Music

When you think of Cuban music, contemporary classical most likely isn't the first — or possibly even fifth — genre that springs to mind. But a group of American composers and musicians couldn't resist an opportunity to travel to the island to present their own music and seek out their Cuban colleagues' work — and frankly, neither could I. We traveled together last month to the Havana Festival of Contemporary Music, for the event's 28th edition.

In 2014, the Wu-Tang Clan turned a double album into lost treasure.

Once Upon A Time In Shaolin was heard, in its 31-track entirety, only by Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA and producer Cilvaringz.

They vowed to sell just a single copy — with a seven-digit price tag. They destroyed all duplicates and placed the only extant version in a hand-carved silver and nickel box, along with a 174-page leather-bound book of lyrics, anecdotes and credits.

Jean Sibelius, born 150 years ago on Dec. 8, 1865, was the first Finnish composer to reach an international audience, but his popularity began at home. In the late 1890s, Finland was a part of the Russian empire and its people were striving for independence.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A battle between upbeat, finely crafted pop and politically minded hip-hop seems to be what's shaping up for the biggest prizes at this year's Grammy Awards. The nominees were announced this morning, in advance of the awards ceremony on Feb. 15.

When the Grammy Awards' 2016 nominees are announced Monday morning, you'll no doubt hear some familiar names. Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, for example, are expected to pop up in high-profile categories such as Album Of The Year — for last year's 1989 and this year's To Pimp A Butterfly, respectively.

Cameron Carpenter plays the organ in a way you'll rarely hear in church. He travels with his instrument on a huge truck, and it takes a small team to set it up in concert halls around the world. A virtuoso composer and performer who plays everything from Bach to pop, not to mention the first organist ever to be Grammy-nominated for a solo album, Carpenter says his connection to the instrument goes back even further than his interest in music.

In the new movie Youth, an elderly, retired composer-conductor is called upon to conduct for the first time in years. He's an Englishman named Fred Ballinger — and the request is from Queen Elizabeth II. It seems Ballinger's composition Simple Songs, written when he was a much younger man, is the only thing the Queen's husband, Prince Phillip, will listen to.

Pages