Music

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was only in his early twenties and not long graduated from the Royal College of Music when his cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast propelled him to international fame. A setting of verses drawn from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, the 1898 choral-orchestral work by the Afro-English composer proved immensely popular with performers and audiences alike—on both sides of the Atlantic.    

With their distinctive makeup and and personas and wild stage shows, few rock bands are as recognizable as KISS.  The group has attracted legions of fans over the last half-century.  John Downs of Charleston took his interest a step beyond fandom, and has amassed a collection of hundreds of items since 1977.  

Musical talent has a way of bringing families together. The stories of Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, the Labèque sisters, Ottensamer brothers, and Kanneh-Mason siblings all suggest that some of a young musician’s most promising opportunities for collaboration may very well be seated at the kitchen table. For the six siblings of the Grimbert-Barré family, though, music is not only a means of interacting with each other—it’s also a way of engaging with their family history.

Staccato

Oct 21, 2020
A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours

Staccato is the Italian word for “separated,” or “detached.” Staccato notes are notes that are not sustained for their full rhythmic value: they come to a short stop, which separates them from notes that follow. They also usually have a clean, sharply articulated start. The opposite of staccato is legato, which means “connected.” Composers often specifically indicate that notes or passages should be played staccato, and they do so by placing dots, dashes, or little wedges over the notes in question.

Song Cylces

Oct 20, 2020
A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours

A song cycle is a set of songs whose texts—often by a single poet—are linked by a common subject, mood, or story. Though the songs of the cycle are all individual entities, they’re designed to be heard together.  And if the marriage of music and poetry in the song represents a 19th-century Romantic ideal, the song cycle carries that ideal even further, allowing for an expanded range of expression, a deeper exploration of the individual psyche.

Musical Borrowing

Oct 19, 2020
A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours

For centuries, composers of classical music have been borrowing and adapting ideas and styles from popular music. Renaissance composers, for example, based Roman Catholic masses on popular tunes. Later composers made liberal use of folk tunes and folk styles of all kinds, and modern composers have borrowed freely from jazz and blues, among many other popular styles. But here’s what we sometimes forget: It’s always worked in the other direction, as well.

Guitar History

Oct 16, 2020
A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours

I’ve been reading about the guitar lately, and here’s what I’ve found: When it comes to the history of the guitar, the only thing that’s certain… is that nothing is certain. Did the early plucked ancestors of the modern guitar make their way to Europe from Asia and the Middle East? Possibly. There are tomb paintings from ancient Egypt, after all, and Hittite stone carvings from over three thousand years ago that show guitar-like instruments, not to mention an actual guitar-like instrument from Egypt that’s 3500 years old.

Musical Arrangements

Oct 15, 2020
A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours

To make an arrangement of a musical composition is to rewrite the composition for a new set of musical forces—to rewrite a wind quintet for string quartet, for example, or to transform a string quartet into a piano trio. In the process of arrangement, a piece may be altered in all sorts of ways, but the original composition always remains recognizable. And arranging is an art in itself—it can be done ingeniously and beautifully, helping us to hear a piece with fresh ears—and it can be done clumsily, and badly.

A Capella

Oct 14, 2020
A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours

The term a capella is one of the more familiar Italian terms we run into in the music world. When applied to vocal music, a capella simply means “without instrumental accompaniment.” But you may find the derivation of the term interesting. The literal meaning of a capella in Italian is “as in the chapel,” or “in the style of the chapel.” And what has the chapel got to do with it?

Country Music

Oct 5, 2020
Dwight Yoakam plays a Martin D-28 guitar. Yoakam is among the 76 of the 101 country music artists interviewed for the series who signed two Martin D-28 guitars.
Courtesy of Jared Ames

Since its first publication in 1968, Bill C. Malone’s Country Music USA has won universal acclaim as the definitive history of American country music. Starting with the music’s folk roots in the rural South, it traces country music from the early days of radio into the twenty-first century. In the 2019, fiftieth-anniversary edition, Malone, the featured historian in Ken Burns’ 2019 documentary on country music, revised every chapter to offer new information and fresh insights.

Jim LaTallet

Note on April 2, 2020: If "musical equivalent of a particle accelerator" didn't give it away—this story was an April Fools' joke.

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates famously highlights music as one of the two disciplines necessary for the healthy functioning of a society. The philosopher even goes so far as to recommend that only two musical modes—the old-world equivalent of modern-day keys like C Major or E minor—be allowed in the ideal state: the Dorian and the Phrygian. Other modes, like the Lydian and Ionian, Socrates dismisses as unedifying.

Beethoven's First Piano Concerto with Phillip Bush

Feb 17, 2020
Bradley Fuller, South Carolina Public Radio

Not long after his arrival in Vienna in late 1792, a young Ludwig van Beethoven was beginning to make an impression in the musical city. The Austrian capital had only a year prior lost one of its other famous residents—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—and Beethoven showed promising signs of carrying the composer’s legacy forward into a new century. Like Mozart, Beethoven was skilled as both a performer and a composer, using talents in one specialty to highlight those in another. 

Bradley Fuller, South Carolina Public Radio

Late nights are a frustrating fact of life for many musicians. Too often, the time after sundown is all that remains for performing, practicing, working against an upcoming deadline, or agonizing over an artistic quandary.

But for composer Thomas Palmer, a senior studying composition and clarinet performance at the Unviersity of South Carolina School of Music, there’s inspiration to be found even in the drudgery of a sleep-deprived state. His reed quintet Red-Eye (2019), recently published by Murphy Music Press, is a musical representation of staying up late.

Bradley Fuller / South Carolina Public Radio

Those who insist that speaking about music is akin to dancing about architecture would do well to take a few preliminary steps with Columbia-based conductor Nisan Ak. A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Ak knows that a little preparation before taking in a performance can go a long way.

David Ball (second from left) and his band.
Courtesy of the artist

Country music has made and broken careers for close to a century now.  David Ball of Spartanburg is one of the survivors, enjoying a long career in the field.  In high school he joined the legendary acoustic trio Uncle Walt's Band, playing a blend of bluegrass, blues, swing and folk, "and then that of course led me into Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family," he recalls of his introduction to country. 

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