score to "The Theory of Everything."
"Synesthesia" is name for experiencing one of the five senses as another sense. For example, if you "hear" the color red as sounding a particular way, or conversely, "see" certain sounds as "red." Steve Seel has a sampling of contemporary classical works that describe different colors as music - including Lou Harrison's "Rhymes With Silver," the percussion work "Red" by Marc Mellits, and selections from the "Synesthesia Suite" by Andy Akiho. In the second hour, Steve features works from the cold climate countries of Scandinavia and the Baltic states, including Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Estonia.
Sometimes, what we all need more than anything is to slow down. It seems to be vibe that a lot of contemporary classical composers have picked up on, since if there's one prevailing atmosphere to the classical music of the 21st century in particular, it's contemplation. It's not all that way of course, but on this edition of Extra Eclectic, Steve puts a focus on the more reflective and slower-paced modern classical works - many of which just so happen to be quite moving.
It's the meaningful, the meaningless, and all points in between on this week's show. Steve brings us ruminations on philosophical and religious subjects, from Krzysztof Penderecki's "Polish Requiem" to a piece called "The Last Question" from composer Nicholas Britell. Plus, Normal Dello Joio's "Meditations on Ecclesiastes" explores the meaning of life itself.
The electric violin has come a long way since its days as a staple of progressive rock and jazz fusion, when it very much sounded electric. This week on Extra Eclectic, you'll hear an electric violin as the featured solo instrument in a new work by Nico Muhly, and you just might mistake it for a real acoustic instrument. Steve Seel also features music by Jennifer Higdon, Gabriel Yared, Steve Reich, and much more.
When you hear some of the selections on this week's show, you won't be surprised that their composers have received so much praise for their work. Jennifer Higdon has a devoted following and avid fanbase, and her work "blue cathedral" is always a gorgeous show stopper. We'll also hear a bouncy and infectious chamber music piece by Kenneth Fuchs, who's music has received four Grammy nominations and one Grammy award so far, as well as Jonny Greenwood's score to the film "There Will Be Blood," plus music by Sarah Kirkland Snider, Caleb Burhans, and more.
About Extra Eclectic
Where classical music is always arriving, with host Steve Seel. Listen live at 10 p.m. central every Wednesday on YourClassical Radio.