Famed Shakespearean actor Sir Patrick Stewart recently appeared on NPR to perform a dramatic rendition of T. A. Swift's classic work, Blank Space.
Holly Herndon "takes technology, including the Internet, as a starting point rather than a stumbling block. Where some would discount online culture as a distraction—or, worse, false consciousness—for Herndon, it's just a place we all call home. As such, it works its way directly into her music, both as subject and content. Featured on her forthcoming album Platform, the uneasy single "Home", which she calls "a love song for prying eyes," is dedicated to the NSA; "Chorus", meanwhile, utilizes a software program that eavesdrops on her browser and folds its audio into a shuddering percussive thrum." The whole album is available to stream here. [more inside]
"All over SXSW, kiosks were plastered with posters that posed a provocative question: "Who the hell is Stromae?" It's a question you wouldn't ask in many places outside North America. " NPR's SXSW showcase at Stubb's BBQ attempted to answer the question for an American audience who aren't necessarily too familiar with the superstar Belgian musician/rapper/fashion designer. [more inside]
Sufjan Stevens's new album Carrie and Lowell can be streamed in its entirety at NPR and The Guardian. Four (very) early reviews. Previously
"Truth be told, you should really set aside a weekend and watch all 83 sets back-to-back. But until then, here's a cross-section of favorites, from pop to opera, hip-hop, jazz, rock, country and whatever genre is broad enough to contain the Sun Ra Arkestra." 2014: The Year In Tiny Desk Concerts (here's the full list ).
Kat Chow, with NPR's Code Switch, put together a short piece on the history and the prevalence of the well-known nine note "stereotypical Asian theme." As described in a 2005 Straight Dope forum question: You know, the one that goes dee dee dee dee duh duh dee dee duh. Featured heavily in braindead Hollywood flicks made by clueless directors who want to give a scene an "oriental" feel. Also a variation of it can be heard in David Bowie's "China Girl." [more inside]
NPR's Bob Boilen (host of All Songs Considered): "People ask me all the time to name my favorite Tiny Desk Concert. It's my desk and I've seen almost all of the nearly 400 concerts up close. So you'd think this would be easy. Moon Hooch have made it a lot easier." (video) [more inside]
Bill Adler's Xmas Jollies 2013, via LAtino USA this year. Christmas music. It is bad. There is no escaping it. This playlist might help. [more inside]
Why I Hate the Goldberg Variations, by Jeremy Denk, whose new (lovely) recording of the Goldberg Variations is now streaming on NPR. Also by Denk: Hannibal Lecter's Guide to the Goldberg Variations, which explores the famous cannibal killer through the lens of Bach. This is Your Brain on the Goldberg Variations, which gets in-depth on just how the Variations vary.
Village Vanguard. For 70 years, that alliterative name has swung in 4/4 time, marking the center of the known jazz universe to an international circle of musicians and music fans. Since late 2008, NPR Music has been streaming monthly jazz concerts in their Live at the Village Vanguard series. [more inside]
It's almost Christmas, and if you have not yet had your fill (and then some) of holiday music, you can hear non-stop Jingle Jams on (W)XPN2 online, also available through NPR.org. If the randomness of radio isn't your thing, NPR has a more (alternative) holiday music for your listening pleasure, from a cappella renditions of sacred music for the Christmas season from the English Tudor era (58 minutes) and live jazz piano holiday music, to funky takes on the seasonal themes and five blues tunes to counter all that cheer. NPR also attempts to answer: what makes a modern pop holiday tune sound like Christmas?
...When I was around four or five, my parents split up, and we didn't get to see a lot of my dad. So, anything that was his in our house was kind of a treasure. And I knew that record album, "American Pie." I can picture it in my head with the thumbs up and Don McLean on there. And in the top right hand corner there was my dad's name on one of those old-fashioned label makers where you could press the letters in with the white and it would come up in white raised letters... [more inside]
A girl upon the shore did ask a favour of the sea;For nearly 20 years, Newfoundland group Great Big Sea have been creating acoustic Celtic folk-rock covers and interpretations of traditional Newfoundland and Labrador sea shanties, folk, fishing and party songs, which draw from the island's rich 500-year-old multicultural (Irish, English, Scottish and French) heritage. [more inside]
"Return my blue eyed sailor boy safely back to me.
Forgive me if I ask too much, I will not ask for more,
but I shall weep until he sleeps safe upon the shore."
NPR Intern Emily White wrote that out of a library of 11,000 songs, she had only purchased 15 CDs. Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker's David Lowery responds: "Why do you pay real money for this other stuff but not music?"
Roger McGuinn was a member of the pioneering folk rock band The Byrds. He loves the traditional folk music he has been performing solo since the band's breakup in 1973. In this interview, he talks to NPR's Neal Conan about his career, his music and why he created The Folk Den Project (previously) - with over 200 readily downloadable songs, with lyrics and chords - to preserve traditional folk songs.
The legendary Dick Dale covers Amazing Grace, 12/09 in a Studio Session on NPR's KEXP. [more inside]
Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz is the longest-running cultural program on National Public Radio - having been hosted by Ms. McPartland from June 4, 1978 through November 10, 2011. Her guests included Eubie Blake, Carla Bley, JoAnne Brackeen, Ray Charles, Alice Coltrane, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill, Dick Hyman, Ahmad Jamal, Keith Jarrett, Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson, Michel Petrucciani, Marcus Roberts, and McCoy Tyner.
Paul Motian (wiki) (myspace) (allaboutjazz), one of the great jazz drummers of our time, is dead at 80. [more inside]
David Lynch's debut album, Crazy Clown Time, is streaming in its entirety on NPR first listen until November 8th. That is all.
"... the album has an ebb and flow, much like the ocean near which it was recorded in North Carolina."
Balance, directed by Jay Buim, is a beautiful music video about two hitchhikers trying to get to the beach. The music comes from the latest album by NC/MD band Future Islands: On The Water. [more inside]
In their 25 year career San Fransisco-based Kronos Quartet might be most famous for creating the go-to dramatic movie trailer music but they've recently courted controversy with their latest album, 9/11, with Steve Reich (NPR First Listen). The album is another in a long line of collaborations with composers such as Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, and Pēteris Vasks. And like any good instrumental ensemble, they've covered Hendrix, Sigur Ros, and Tom Waits. Oh, and they've been on Sesame Street. [more inside]
Since 2008, NPR's All Songs Considered has been doing the Tiny Desk Concert series in which they invite a musician or band or very large group to come and play a song behind the desk of the show's host, Bob Bollen, with the video camera running. The result can be intimate, absurd, raucous and just plain enjoyable. A browseable archive of all 150+ shows is here. [more inside]
How Much Does It Cost To Make A Hit Song? "Def Jam started paying for Rihanna's recent single, "Man Down," more than a year ago. In March of 2010, the label held a writing camp in L.A. to create the songs for Rihanna's album, Loud." [more inside]
Marlon Brando. Yeah, sure, he could act. Very talented guy. But, hey, he also invented a radically innovative tuning system for conga drums. Played the congas, too. Yup. That's right.
NPR's Alt.Latino is a new program that started almost a year ago. There is the main NPR sub-site that provide access to everything Alt.Latino, including the blog with a tracklist and links, and a 30 minute radio-type show, where the two hosts chat about the music, describing the lyrics for those not fluent in Spanish, and providing background on the musicians.
"Now is a better time to be a musician, or a fan of music, than any other time in all of human history." Last Friday, the NPR Planet Money podcast featured musician Jonathan Coulton, whose online success prompted one host to compare the man (or his brand) to the blanket-with-arms Snuggie, i.e. "we didn't know we wanted it, and then all of a sudden we did." Coulton responds with his own thoughts on new business models for musicians in the Internet/file-sharing age.
The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything. The vast majority of the world's books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It's just numbers.
NPR is streaming the sets from the Newport Jazz Festival. Highlights include Dave Douglas' Brass Ecstasy, Marshall Allen with Joe Morris and Matthew Shipp, Ken Vandermark's Powerhouse Sound, and Rez Abbasi.
A (mostly) complete concert by the Elephant 6 Orchestra is available to stream or download. [more inside]
Live right now NPR is broadcasting REM from SXSW along with sets from Summerbirds in the Cellar, Johnathan Rice, Papercranes and Dead Confederate.
NPR and twelve public radio partners have launched NPR Music, a free, multi-genre Web site showcasing the best of public radio music.
Hurdy Gurdy. Swedish techno band that uses only sounds sampled from the hurdy gurdy. [via NPR] [a little more inside]
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are a band that, less than a year ago, were making music without the help of a record label, pressing CDs themselves and selling them at concerts and on the Internet. Then the following happened: June 9: Dan Bierne writes about the band on his MP3 blog, June 14: Pitchfork Media posts a review of the song "In This Home On Ice", June 15: Blogger Gothamist posts an interview with the band, June 20: Blogger Stereogum announces the band's show at the Knitting Factory, June 21: Gothamist reports that David Bowie was in the audience at the Knitting Factory show, and June 22: Pitchfork posts one of a slew of reviews of Clap's first album. Now, they've been named to dozens of critics 'best of' lists, they're playing Conan and Letterman, and are about to embark on a new tour. Why choose today to post an article about a band blowing up written in November you ask? Because their tour kicks off tonight at the 9:30 club in DC, and you can listen to it live.
So You Think You Hate Country Music? Then listen to this. The roots of American country music may surprise you. In this series of NPR programs, trace the gradual development of real country music through the first half of the 20th century. Learn how a woman's instrument of the late 1800s, the parlor guitar, became the the central symbol of country and rock; see how African-American musical forms like gospel and blues meshed with the development of country and early rock and influenced the traditional forms in turn; listen to German-Mexican hybrids of accordian style; find out why women had so many honky-tonk torch songs to sing in the late 40s. The series contains hours of content (narrative, interviews, music tracks), and a multitude of excellent links for deeper digging.
NPR’s Live Concert Series site offers recordings of recent live performances by James Brown, Sinead O’Connor, Iron & Wine and Calexico, Son Volt, My Morning Jacket, The White Stripes, M. Ward, Sigur Ros, Bloc Party, The Decemberists, and live tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. ET, Colin Meloy.
Shot Chord Heard Round the World! On the morning of Nine Eleven 2002 at 8:46am, over 160 choirs across the world will sing Mozart's "Requiem" to metaphorically stand in for the thousands of voices silenced a year ago. Among all the ideas I've heard to commemorate this occasion, this one seems the most dignified, and least cringeworthy. They mentioned it on NPR's Morning Edition (caution: Real Audio file).
Christopher O'Riley is a pianist who has transcribed some Radiohead tunes. Give a listen if you like, and spare me the Radiohead does/doesn't suck thread.
Terry Gross gets more than she bargained for from KISS frontman. Don't you think they'd make a cute couple? (Maybe soon we'll see her here.)
Narco corridos ("drug ballads"), the modern variant of the traditional Mexican corrido, are often likened to gangsta rap-- the songs tend to glorify drug traffickers, the most famous performers are mysteriously murdered, and Mexican radio stations have banned them entirely, hoping to curb drug-related violence. (And while I must sheepishly admit that I hadn't even heard of them until I heard this segment--an interview with Elijah Wald[RA link] on NPR last week, I'm now obsessed.)
Boosting the Blues covered on Marketplace Radio. At the bottom of the page is a short summary and a link to the David Brancaccio interview (12 minutes or so in Real Audio clip) of Taj Mahal's involvement and spreading the word about the Music Maker Relief Foundation.