Music News

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There are lots of ways to say thank you today that don't include turkey or cranberry sauce. For example, there is music.


CHORUS: (Singing in German).

The Internet radio service Pandora made its name by creating personalized stations using tools such as "like" and "dislike" buttons for listeners. But a deal between Pandora and a group of record labels has raised concerns that the company is favoring certain songs over others because it's paying the musicians behind those songs a smaller royalty.

When Pandora emerged a decade ago, its big selling point over traditional radio was that it created a station just for you, as the company's Eric Bieschke told NPR last year.

Imagine you're in a Tower Records in the late '90s. You head for the cash register with a credit card and two compact discs in your hand. Let's say one CD is by OutKast, the other by Smash Mouth (remember, it's the late '90s). The following week on the Billboard 200, America's premier album chart, both of the CDs you bought have been tallied.

Actor Jeff Bridges may have revealed his musical talent in a movie — as Bad Blake, the fading country singer in Crazy Heart — but music is more than just a side gig for him.

Bridges says he's always strumming his guitar, even when he's on a movie set.

"Whenever I'm working, I'll have my guitar with me," he says. "And if there's a nice tree to sit by, or a little creek or something, I'll go out there. Anywhere is a good place to play music."

Gilberto Reyes is a musician who grew up to Mexican parents in Southern Texas. He says as a kid he was not afraid of El Cucuy, or the boogeyman. He was more concerned about Camelia La Tejana, or Camelia of Texas.

"I remember when I was a kid listening to the songs, thinking, 'Wow. Una bandida,' " Reyes says. "This incredible woman with power to make men do whatever she wants at her will, you know."

Nora Jane Struthers is guided by fire. Coming up within the tradition-minded bluegrass world, she spent her youth in a family band with her father, a good daughter learning tradition. But since she's been leading her own band, the Party Line, Struthers has poured more and more emotion into her songwriting, coming up with some of the most quietly powerful narratives within the new wave of Americana artists.

A Flurry Of Premieres For American Orchestras

Nov 20, 2014

How about some good — even great — news from American orchestras? Today and tomorrow, four of the country's biggest ensembles are playing world premieres by prominent composers.

Brundibár, a children's opera that premiered during World War II, became both a symbol of hope and resistance and a Nazi propaganda tool. Now, Petite Opera, a small company in suburban Chicago, is reprising the opera, originally performed by Jewish children held in a concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia.

A Jazz Institution Moves Back Home To Los Angeles

Nov 19, 2014

Last weekend, at a sold-out, star-studded gala concert in Hollywood, Pharrell Williams and Herbie Hancock remixed Williams' hit "Happy," Kevin Spacey served up a compelling Frank Sinatra imitation singing "Fly Me To The Moon" and former President Bill Clinton offered a heartfelt reminiscence about his early days as a John Coltrane wannabe. ("Sometimes frustrated jazz musicians end up in another line of work and it ends up pretty good," he joked.) The opener was a jazz concert: Three virtuosic young trumpet players — Adam O'Farrill, Billy Buss and Marquis Hill — deftly negotiated standards.

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Now let's hear the new generation of an aging song. It's a song produced 30 years ago to raise money for people in Africa.


If you're a parent, the sound of a small child sawing away at the strains of the "Twinkle Variations" may be all too familiar.

It's Song One, of Book One, of the Suzuki method, a musical pedagogy developed by Shin'ichi Suzuki in the 1960s.

But lately there has been discord among music educators, a feud over methods and credentials and accusations of fraud.

A new documentary about WFMU, the scrappy, chaotic and iconoclastic radio station in New Jersey, debuts today at the DOC NYC film festival. Sex and Broadcasting is described by the filmmakers as "an American tale of life, liberty and independent radio." In an opening scene, station manager Ken Freedman is on the air and delivers what amounts to a manifesto.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit



Why The Caged Bird Raps

Nov 10, 2014

Maya Angelou: poet, singer, dancer, painter, Grammy winner — and now, hip-hop artist.

The new album Caged Bird Songs takes its title from Angelou's 1969 book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. One of the last projects Angelou worked on before her passing in May, it blends some of her most famous poems and lyrics with hip hop beats.

In Berlin, A Beat That Bloomed From Rubble

Nov 9, 2014

Just after 10 on a Saturday morning, at a defunct power station in central Berlin, revelers reluctantly leave a club buried in its basement. One of them asks, "Hey man, you there, you know a good place to party?" as he stumbles into the sunlight.

Musicians and management at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra have reached agreement on a new labor contract after months of negotiations and a lockout, setting the stage for the ensemble's 70th anniversary season to start on Thursday. Appropriately enough, the first concert will feature Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."

There was a time when you could hear instrumental music on Top 40 radio right alongside big-name singers. But, with a few exceptions, the heyday of pop instrumentals ended three decades ago.

It's not unusual for musicians to play through pain. But instead of blisters or cramps, members of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra recently endured the searing throb of hot peppers. And it was on purpose: Each musician ate one of "the world's hottest chili peppers" whole, as they played a tango.

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Peter Miller is the principal songwriter and lead singer of the Minneapolis band We Are the Willows. For the group's new album, Picture (Portrait), Miller wrote songs inspired by more than 350 letters sent to his grandmother, Verlie Miller, from his grandfather, Alvin Miller, during World War II.

AC/DC Drummer Charged In Murder Plot

Nov 6, 2014
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