Music News

There's a famous, heated scene in the 1982 film Diner in which Shrevie (Daniel Stern) has discovered that his wife Beth (Ellen Barkin) has been listening to his 1950s-era record collection, which is organized neatly by name, date, and genre. While Beth "just wants to listen to the music," for Shrevie it's extremely important to recognize his organizational process for a collection that means everything to him. "Every one of my records means something!" he screams at her.

Why is classical music so hard to enjoy on streaming services? In one word, it's metadata. Metadata is the information that coexists with every digital music file: each and every piece of information about a selection of music that a listener might find useful to know, and what makes the information in one file discernible from the next. In the case of classical music, relevant and important metadata includes the name of the piece of music, the composer, the album it's from, the performers, the label that released the recording and the year it was recorded.

Margaret Juntwait was the mellifluous voice of the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday live radio broadcasts. She was also a longtime host at NPR member station WNYC in New York. Juntwait died Wednesday at age 58 of complications from ovarian cancer. The Met and WNYC have each offered tributes.

Where do music historians go to find the sounds that shape the stories they tell? There are some obvious places, like the Library of Congress, whose National Jukebox offers more than ten thousand songs from the dawn of the modern age, or the Internet Archive, which overwhelms with its vast array of material and is especially rich for live recordings.

Digital Underground

Jun 3, 2015

The music sharing platform imeem thrived from 2004 until its shuttering in 2009 as a safe haven in the wilds of the semi-legal Internet. It was Napster without the piracy, a legal space for music makers and fans to share bedroom composition, videos of their latest dance moves, and the latest streamed — not downloaded — hits.

Recently, the rapper Jay Z relaunched the subscription streaming music service Tidal, which includes the option to listen to high-definition audio for $19.99 per month. Tidal's HiFi, with its uncompressed audio files, promises a better listening experience than any other streaming service on the market.

Would You Like To Hear A Song, Dave?

Jun 2, 2015

Late one Saturday morning last December, after a couple months using my Aether Cone, the "thinking" speaker played David Bowie's "Changes." I pressed the soft button in the center of the sleek, chrome-plated player, and out came the swaggering piano and sharp blast of sax. "Oh yeah," cooed Bowie. "That'll do just fine," I thought, walking away from the wireless speaker sitting on the desk in my bedroom in order to do a few chores.

Maria Yanez might be the present-day music industry's ideal customer. The 36-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., owns roughly 1,000 vinyl records. Though she has sold "a lot" of her CDs and stopped buying digital music about three years ago, she's mostly content with her paid Spotify subscription.

There was a moment in the mid-2000s when it seemed like we might be collecting songs, one-by-one, into eternity. Internet connections were getting faster, hard drives stored more data in tinier spaces, songs were easier than ever to find and available for little or no money. Every year, the new version of Apple's iPod, first introduced in 2001 with a now-adorable 5GB of storage space, held thousands upon thousands more songs.

A Band Of Their Own

May 30, 2015

Jeanette Baker got to know John Dolphin when she was an aspiring teenage singer in the 1950s.

"I can see him now walking around with that cigar," Baker says. "When he walked around, you knew he was somebody, OK, because he had that air ... which was kind of unusual in those days because being a black man with all that competence that he had, he was like a role model to us."

DJ Quik X Spoon, 'Inside Out' Remix

May 29, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's hear some new music now with our guides Stephen Thompson and Bob Boilen of NPR Music.

Updated below at 6:40 p.m. ET with defendants' response.

Was it a laudable snapshot of cross-generational jamming, or taking advantage of a jazz titan?

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A decade ago, you could hardly turn on the radio without hearing this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MR. BRIGHTSIDE")

ABBA's Essential, Influential Melancholy

May 23, 2015

Dressed in black and greeted by Barry and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, former ABBA members Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson took their 2010 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seriously and sincerely. While Lyngstad definitively dismissed reunion rumors, Andersson spoke of the quartet's musical roots and emotional core.

Rickie Lee Jones needs no introduction. Seriously. The singer-songwriter is so elementally articulate, so gifted at grasping both the rawest and the most complicatedly cooked emotions in her compositions, that critical framing best comes after the experience of listening to her.

Bruce Lundvall, the longtime President of Blue Note Records who supported many top jazz artists over the last four decades, died yesterday, May 19. The cause was complications of Parkinson's Disease, according to a Blue Note statement. He was 79.

After Thaw, Minnesota Orchestra Returns To Cuba

May 17, 2015

The Minnesota Orchestra plays Havana this weekend. It's the first professional U.S. orchestra to perform in Cuba since the United States and the island nation began the process of normalization last December. For the musicians, this trip is about healing — both diplomatically and for themselves.

B.B. King And The Majesty Of The Blues

May 16, 2015

It seemed as if he'd go on forever — and B.B. King was working right up until the end. It's what he loved to do: playing music, and fishing. Even late in life, living with diabetes, he spent about half the year on the road. King died Thursday night at home in Las Vegas. He was 89 years old.

The nominees for the 2015 Americana Honors and Awards were announced today at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. This year's slate shows how the definition of Americana is gently expanding to include more generationally, racially and stylistically diverse stars, while remaining grounded in its country-leaning, singer-songwriter-dominated definition of roots music.

Vinyl's Comeback Keeps Record Pressers Busy

May 13, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF JACK WHITE SONG, "HIGH BALL STEPPER")

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FRIEND OF THE DEVIL")

GRATEFUL DEAD: (Singing) I set out running, but I'll take my time. A friend of the devil is a friend of mine.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Right before the 2014 release of the James Brown biopic Get On Up, producer J. Period and The Roots rapper Black Thought recorded an entire mixtape in one take. It functions like a documentary about the Godfather of Soul.

Editor's note: In 2013, we wrote about a band named The Slants and the legal battle over its name. As the saga continues, we check back in on what it means to the band's members — and what it could mean for trademark law.

Music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora continue to grow more popular with music fans — but not with musicians, who complain they used to earn more in royalties from CD sales and music downloads. Songwriters say they've been hit even harder, and the Department of Justice appears to be taking their complaints seriously: It's exploring big changes to the music publishing business for the first time since World War II.

If you look at the top songs on the Billboard charts, most of them were written by at least one professional songwriter. It's a real job.

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