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Mozart and Me
49 minutes | Apr 3, 2017
The Only Living Instrument: Choral Music with Eric Whitacre
Today, I will be addressing a topic which is quite close to heart for me personally. It’s the genre of choral music. I’m sad to say, but most people in the US have never experienced the rich tradition and repertoire of choral music. Eric Whitacre is a musician you simply cannot, not know about. I couldn’t possibly think of a better individual to discuss choral music because Eric Whitacre is among the world’s most well-known and highly revered choral composers. He is a Grammy-winning composer, a graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, is a natural and persuasive orator, and perhaps is most famously known for his Virtual Choir project, which is a global choir consisting of thousands of singers. I was privileged to have this conversation with him and I am confident that you’ll have a completely different perspective on choral music as a result of it.
24 minutes | Mar 23, 2017
Music Out Of This World: Becca Stevens is Regina
Today I will be introducing you to a singer/songwriter named Becca Stevens, who just released her new album, Regina. If you’re looking for some new music to explore, consider your search now complete. Becca is not just your average musician. I mean, she’s really good and in her most recent album, she has collaborated with Snarky Puppy’s Michael League, Jacob Collier, Laura Mvula, and the legendary David Crosby. If you know those names, then you know that all you need to do is put those people in the same room and the chemistry will invariably take over! And indeed, if know of Snarky Puppy, or the GroundUp independent label, you know how freely they experiment with the best of many different genres. Now, sometimes artists will borrow conventions from different genres, but they just don’t mesh, and sound forced together. But when you listen to Becca’s music, you feel like you’re listening to a mature genre which has always been there because of how congruent the sound is. I am pleased to announce that this album has been finally made available and you can listen to it on Spotify, iTunes or any other music streaming service. Or even better, you can order it on beccastevens.com.
35 minutes | Mar 14, 2017
The Mystery of Tchaikovsky’s Greatest Work: Semyon Bychkov
If you’re not familiar with Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony, I’m afraid you’re not really familiar with Tchaikovsky, regardless of how many times you’ve watched the Nutcracker or attended Swan Lake. Tchaikovsky’s 6th was not only his final one, but it was his magnum opus. He admitted himself, that it was “the best thing he composed” and the work into which he “poured all his soul”. Joining me for this episode is the famous Semyon Bychkov, who is a Soviet-born maestro and conductor. I consider Maestro Bychkov’s interpretation of Tchaikovsky to be one of the best. He not only preserves all of the passion of Tchaikovsky’s aesthetic but mort importantly, he doesn’t overdo it. Born in St. Petersburg, Bychkov began his formal conducting lessons at 13 and won the Rachmaninov Conducting Competition when he was only 20. He fled the soviet union as a refugee, and perhaps it’s his Russian heritage that gives him access to the melancholy heart of Tchaikovsky. Now living in Paris, Maestro is a globe-trotting guest conductor who is regularly praised for the beauty and integrity of his interpretations.
40 minutes | Mar 9, 2017
Why is Music Important for Children? Dan Goeller
You’ve probably heard that music is good for the development of children, but what is it about music, that gives it such a profound impact? While research continues to prove the positive impact of music, schools in the US continue to eliminate or reduce music and art programs. Joining me today, to explore this fascinating topic is the composer Dan Goeller. I have known Dan personally for many years and have always been fascinated with his music. I’ve met his family, stayed at his home, and even performed and recorded some of his compositions. But Dan is not only a composer, but a deep thinker, a father to 3 lovely children, and recently he started an El Sistema-based non-profit youth orchestra in his city for kids who would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience music. We had a stimulating conversation which, especially if you’re a parent, you’ll find to be quite instructional.
26 minutes | Mar 1, 2017
Honest Songwriting: Michelle Willis
Born in England, raised in Toronto Canada, educated at the Humber College jazz program, Michelle Willis has a broad musical experience writing and performing music along great artists such as David Crosby, Snarky Puppy, Parachute Club, and the Zac Brown Band. It’s hard to label her music in any specific genre as you’ll hear many conventions present throughout. It lives somewhere between jazz, folk, pop, church music, and Eric Whitacre. It’s calming, reassuring, comforting, hearty, and simply inspiring. If you find yourself in a place where you need some encouragement to press on, or if you simply need to hear that everything will be okay, than you’ll want to get a copy of this album. Her songs honest, comforting, positive and musically beautiful.
23 minutes | Feb 23, 2017
The Most Famous Violinist - Itzhak Perlman
Itzhak Perlman is violinist that you simply cannot, not know about. In this episode, we will explore his story and what makes him a great violinist. But Itzhak Perlman is not only a sweet-tone violinist, he’s also a legitimate virtuoso violinist. If you’re not familiar with this term, it’s when you can play the most sophisticated and challenging repertoire which was developed in the early 19th century by composers like Franz Liszt and Niccolo Paganini. To play this repertoire a violinist must master an incredible scope of insanely difficult techniques which we will cover in this episode. Perlman has become a deeply revered musician who played with nearly all of the world's renowned orchestras, and at venues which have included a State Dinner at the White House honoring Queen Elizabeth II, and a Presidential Inauguration. In 2015, Itzhak Perlman was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Obama for his meritorious contributions to cultural endeavors of the United States and for being a powerful advocate for people with disabilities. In June of last year, he received the 2016 Genesis Prize. Itzhak Perlman’s recordings have garnered 16 GRAMMY® Awards and regularly appear on the best-seller charts.
48 minutes | Feb 16, 2017
Why You Don't Get Opera: Aaron Breid
Not all genres of music are accessible to everyone but some are especially difficult for modern listeners to appreciate. Some even argue, that any genre not supported by rhythm and bass, is in danger of becoming extinct. One of the best examples of this, is opera. Many young people today not only ignore the genre, but in many cases, outright detest it. The wailing sopranos, the foreign language, the strange costumes, and their classical compositions all seem to alienate modern 21st-century sensitivities. But think about it. Most of the genres we listen today are relatively new and haven’t had time to mature. But with opera, this fascinating genre of music has been around for hundreds of years. And during this time, something incredible happened. Because there were no microphones, a vocal technique emerged which allowed the fragile human voice to project sound over the orchestra and into auditorium seating thousands of listeners—and without causing and damage to the vocal folds. If we’re talking about the Olympics of vocal performance, opera is where the human voice has been tested and tried for centuries. To be honest, most people today don’t know what vocal technique is, nor how to tell if someone is properly singing or not. We will cover this in a future episode in greater detail, but just like there are optimal techniques for the way we run, or swim, or surf, or dance, or jump, there are vocal techniques which allow the human voice to perform optimally. When you ignore certain principles, your voice sounds constrained, your range is limited, and eventually you will damage your voice. Opera deserves respect as the standard-bearer of vocal performance. These techniques are universal and could be applied in any genre. While singing is at the center of operatic performances, there is much more going on than just singing. To help us dive deeper into this subject, joining me today is Aaron Breid. Aaron and I studied together during our undergrad years, and he is now an opera Maestro and director.
36 minutes | Feb 8, 2017
Rap Between Worlds: Conversation with Sho Baraka
Born in Canada, raised in California, educated in Texas and now residing in Atlanta Georgia, Sho is a controversial artist who is not ashamed of his convictions. As a Christian, he speaks from a Biblical worldview. As an African-American, he speaks boldly to the social issues in his culture. As a man, husband and father, he addresses false assumptions about manhood. And as an artist, he speaks imaginatively and creatively through his music. Sho is not shy about his convictions and he is ready to ruffle feathers. He walks an incredible tightrope between political agendas, between Christian movements, between gender issues and between hip-hop genres. As a vocal activist, Sho chose to use the medium of hip-hop to speak into his culture and here’s our conversation on why music.
19 minutes | Feb 1, 2017
La La Land music: How the soundtrack gives you wings
No doubt everyone has heard of the new musical called La La Land. Scoring a mind-boggling 7 Golden Globes and 14 Oscar nominations, this contemporary love letter to old Hollywood musicals is among the top performing movies of all time. But this is totally unexpected because we were all starting to think that musicals are a thing of the past. But the music of this movie literally takes you to La La Land, where you grow wings to dream and pursue ideals. But, not everyone felt this way about La La Land. As soon as any successful movie hits a critical level of mass-approval, you can literally start the whiplash countdown. It awakens a certain type of cultural journalism which feels like it needs to deconstruct any successful enjoyable work for everything it didn’t do. In this episode, you'll be introduced to the controversy surrounding the movie, who does Sebastian, played by Gosling, represent, and you'll be introduced to the soundtrack composed by Justin Hurwitz.
44 minutes | Jan 27, 2017
Between Jazz and Art Song: Conversation with Theo Bleckmann
Today we have a special guest joining us. Theo Bleckmann is a singer/songwriter who’s musical artistry is full of paradoxes. It’s provocative but playful. Impossibly sophisticated but intuitively familiar. Unpredictable yet totally coherent. His work has been described as “from another planet” (New York Times), as “magical, futuristic,” (AllAboutJazz), “limitless” (Citypaper, Philadelphia) “transcendent” (Village Voice) and simply, “brilliant” (New York Magazine). Theo’s music is probably not what you’re used to hearing. It’s actually quite difficult to classify, since it’s a hybrid somewhere between jazz and art song. Theo is a creative pioneer, so I was honored to have this stimulating conversation with him. We discussed the role of an artist—and what it means for someone to pursue music that is synchronized with their identity. One of my favorite moments was when Theo pointed out how our consumerist culture has shaped the way we also consume music. I mean, have you ever thought about that? Theo has been widely recognized as an accomplished musician, so I am confident that you will enjoy our conversation. Take a listen as I start the conversation by asking him about his musical background.
11 minutes | Jan 24, 2017
What is harmony? And how did we get it?
Today we have a fascinating topic, and it is the phenomenon we call harmony. No doubt a familiar term to all of us, but what exactly does it mean and how is it used in music? In this episode we will explore a brief history of how harmony evolved in western music starting with the Greeks and progressing all the way through atonal music. You will be introduced to the most important concepts related to harmony.
27 minutes | Jan 16, 2017
Music and Productivity An interview with Will Henshall, CEO and Founder of Focusatwill
Today we have a fascinating guest with us, his name is Will Henshall, and he is the CEO and Founder of a productivity music software company called Focus at Will. In my discussion with him, we talked about the nature of music, how it impacts the brain, and most interestingly, we explored the relationship between music and the “Flow State”, which is basically when you are hyper-focused and totally involved in what you are doing. I can’t think of a better person to have this conversation with than Will Henshall, who has achieved notable global success both as a musical/visual artist and as a technical inventor. In 1987, he founded the British pop-soul band called Londonbeat and had two Billboard #1 hit records in the early 90’s. He also founded Rocket Network, a company which was funded by Paul Allen and Cisco in 1995 and if that weren’t enough, he created the professional audio media transfer system called DigiDelivery which he sold to Avid in 2003. Now he is the CEO and Founder of a an online software company which offers an incredible streaming service for study or focus music.
12 minutes | Jan 9, 2017
Artist Highlight LP (Laura Pergolizzi)
I have a treat of a singer/songwriter who goes by the artist name LP, which stands for her full name, Laura Pergolizzi. MTV described her as, “A brash vocalist with a rocker’s heart, an unconstrained power, and a fearlessness about letting it all loose” Here’s how I listen to LP. First, in many ways I believe, her music is what pop music should aspire to. I mean, it’s pop, but her music stands out with greater depth, more thoughtfulness, and generally a wider and more mature emotional repertoire. Her melodies are not afraid to soar into places where most pop artists never venture. And her lyrics are never orphaned from her motifs. The second thing I hear in LP is quirky pop. She doesn’t follow normal conventions. She plays the ukulele, she whistles, and brings a rocker’s heart to nearly all of her music. I love that. I like being surprised, I appreciate someone who is not afraid to push a genre to new places. Third, LP is connected to her music. What I mean is she knows how to sing “with blood” (for those of you watching the Amazon original series Mozart in the Jungle). Meaning, she has an emotional connection with her music which is not superficial. There’s blood flowing through it. One time in an interview, she was asked to describe her music in 3 words, and her answer perfect. Here’s what she said: “What I feel”
26 minutes | Jan 5, 2017
How Does Music Make Me Feel Things?
You like how music makes you feel. But have you ever wondered, “How does music have the power, to literally alter my state of our being, and cause us to feel something completely different, and instantly?!” Clearly music messes with how we feel, but how does this work? I mean, our feelings are difficult and messy, and we often struggle to sort them out. But, music, somehow has a backdoor to our emotions. It’s quite fascinating. In this episode, we will be diving into the mechanics of how music works. If you’re the kind of a person who likes to take things apart and see how they work, I think you will enjoy this episode.
13 minutes | Dec 28, 2016
Aritst Highlight: Joey Alexander
In this episode, I will be introducing you to a fascinating artist that you simply must know of. The reason? He is the youngest-ever Grammy nominee, his name is Joey Alexander, and he’s a sensational 13 year old jazz pianist. Jazz is not easy music and prodigies in this realm rarely have full command of their artistry. They might exhibit good technique and core knowledge, but oftentimes they are criticized for lacking the intangibles—what the experts mean by the word “maturity”. Mastery in jazz demands a staggering breadth of knowledge about improvisation, rhythm, harmony, and orchestration all of which must eloquently and passionately find their synthesis in the artist’s performance. Joey is only 13 years old, but has already gripped millions with his skill and personality. This is a pianist to know and watch for. If he’s in a town near you, you will not regret attending his concert! In this episode, we will explore Joey’s music, his reception in the jazz community and his background story prior to coming to the states from Indonesia.
13 minutes | Dec 28, 2016
The Top 3 Dictionaries Can't Define Music!
Defining music is incredibly difficult and most get it wrong. Music seems to be all things to all people. It has been defined so broadly that it simultaneously means everything and nothing at the same time. For example, one person defines music as,“Music is the art of arranging tones in an orderly sequence so as to produce a unified and continuous composition. Music is science. Music is math. Music is a foreign language. Music is history. Music is physical education. And most of all, music is art.” In this episode we explore the three leading dictionaries, Oxford, Cambridge, and Webster, to see how they define music. Turns out, they’re not quite sure what music is. Perhaps this is why everyone else seems to be confused. Finally, I will offer my working definition of music. This is a fascinating topic which deserves a conversation. What do you think? Does this definition make sense to you?
11 minutes | Dec 28, 2016
What is Music Anyway?
How much music do you consume? But do you know what it is? An average person listens to music more than 25 hrs each week, which amounts to 13 years of your life, spent on listening to music! Music is in the fabric of our modern lives, and we have a soundtrack for nearly every activity. But, ironically, most people have no idea how music works or even the basics of how to listen and appreciate music. This episode explores the basic nature of music. If we boil music down to its essence, what is it? Is it a universal language, as some have claimed? What does that mean? What is it communicating? Defining music is not easy. The next three episodes will help you understand music, possibly like you have never seen before.
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