The Bells of Notre Dame

“Hello everyone…” That’s how the German-American musicologist Karl Haas used to begin his Peabody Award-winning radio show, Adventures in Good Music just after the fade-out of the show’s theme music (the second movement of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, played by Haas, himself). Adventures in Good Music aired on radio stations across the United States from 1970 to 2007. Growing up, one of my favorite episodes was The Story of the Bells, broadcast on Christmas Eve. It featured the distinct sounds …

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Christopher Rouse’s First Symphony

From the first, haunting strands of its spine-chilling opening, Christopher Rouse’s Symphony No. 1 inhabits a world of darkness and terror. Its titanic forces rise out of, and then sink back into, an atmosphere of seemingly perpetual gloom. It shows us the strange beauty embodied in brooding darkness, hopelessness and despair, and concludes without delivering the kind of reassurance we would like. Completed in the summer of 1986, the work was written for the …

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Singing Along with the Vacuum Cleaner

What inescapable sounds surround us in the twenty-first century and how do they influence music? Nico Muhly’s 2012 album, Drones, is music which seems to emerge from the hum of the refrigerator or vacuum cleaner. Muhly (b.1981) studied with John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse at Julliard, served as Philip Glass’s copyist, and has collaborated with Björk and Usher. Like Gabriel Kahane, his style, which blends elements of rock and electronic music, is hard to pin down. Read …

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