Music

Talk to nearly any classical music critic about heroes of the trade and one name usually comes up: Virgil Thomson. Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times advises: "Every practicing and aspiring critic today should read Thomson's exhilarating writings."

Tim Page is no longer afraid of death. That's the one positive takeaway for him after surviving a traumatic brain injury.

Last year, the University of Southern California music and journalism professor — who was also a child prodigy filmmaker, Pulitzer-winning critic, person with Asperger's and father of three — collapsed at a train station. He woke up in an ambulance speeding to the hospital. He's still recovering, still fumbling a bit with the jigsaw pieces of a life a now a little more puzzling, a little more amazing.

Just reading about the Japanese film Nagasaki: Memories Of My Son is enough to get you choked up. Directed last year by 84-year-old legend Yoji Yamada, it stars longtime actor Sayuri Yoshinaga as a mother whose son dies in the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki and visits her as a ghost until she herself passes on. It's a heavy, heartbreaking tale, for which veteran composer Ryuichi Sakamoto was tasked with creating appropriately poignant music. Making things even heavier, this would be Sakomoto's first score since recovering from throat cancer last year.

When you think of an orchestra, you're probably picturing refined woodwinds, brass, and strings. But one ensemble I recently met is made up mostly of kids who play instruments made out of literal trash. This is the Recycled Orchestra from Cateura, Paraguay, and their group is the subject of a new documentary film.

The On-The-Road Education Of Lucy Dacus

Sep 13, 2016

Lucy Dacus needs another suitcase.

On Sept. 13, 1996, Tupac Shakur died, six days after he was targeted in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Twenty years later, Tupac has become a celebrated figure around the world. He's not only a lodestar of hip-hop, but a global cultural phenomenon.

There's a new album from Phish coming on Oct. 7, the band's 13th, titled Big Boat, and this news is always met with some conflicted opinions from fans. Throughout an impressive career that now spans 30 years (including a couple hiatuses -> breakups -> reunions along the way), Phish is still known best for its epic live performances rather than its albums. For at least a portion of the diehard concert-collecting fanbase, new songs are more of a refined framework for the lengthy improvisations to come.

Derek Gripper was a musician with a problem. He'd been playing classical music since he was 6 years old — violin, then piano and finally guitar. He was poised for an international career as a classical guitarist. But he remembers going to the homeland of one of his favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach.

"It felt kind of strange," he says. "It felt strange to be in Germany playing Bach to them."

I remember the first time I heard Ramones. It was the first Saturday after its April 23, 1976 release date, back when I was 14 and working weekends at the House of Guitars, Rochester, N.Y.'s greatest and still thriving record store/musical instrument shop/freak magnet.

And so, it ended with, very appropriately, a deathly quiet. "Fabric is closed. That's it. Heartwrenching silence around the room." So read a Tweet by Jeremy Abbott, the digital editor of Mixmag, who was in the room on Tuesday night when the Islington council licensing committee's met to determine whether the London neighborhood would permanently revoke the operating license of fabric, one of the city's longest-running and most iconic clubs.

Regina Spektor is back with another preview of her upcoming album, Remember Us To Life. Her latest song is a gorgeous, soaring ode to love and heartache called "Black And White."

Ever since he left Rage Against The Machine in 2000, there have been rumors, false starts and complete scraps of Zack de la Rocha's debut solo album.

The Pretenders are back with the band's first new album in eight years, this time collaborating with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach as producer. The album is called Alone, and the first single is a jangly pop cut with arpeggiated synths and quirky guitar riffs called "Holy Commotion!"

First Listen: Jóhann Jóhannsson, 'Orphée'

Sep 8, 2016

One of the most enduring stories at the intersection of music and love is the Orpheus myth. The ancient Greek paragon of all-encompassing musical talent and fatalistic passion has inspired artists of all stripes in all eras.

As a 16-year-old, Pretty Yende was sitting with her parents in their rural South African home watching TV when a British Airways ad came on. As the sweet music swelled and voices intertwined, Yende was mesmerized. The only problem: She had no idea what to call the beautiful music she'd just heard.

Brian Fallon starts to answer the question.

"It's funny, because..."

He trails off, and then tries again.

"And it... uh..."

He laughs.

Fallon has a solo record out. His band, The Gaslight Anthem, went on hiatus last year, and since then he's fathered a second child.

The question was about how having children changed him and his songwriting.

Asteriod Named For Queen's Freddie Mercury

Sep 7, 2016

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T STOP ME NOW")

QUEEN: (Singing) Having a good time. I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky like a tiger...

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

If you're like me, somewhere in your house you imagine there must be a pile of lost white iPhone earbuds. The pile is probably right next to the stack of single socks. It's one of several reasons I never liked wireless Bluetooth headphones. They're smaller and even easier to lose.

"It's just a dot of light, but it's a very special dot of light." That's how Queen guitarist Brian May describes the asteroid named for his late friend and bandmate Freddie Mercury.

Official designation: Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury.

"Happy Birthday Freddie!" May wrote on Twitter. "They already named a planet after you, but this little ROCK is a bonus! ha ha."

Copyright 2017 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Lots of people have jobs where they make their boss look good. But for over two decades, Karrie Keyes has been making sure her bosses sound good. Keyes is a sound engineer, and her bosses just happen to be Pearl Jam.

"Half our fans, they know who I am because they see me come out on stage," Keyes says. "The 'microphone girl,' because I'm checking the mics."

His career in the music business ranged from Elton John to Eazy-E: Jerry Heller, who co-founded Ruthless Records alongside rapper Eric Wright (better known as Eazy-E), has died, according to multiple media outlets and family members. In the recent film Straight Outta Compton, Heller was portrayed by Paul Giamatti.

Back in March, both President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama spoke at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. Now, inspired by the trip, the Obama administration is collaborating with SXSW to host a miniature version of the festival at the White House.

Interested in Steve Jobs, Georgia O'Keefe or Alice in Wonderland? They are all explored in new music in the upcoming American concert season.

The V&E Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection in Durham, N.C., is the result of an obsession that grew one oom pah-pah at a time.

Vincent Simonetti started playing tuba in high school in the 1950s – and it was love at first puff.

"And I would draw it in study hall. I'd draw pictures of it. I don't know why. I just became obsessed with it," he says.

To older country fans, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn are the ultimate examples of superstars who stayed true to their humble roots. Tara Thompson, 28, happens to come from Parton's mountains and Lynn's bloodline. The younger singer, typical of her oversharing generation, translates their down-home pride into tell-all songs.

When you think about punk music, you might picture some very thin, pale young guys with mohawks. But Brooklyn's Afropunk Festival is out to prove that punk is much more than that.

The young Canadian rocker Sate was one of the up-and-coming acts at Afropunk, which took place Aug. 27 and 28 this year. I met her right before she hit the stage. She was wearing a cut-off Fishbone shirt, and she says the black punk band inspired her.

In the mid-19th century, Shakers practiced their faith in farming communities from Maine to Kentucky. Numbering 6,000 at their peak, they gave up worldly possessions, marriage and sex, instead devoting themselves to prayer and work. They also wrote songs, thousands of them — including "Simple Gifts," which endures in popular culture despite dating back to the 1840s.

Rudy Van Gelder, an audio recording engineer who captured the sounds of many of jazz's landmark albums, died Thursday morning in his sleep. He was at his home studio in New Jersey, according to Maureen Sickler, his assistant engineer. He was 91.

Imagine you're a teenager in Beijing in the 1960s and '70s, during the Cultural Revolution. Everything that's deemed Western and bourgeois is banned — so listening to a 78 rpm recording of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, powerfully transformative as it might be, is off limits.

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