Some highlights from Joshua Rifkin's career(s):
- At the age of 21, in only five weeks, he wrote and conducted The Baroque Beatles Book, an album of Beatles themes rendered in the styles of Bach and Handel.
- On Wildflowers and In My Life, he arranged some of Judy Collin's best tracks, including "Albatross" and "Suzanne."
- Rifkin helped kickstart the 70s ragtime renaissance with three acclaimed Joplin albums.
- In 1981, he published an infamous paper [JSTOR] declaring that Bach's choral work wasn't actually choral work as we understand it. Rather, Bach intended only one singer to take each vocal part...
Kathryn Bigelow's striking bin Laden manhunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty arrives in wide release tonight on the heels of a final artful trailer -- one with oddly familiar musical accompaniment. The funereal hymn, a cover of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" (lyrics), deftly recasts the 90s power ballad as a haunting dirge of quiet grief, shattered ideals, and a singleminded focus on revenge, a perfect distillation of the film's profoundly grim thesis. But while the song may be fitting, it wasn't composed for the project -- it's just the latest success story from Belgian women's choir Scala & Kolacny Brothers, whose mournful reinterpretations of classic and modern rock -- catapulted by their rendition of "Creep" in The Social Network -- have made them famous around the world, with star turns in the likes of Homeland ("Every Breath You Take") and Downton Abbey ("With or Without You"). Cover comparison site WhoSampled offers a list of YouTube comparisons between the covers and the originals; look inside for more of their work in movies and television. [more inside]
"The world turns softly / Not to spill its lakes and rivers. / The water is held in its arms / And the sky is held in the water."
Three Nightsongs is a lovely choral work by Joshua Shank that puts three writings by the child-poet Hilda Conkling to music: Evening, Moon Song, and Water.
Just imagine: a few musicologists know that there are 320 18th century sonatas lying somewhere in a Dutch archive. Half of them are by great masters such as Vivaldi and Telemann. The other half consists of works written by lesser-known but nonetheless interesting composers. Yet no one performs them or even shows any interest in them. Three hundred and twenty sonatas! Unthinkable, improbable. [more inside]
[Arvo] Pärt’s mature style was inaugurated in 1976 with a small piano piece, “Für Alina”, that remains one of his best-known works. It is governed by the compositional system that he called “tintinnabuli,” derived from the Latin word for “bells.” The tintinnabuli method pairs each note of the melody with a note that comes from a harmonizing chord, so they ring together with bell-like resonance. [more inside]
Featuring 2052 performers from 58 countries, I give you Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 2.0 performing Sleep. [SLYT]
185 singers, 12 countries, one conductor -- all online. Grammy-nominated composer and conductor Eric Whitacre put out a call for singers on his blog in July of 2009. He then posted the conductor track for his piece "Lux Aurumque" and gave instructions, including how to audition for the brief soprano solo. Recordings trickled in on YouTube over the next few months until the January 1 deadline; the results were posted on March 22. [more inside]
The 2009 Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod competitions have concluded, with the Pavarotti Trophy for Choir of the World being awarded to The Westminster Chorus. The Eisteddfod includes choral, solo, instrumental, and dance competitions. Video of the competitions can be seen here.
Over the past few years, Eric Whitacre has been taking the composition world by storm. And now he's all over the web. (Most links silent, personal website has an autoplay rainstorm going on.) His choral works range from the mysterious and brooding Water Night to the rambunctious modern madrigal, With a Lily In Your Hand, to the wonderfully lush Sleep (formerly a setting of Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" - tragically halted by copyright infringement, but still available thanks to the magic of YouTube). While his instrumental compositions run the spectrum from silly musical parody (Godzilla Eats Las Vegas) to poignant melancholy (October) with some delicate crossover between vocal and instrumental (Lux Aurumque - first choral, then instrumental!). If you are or think you may be even remotely interested in contemporary classical music, you owe it to yourself to become familiar with the work of Eric Whitacre.
Streaming audio of traditional music from the former Soviet republic of Georgia. This is some of the strangest, most haunting and blissed-out singing you can hear on this planet. (And check out those swell outfits, fellas!) [more inside]
If you overdosed on being thankful yesterday, the Birmingham Complaints Choir or the Helsinki Complaints Choir might be an antidote. (YouTube alert) More on complaints choirs.
Gregorio Allegri's Miserere Mei [MP3, Coral cache] has been performed in the Sistine Chapel every Holy Week since 1638, but the haunting a cappella piece had a long, strange trip to get to the outside world.