American music

color photo of Simone Dinnerstein playing the piano
publicity photo / Courtesy Simone Dinnerstein

“For me, making music felt inadequate.”

That’s what noted pianist Simone Dinnerstein said about the days she spent in lockdown last spring, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged New York City and spread across the U.S.

Conditions became unsafe for musicians to rehearse and perform together, and concert halls were closed.

So Dinnerstein, a globetrotting concert pianist, was forced to stay home. A certain quiet set in. And making her own noise – even on the beloved Steinway grand in her Brooklyn home – just didn’t seem to make sense.

color photo of Recording producer David Starobin and composer George Crumb while recording Crumb's 'Metamorphoses' (Book I) for Bridge Records
Steven Bruns / Courtesty of Bridge Records

“At this performance, it was a kind of pandemonium afterwards. The audience wouldn’t stop cheering.”

That’s how the noted pianist Gilbert Kalish recalls the Oct. 1970 world premiere of George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children

color hoto of brick building with street sign in front reading Desbrosses Street
publicity photo / Courtesy of Cantaloupe Music

The story of Desbrosses Street, in Lower Manhattan, is a story of a warehouse district turned into apartments, of people taking up residence in the once abandoned area and forming a neighborhood, of neighbors who live in homes and neighbors who live on the street.

As a 20-something, composer Michael Gordon moved into an abandoned factory on Desbrosses Street in 1981. He has now chronicled decades of his neighborhood’s growth and change, his life and times with friends and conversations with two of his homeless neighbors in Anonymous Man, recently released in a recording by the Philadelphia-based professional choir The Crossing, conducted by Donald Nally.

color photo of head shots fo hudnreds of singers in Virtual Choir 6
publicity photo / Courtesty of Eric Whitacre

“My God, I can really feel the fabric of society tearing.”

That thought haunted Eric Whitacre as he saw the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in its early days in the US and the UK.

Composer Ching-chu Hu
Denison University

That moment when you’re facing something that might be wonderful or harrowing...

You inhale. You pause. You exhale.

That moment, suspended in time and tied so closely to our emotions that the breath pauses automatically, is what Ching-chu Hu, professor of music composition and chair of the Music Department at Denison University, calls “the hope moment.”

color photo of the Quaternaglia Guitar Quartet holding their guitars
Gal Oppido / Courtesy of the Quaternaglia Guitar Quartet

Here in America, we love our guitar heroes. Name any one of them – Hendrix, Prince, Santana, Van Halen – and memories of monster riffs start rolling in.

But imagine having Hendrix, Prince, Santana and Van Halen all in the same room together.

Now, that’s some virtuoso mojo.

Recently, Brazil’s Quaternaglia Guitar Quartet filled the Classical 101 studio with its own brand of São Paulo-style virtuosity.

color photo of Miwa Matreyek performing in one of her animations
Miwa Matreyek / YouTube/Courtesy of Miwa Matreyek

Teamwork is the name of the game at Denison University’s TUTTI New Music Festival this year.

Musicians and athletes will explore together the key ingredients of working successfully in teams during TUTTI Festival 2020, March 3-7 on Denison’s Granville campus.

color photo of the members of Bearthoven sitting on a couch
Jaime Boddorff / Courtesy of Bearthoven

Judging by their instruments – piano, bass and drums – you might think they’re a standard jazz trio. But there’s nothing standard about the contemporary music trio Bearthoven.

Based in Brooklyn, Bearthoven has been making a name during the last seven years as an impassioned catalyst for the creation of new music. The trio returns to Columbus this month to give the world premiere of Mixed Tulips by Michael Gordon, composer and co-founder of the Brooklyn-based new music collective Bang on a Can and the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

color photo of Derek Bermel holding a pencil and sitting with a musical score
publicity photo / courtesy of Derek Bermel

It was a fateful trip to the art museum.

That trip decades ago, when Derek Bermel was just a kid - long before he became an award-winning composer and clarinetist -  that has landed Bermel on the list of Grammy Award nominees.

color photo of Caroline Shaw
Kait Moreno / carolineshaw.com

Six years ago, fifty bucks and an outside-the-box choir helped Caroline Shaw become the youngest person to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. Here's a look at some of what she's been doing more recently.

color night shot of headlights whizzing by the Arc de Triomphe, Paris
Sheila Sund/Wikimedia Commons /

It’s jarring to hear a honking car horn. But on the streets of Paris, honking horns – like good wine, café au lait and the Gallic shrug – are just a part of life.

So much so that when George Gershwin decided to compose an orchestral piece inspired by the City of Light, he gave the honking horns of the Parisian taxicabs practically top billing. And not long ago those taxi horns claimed the spotlight for a different reason.

color photo of Chamber Brews in performance
publicity photo/Chamber Brews / https://www.chamberbrews.com/about-1

Question: How can music by women composers be performed on more concerts?

Answer: Perform it.

That’s what the Columbus-based string quartet Chamber Brews is doing. And they're joining a growing number of professional ensembles in their quest to showcase music by composers who, by virtue of their sex, their race and/or their socioeconomic background, have traditionally been underrepresented on  classical music concerts.

photo of Antoine Clark conducting the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra
Ronald Hoehn / antoinetclark.com

Columbus conductor and clarinetist Antoine Clark wants women musicians and musicians of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to be heard.

color photo of Jory Vinikour sitting at the harpsichord
Nuccio di Nuzzo / http://joryvinikour.com/presenters.shtml

You might think the harpsichord is a mere historic novelty, an outdated baroque cousin of the piano and fit only for the powdered wig set. If so, the American harpsichordist Jory Vinikour’s most recent recording might change your mind.

color photo of Wil B. and Kev Marcus playing their instruments
Black Violin / https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYerKidQGcc

They’ve spent the last 15 years breaking stereotypes with their genre-busting songs and instrumentals. Now, Black Violin is adding a heavy dose of full-out inspiration to the mix.

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