Category Archives: Classical

Allegri’s Miserere

This post is brought to you by American Airlines and the miserable weather blanketing both the Midwest and the East Coast: a cancelled flight and the subsequent thirteen-hour limbo at O’Hare provided me an opportunity to share some thoughts on Easter music.

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Haunting Melodies from a Haunted Ear

Katinka Kleijn and Joel Styzens (source: relax-your-ears.com)

During a lazy moment last week (“But I thought all your moments were lazy…”), I sat flipping through Time Out Chicago when I came across an article about Chicago musician Joel Styzens. With a music degree in percussion from Milikin University, Styzens was working odd drum gigs around town and teaching at Old Town School of Folk Music when, in 2006, he awoke to a painful ringing in his ears; it was the onset of tinnitus (the misinterpretation of some neurological signals as sound) with an accompanying dose of hyperacusis (agonizing sensitivity to certain frequencies). The sudden debilitation forced Styzens to reimagine his future, one where he wasn’t a percussionist.

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It Ain’t Over Till

Earlier in the year, I read The Art of Noise by Alex Ross, the “classical” music critic for the New Yorker. His book is a chronicle of the evolution of western classical music in the 20th century and the various political, social, and artistic upheavals that influenced it. Ross emphasizes the key role that opera played in these developments; he writes at length about Strauss’ Salomé, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and Britten’s Peter Grimes. The book motivated me to make an effort to see more 20th century opera. Continue reading

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A Fresh Take

The Seduction of Claude Debussy (Art of Noise) and Rites (Tettix)

The Seduction of Claude Debussy (Art of Noise) and Rites (Tettix)

There are two albums in my iTunes library that, despite being released a full decade apart, are remarkably similar, not in sound or style, but in concept.

The first is The Seduction of Claude Debussy, the 1999 release from Art of Noise. The band, popular in the 1980’s for their pioneering use of samples and digital mixing, reunited briefly in 1998, releasing only one studio album (this one) before collapsing again in 2000. The second album is Rites, a 2009 release by unsigned/freelance digital artist Tettix. Judson Cowan (the man behind the Greek moniker meaning “cicada”), – whose work ranges from 8-bit video game electronica, to a cappella covers to original pop – releases all his work for free on his website, tettix.net.

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Muti and Brahms

Last week, I attended the CSO performance of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, with music director designate Riccardo Muti conducting. The CSO dedicated its four performances of the Requiem to the CPS students that have lost their lives in the senseless violence of the previous months and to the families and friends they have left behind. This was a thoughtful gesture, although it would truly speak volumes if the orchestra donated a portion of the ticket sales to youth programs that keep teenagers productive after school.

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Avec l’orgue

I have no excuse for not frequently attending CSO concerts. I appreciate “classical” music, I live a 20-minute bus ride from Symphony Hall, the CSO is one of the premier orchestral ensembles in the world (with principal conductors Bernard Haitink, Pierre Boulez, and Riccardo Muti), and I can take advantage of $11 student tickets (including fees).

On Thursday, the CSO played a program of French and German music by Fauré, Bruch, and Saint-Saëns, which featured Joshua Bell on the violin in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. There was an article published in The Washington Post magazine in 2007 by Gene Weingarten about an experiment conducted by the Weingarten and Bell: would subway commuters recognize a world-class violin virtuoso’s musicianship during the morning hour rush? I won’t elaborate – a discussion of this would be a whole other blog post.

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