Music News

What makes one song sound like another? Sometimes it's coincidence; sometimes it's plagiarism. And sometimes, it's the byproduct of deliberate craftsmanship: building a song piece by piece from distinct styles of music. All of that can make it hard to give a tune a genre.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Saxophonist Bobby Keys was still a teenager when he started playing with his fellow Texan Buddy Holly and pop star Bobby Vee. Later, he joined up with the Rolling Stones. And for more than 40 years, Bobby Keys' powerful sax was a key part of their sound.

Updated at 3:44 p.m.

Bobby Keys, the legendary saxophonist most associated with The Rolling Stones, has died. He was 70 years old.

Want to play a Tiny Desk Concert? Now's your chance: NPR Music and Lagunitas are holding a contest, and the winner gets to perform at my desk here at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

For the past few years, member station Q2 in New York City has been enlisting listeners in a thought-provoking year-end poll. Forget the best music of the last year — what are the very best compositions of the last century?

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ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:

In the '90s, Rainbo Records owner Steve Sheldon wanted to keep his vinyl presses going.

Everyone thought he was crazy; they told him it was a dead format. But Sheldon was adamant.

"I actually said, many times, 'I think it will be around longer than CDs,' " Sheldon says.

Today, his Canoga Park, Calif., operation is massive. There are sound testing rooms, large printers for making labels and rows of workers stuffing sleeves. And then there are the actual presses themselves — 14 of them — giving off smoke and smelling of burnt rubber.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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

(SOUNDBITE OF FELIX MENDELSSOHN ORATORIO, "ELIJAH")

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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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO THEY KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS?")

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 http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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