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Music Post: Real music made by synths

The first time I listened to the premiere recording of “Nixon in China,” I was perplexed by a sound in the orchestra which seemed to give the strings a harder edge, emphasizing the pulse of the John Adams score. Checking the orchestration I found it included a synthesizer, and a…

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Trump, Obama, Russia and the FBI

Donald Trump and Barack Obama in happier times. President Trump shocked Democrats, Republicans and, apparently, his own staff, with a series of Saturday morning tweets accusing former President Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones. The first thing everyone noticed was that he offered no proof and no source for…

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Music Post: Music in flight – the fugue

You know what a round is: “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream; Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” What makes a round interesting is the way the melody can be overlaid with different starting points and everything fits. For purposes of this discussion, it is…

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Music Post: It’s alive! The American composer

Jennifer Higdon, American composer. People who consider themselves in the know about classical music, who think of Stravinsky and Schoenberg or Bartok as modern composers, are not in the know about classical music. People who smile knowingly at that statement, because they think of younger generations of composers like Steve…

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Music Post: The history of jazzed-up classics

The original Swingle Singers. Ward Swingle is on the left and that may be Pierre Michelot next to him. Something remarkable happened in Paris in 1959. After decades as the epicenter of music in the world, Paris had ceded the title. All the greatest European composers had moved to America…

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Out like Flynn

National Security Advisor Mike Flynn embarrassed his president. Then his situation got so much attention, it diverted the spotlight from his boss. Clearly, he had to go. NBC and CNN reported Monday night that retired General Keith Kellogg, an advisor to the Trump campaign, is now acting national security advisor….

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Music Post: Where do composers get their ideas?

Most composers compose mostly “absolute music,” not meant to tell a story or paint a musical picture, and they get their themes from noodling at the piano or interpreting the white noise in the shower or something pops into their heads on a walk through the woods. Beethoven, recognizing that…

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Music Post: American composers and their relationships with recordings

If I were wealthy I would endow a fund for the purpose of making second recordings of works that have already had their premiere recordings. My thinking is that for musicians and conductors alike there is enormous value in hearing a piece played by someone else before you take a…

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Who is Neil Gorsuch?

President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court has been described as “another Antonin Scalia,” and there is something to that, but as you might guess there is a lot more to Neil Gorsuch than that. So who is this fellow? The biggest surprise for me: I had dinner with his…

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Music Post: Jazz meets classical

(Darius Milhaud as a young man.) European writers on classical music like to credit Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) with bringing jazz into classical music. It’s not true, and I say that as someone who likes Milhaud’s music and probably has more Milhaud discs than anyone reading this. I grew up on…