There's a kind of little village of artisans on Manhattan's West 54th Street. In a couple of plain looking office towers, there are a bunch of rehearsal studios, violin makers' workshops and other music businesses. Behind one of those office doors on the 10th floor sits Frank Music Company — Frank's, as everybody calls it.
It was supposed to be a celebratory occasion, a high-profile performance of a piece given life by the orchestra that commissioned it — a young composer's music played by other young musicians.
Instead, the performance scheduled for Sunday of Jonas Tarm's music at Carnegie Hall by the highly regarded New York Youth Symphony (NYYS) has been canceled after it came to the attention of the ensemble's administration that the piece contains a quotation from the Nazi "Horst Wessel Lied."
Releasing music under multiple names is a standby in the world of electronic dance music, but nobody in the early 1990s made more of the tendency than Aphex Twin, born Richard D. James in Cornwall, England in 1971. In addition to his main moniker, James had perhaps the most perversely odd pseudonyms in a field heavy on dweebs, gearheads, sci-fi nuts and other language-as-alien-device types.
Originally published on Sat February 28, 2015 2:17 pm
It's been five years since Kanye West raised his glass to "the a--holes" in the song "Runaway," a poetic taxonomy of bad behavior that formed the emotional center of his masterwork My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It's a sad song about romantic failure, but also a strong statement connecting West to popular music's longstanding practice of being dangerously outrageous.
Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 3:16 pm
Singer Madonna fell off the steps next to the stage while performing her song "Living for Love" at the Brit Awards in London. The 56-year-old singer picked herself up and continued her performance.
The fall at Wednesday's music awards show was apparently caused by a move that went wrong: A dancer tugged at Madonna's cape, which failed to detach, and the singer fell down a flight of steps. Almost immediately, she rose and continued singing.
Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 12:40 pm
By some measures, China is now the world's largest economy. It's also a gigantic market for American brands, from Hollywood blockbusters to KFC and Pizza Hut. But one Chinese conductor, Long Yu, would like these cultures to hear each other a little more clearly. He's launching a new project to do just that, and it's starting tonight with the New York Philharmonic.
Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 4:46 pm
The movie Birdman is favored to pick up several major Academy Awards Sunday night, but it will not be taking home the Oscar for best original score. That's because it was declared ineligible for Oscar consideration.
Birdman has one of the year's more distinctive musical scores, propelled by the unaccompanied jazz drumming of Antonio Sanchez, a bandleader and longtime drummer for guitarist Pat Metheny.
Originally published on Sun February 15, 2015 12:04 pm
Deacon John does it all. The veteran New Orleans bandleader plays weddings, birthdays, proms, debutante parties. He holds his own at Jazz Fest and at carnival balls. He'll play 1950s R&B, rock, jazz, gospel, soul and disco — whatever the people want to hear. But when it's up to him, he chooses the blues.
Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 3:24 pm
We were all here before. Rising up out of the subway onto 125th Street, it strikes me that I should come uptown to Harlem more often. The Popeye's on 125th and St. Nicholas Avenue is still there, offering the same crispy bird parts and sodium-heavy buttermilk biscuits; it's still the same bustling, up-til-3-a.m. refuge it always was. Vendors still hawk street literature, pamphlets and incense sticks on fold-up tables that line the sidewalks. It could just as easily be 1995. That's when I was restless and unsettled.
Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 4:27 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Sam Smith won four Grammy Awards last night. And that was good news for Tom Petty. Petty and another songwriter will get royalties from Smith's hit "Stay With Me" because it sounds a lot like one of their songs. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.
On Sunday night, the big Grammy Award winners included Beck and Sam Smith, both of whom put out records that moved pretty slowly. As Stephen Thompson and I note in our wrap-up of the night, the ceremony was a little heavy also, despite some strong performances and a helpful infusion of social commentary.
Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 12:48 pm
Sam Smith, the British singer whose debut album, In the Lonely Hour, was one of only two albums released in 2014 to go platinum, won four Grammys, including Record and Song of the Year, as well as Best New Artist.
Music critics these days love to argue about "rockism," the unexamined prejudices we bring to our musical judgements, and "poptimism," an effort to celebrate commercial stuff that some think goes way too far. My book, Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music, aims to get us out of that endless back and forth by focusing on the key place songs become pop: radio, which, beginning on AM with Top 40 in the 1950s and then moving to FM in the 1970s, gave music its deepest connection to Americans. Radio made new tunes and styles familiar, perennial, memories.