A Minute with Miles

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How did the piano get its name? Why can’t you “reach” a crescendo? Who invented opera—and why—and how do you pronounce “Handel”? These and countless other classical music questions are answered on South Carolina Public Radio’s A Minute with Miles. Hosted by longtime NPR commentator Miles Hoffman, the segments inform and entertain as they provide illuminating 60-second flights through the world of classical music. 

Canon Round Catch

Oct 6, 2014

A Canon, with one "n" in the middle, is a composition with two or more voices or parts in which a melody is first stated in one voice and then imitated in another.

Prima Donna

Oct 2, 2014

Prima donna, Italian for “first lady,” refers to the leading lady in an opera, the singer of the principal female role.  The term has been in use since the 1600s, the earliest days of opera, and by the 1700s it was already associated with the artistic and commercial cult of the glamorous leading lady… and with singers who were monumentally demanding egomaniacs—to put it politely.

Brass Instruments

Sep 30, 2014

Brass instruments are wind instruments and although they may be coiled or bent in different shapes, all brass instruments consists essentially of a very long metal tube.  If you straightened out all the tubing on a French horn, for example, it would be about 17 feet long!  And the tubing of a tuba might be up to 26 feet long.  There are two main ways to play different notes, or pitches, on a brass instrument.  One is to change the actual length of the tube either using valves as on the French horn, trumpet, and tuba or a slide as on the trombone.  The longer the tube, the lower the note.  T

Narrative in Music

Sep 29, 2014

I once asked the composer Max Raimi what he thought of a certain other composer’s music.  He replied that her music had interesting sounds, and interesting textures, and interesting moments, but that it tended to lack three things that he considered very important: a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Chamber Music

Sep 25, 2014

Chamber music is music for small formations, from as few as two musicians to as many as nine or ten.  Chamber music rehearsals are very different from orchestra rehearsals.

Baroque Era

Sep 24, 2014

The Baroque era in Western music extends from about 1600 to 1750.  The earliest surviving opera was written in 1600, and the year 1750 serves as a convenient closing point because it marks the death of Johann Sebastian Bach, the greatest of all Baroque composers.

Classical Era

Sep 23, 2014

The Era of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, running roughly from about 1775 to 1820, is known to musical historians as the Classical Era.  This era follows the Baroque period and preceded the Romantic.

Classical Music

Sep 22, 2014

Classical Music is not a precise term and how could it be when it's used as a label for music from countless styles, periods, and nationalities from the Gregorian chant of the 7th century to the diverse and unpredictable products of the 21st?


Sep 19, 2014

Caprice is the French and English version of the Italian word "Capriccio," which is from the Latin "caper" meaning goat.  Goats tend to caper about however it suits their fancy and in music, since the 16th century or so, caprice has been used for pieces in which composers follow their imaginations, their moods and whims, rather than strict rules.

Bel Canto

Sep 18, 2014

You've probably heard the term " Bel Canto" used to describe the operas of certain composers, especially ones who's names end in "ini" or "eti."  But Bel Canto, which in English simply means beautiful singing, is a term that's been around for a very long time.


Sep 17, 2014

A cadence is a sequence of notes or chords that brings a musical piece of passage to a conclusion or to a temporary stop.  Most cadences conform to one of several easily recognized patterns or formulas, and the familiarity of these formulas is what reinforces their closing function.

Classical Music Insecurity

Sep 15, 2014

When you hear a piece of classical music you like, do you distrust your own opinion?  And when you hear a piece you don't like, do you believe the people who tell you it's your own fault?