Today on Sonosphere Amy talks with Christian Fennesz, electronic music composer and musician. Amy caught up with Fennesz at the annual Big Ears Festival in Knoxville. As the first in-person fest in two years, Big Ears was bigger than ever. Acts from all over the nation and the world descended upon the smokey mountain city and brought amazing sounds, visuals, and excellence in musical composition. Always a Sonosphere favorite!
Join Chris and Amy live from WYXR studio in Memphis for some tunes by Fennesz and collaborators like Sparklehorse, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ulver, and more! Christian Fennesz left for his U.S. tour after Big Ears. For more information on Fennesz please visit his website.
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Today on the show we feature Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield aka Black Swan in the vocal concert tradition of late 19th century America.
We will hear from Professor Adam Gustafson who has written about Greenfield as America’s first black pop star for The Conversation an academic journal and is a professor of music at Penn State. We talk about the Greenfield’s early life and rise in the operatic and pop scene in the 19th century.
Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield came of age in antebellum America and grew her career at a time when European operatic, concert songs made singers like Jenny Lind and Catherine Hayes rich and famous.
The concert soprano, Greenfield, was different. She was born a slave in Mississippi and raised by an abolitionist in Philadelphia. When she hit the pop scene in the 1850s, in Professor Gustafson words, she “shattered preexisting beliefs about artistry and race.”
In this show we’ll also exclusively hear black opera singers from Leontyn Price and Jessye Norman to Terrance Blanchard’s Fire Shut up in my Bones, which premiered at the New York Metropolitan Opera earlier this year. While there is no known recording of Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, we will hear Revella Hughes, another great soprano from the 1920s, and maybe one of the first African American opera singers ever recorded. We’ll hear a phonograph recording from 1921 from the Black Swan record label, the label named for Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield.
Thanks for joining us.
Norma Act 1: Casta Dive (1980) Vincenzo Bellini, Leontyne Price, Henry Lewis
Dido and Aeneas, Z. 626 / Act 3 Henry Purcell, Jessye Norman, English Chamber Orchestra, Raymond Leopard
Porgy and Bess / Act 2 George Gershwin, Willard White, Leona Mitchell, Cleveland Orchestra
Dream with Me – Peter Pan Leonard Bernstein, Harolyn Blackwell
Welcome to Sonosphere’s Underscore series where we highlight composers, artists, creators, and more. This episode we highlight Alex Weston, a New York-based composer.
After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a composition degree, he then moved to New York. We’ll discuss his time working as music assistant to composer Philip Glass, helping Glass with various film and concert pieces, while also pursuing his own writing. Weston’s music showcases his wide-ranging influences, combining classical structures along with more modern harmonic language, and electronics.
Weston’s music has also been featured on “The Affair” (Showtime), the Ken Burns-produced documentary “The Emperor of All Maladies” (PBS), and various projects for NBC, Netflix and others. His film scores have premiered at festivals around the world including Sundance, and Slamdance.
He’s had concert works commissioned by the Lyrica Chamber Music Ensemble, the Utah Wind Symphony, MADArt Creative, Ballet in the City, and more, including a recent performance at the John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts.
This month he released his score for the Lulu Wang film The Farewell. On this episode we talk with him about his process for The Farewell and his approach to music in film versus his approach to commissioned works for live dance and others. Enjoy this month’s Underscore.
Korean cellist, composer, and improviser, Okkyung Lee talks with Sonosphere about her time at this year’s Big Ears festival in Knoxville, TN, working with Evan Parker, learning to love the cello, and what’s in store for her this year.
Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble at Big Ears 2018 w Okkung Lee
New York City-based composer collective ICEBERG New Music was in residence at Crosstown Arts here in Memphis for two weeks of concerts, workshops, and lectures back in June of 2017.
We spoke with composers from the second of the two concerts in the Crosstown Arts series, and attended their workshops and lectures that ranged from a “Sound Scavenger Hunt” to a lecture on “Popular and Classical Music in 1960s America.” Memphis-based contemporary chamber group Blueshift Ensemble collaborated with ICEBERG and performed the collective’s original compositions for the concert series.
I hope you enjoy our talk about Iceberg’s mission, the future of new music, collaboration, blending genre’s and more!
Special thanks to Iceberg New Music, Jenny Davis and the Blueshift Ensemble, and Justin Thompson and the whole Crosstown Arts Community.
Alex Burtzos – OMAHA (all the things you could be you are you were) for string quartet
Drake Andersen – Photons for flute and clarinet
Yu-Chun Chien – Co-Composition for a cellist
Jonathan Russ – Eat Your Vegetables for solo clarinet
Harry Stafylakis – Unrelent for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion
WWII wreaked havoc in the world, as Schoenberg was fleeing Germany, young soldiers in Italy, Greece, Germany and Great Britain were fighting on all fronts – a few of these soldiers would become the leaders of the musical scene after WWII and they were stained by the tragedies they witnessed in this war, one of which was Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Hardly anyone had a lasting impact on electronic music as did Stockhausen.
This month’s podcast episode features Karlheinz Stockhausen – check out this playlist featuring his work.
Welcome back to Sonosphere’s Birth of Modern Music series featuring modern European, classical composers that inspired the experimental, avant garde art and music scenes of the 50s, 60s and resonate in music composition today.
In the first episode of the series we highlighted Arnold Schoenberg whose atonal works ushered in a new school of composers. Then we moved to Erik Satie whose Vexations and other “sonic experiments” influenced his peers and John Cage who discovered the piece years later. After that we covered Edgard Varese, a peculiar composer who sculpted sounds in a way never accomplished previously. Today we will delve into the life and works of Olivier Messiaen.
Messiaen escaped the world of composition’s shift to serialism through religion, nature, and birdsong, but he had a profound influence on the evolution of electronic music composition through composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, and Xenakis.
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Varese searched for the modern sound, the sound that would define his generation. Like Schoenberg before him, Varese’s early atonal period broke down language and form into a stream of sensations – “his screaming chords seemed to have no emotion tied to them, no history or future” – just very present in the now.
Join us on the journey through the life and mind of French American composer Edgard Varese.
The next episode of Sonosphere will feature French composer Edgard Varese, often described as the “Father of Electronic Music.” A Sunday Times review called Varese “The great emancipator of noise, he transformed the clamor of big city life into clear musical images.”
John Cage said of Varese, he “fathered forth noise,” which “makes him more relative to the present musical necessity than even the Viennese masters.” Check out the playlist below and whet your appetite for this “ultra-modern” composer.
This episode is the first in a series of European composers that start a change in music, paving the way for avant-garde and disruptive sounds from the classical minimalist genre, to punk and rock and roll we hear today.