Postcards from Debussy: Day 1

Inspired by Debussy’s 150th birthday anniversary Tomorrow, every morning at 8:30, we’ll play a composition by Debussy inspired by some specific place.

Today, it’s a piece titled Danse and subtitled Styrian Tarantella. It was written in 1890 after Debussy returned from Villa Medici, Italy, where he had spent two years studying as part of winning the the Prix de Rome in 1883.

The title shifts the traditionally Italian tarantella to Austria, specifically the region called Styria. You may not know Styria, but you probably know its most famous sons, who grew up to become, among other things, Governor of California:


Styria was also the birthplace of Johann Puch, founder of the company Steier-Puch, famous for its motorcycles, trucks, and rugged little off-road vehicles that these days we call ATV’s.


Radio in my Head



In one week, I leave for a month-long sabbatical to hike the John Muir Trail in California. No iPod traveling with me, so I’ll have classical radio in my head as I walk 222 miles through that sublime terrain.

I’d love to know your playlist for a solo hike. Great suggestions thus far on our SymphonyCast FB page with an emphasis on Beethoven and a Marin County, California composer who likely has walked some of the trail!

Thanks and “see you in September!”


How to add the Classical MPR Streams to iTunes

There are many great ways to listen to Classical MPR, and one of them is to stream it in iTunes. Our listing has temporarily dropped out of the “Radio” listings, so here’s a tutorial to add it — and our choral stream — manually.

Starting assumptions:

  • You have iTunes installed and open
  • You have a browser open to this blog post. (if you don’t how are you reading this?)
  • You know how to copy and paste by right clicking and/or using keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-C for copy and Ctrl-V for paste, in case you were unsure — replace Ctrl with Cmd if on a mac).
  • You love and want to listen to classical music!

Start by copying one of the links listed below.

Open iTunes, and click on the Advanced menu and then the Open Stream menu item. You can also hit Ctrl-U, or Cmd-U on a mac, to do the same thing.

You should get a box which is asking for a URL. Paste into it the link which you copied earlier.

Click OK. The stream should show up in a new playlist called Internet Songs (lousy name, more on that later), and start playing.

If you want to listen to both of the classical streams, just repeat the process to add the second stream to iTunes. If you want to listen to both streams at the same time, listen to John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No. 4, take two aspirin, and lay down for half an hour.

Now whenever you want to listen to Classical MPR, just go to the Internet Songs playlist and double click on the stream. Voilà, you have music.

Given that the majority of what you listen to on Classical MPR and the choral stream aren’t songs (a single sung melody with accompaniment), but rather symphonies, choral works, concerti, solo piano works, et cetera; you may want to change the name of the playlist. To do this, just click on the playlist entry to select it, then click it again and wait a moment. The title will become editable, and you can type in a different name. In case you aren’t sure what to call it, here are some suggestions:

  • Classical MPR
  • Minnesota Public Radio
  • Awesome Radio which I should Totally Support by becoming a Member today, if not sooner

Hope this helps!

From Brooklyn to Stillwater

The string quartet Brooklyn Rider makes it back to Stillwater once a year for their Stillwater Music Festival (of which they are Artistic Directors) to present several concerts at The Washington County Historic Courthouse, the Stillwater Public Library and one show at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. The complete schedule is available here. Of note are the concerts with kemancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, Bela Fleck and the free family concert. World premieres abound during the festival.

Brooklyn Rider from Musical Instrument Museum on Vimeo.

Hearing Mozart for the First Time

Right now on Cedar Street, outside my office window, several large machines are installing light rail infrastructure. It’s not a quiet process. There are days when an incessant pounding becomes the canvas for any music or conversations. I’ve learned to ignore it. In fact, when there is silence, it seems abnormal and rude. All of this prefaces my reaction to this story by “Austin,” who, with advances in technology, has new hearing aides that have allowed him to hear music for the first time.

After listening to everything from Mozart to Sigur Ros, this piece moved Austin to tears:

Mozart – Requiem – Lacrimosa from floriploiesteanu on Vimeo.

Imagine hearing Mozart for the first time.

Unexpected Connection

I’m endlessly fascinated by unexpected connections, so the multiple layers of connection here make this all the more entertaining.

We sometimes see art and commerce as polar opposites, but in the early 1600s English composer Orlando Gibbons turned commerce into art with a wickedly creative piece called “Street Cries of London.” He strung together several dozen short rhythmic hawking calls of street vendors, and set them over a lovely instrumental bed.

We hear all kinds of things for sale. Food: hot apple pies, pomegranates, rosemary, milk, cabbage, oysters. Also ink and pens, candles, perfume, shirts. A few service providers pipe up: a chimney sweep, a makeshift podiatrist who wonders if you have corns on your feet, blacksmiths ask if they can fix your bellows. There’s even a lost and found section: a gentleman asks if anyone has seen a grey mare with a long mane and a short tail. It’s like Craigslist set to music. Which brings us, of course, to the Craigslistlieder.

In 2006, American composer Gabriel Kahane took eight actual ads from Craigslist and set them to music, including this one, which is rapidly becoming a modern classic. The words for “Neurotic and Lonely” are from the personals section of Craigslist. “Neurotic and lonely, average height, brown eyes, slightly disproportionate. brown curly hair, Jew-fro, 20 years old. Slightly hunched, occasionally employed. Currently living with parents.”

And to complete the circle, we come back around to what amounts to a modern version of Gibbons’ “Street Cries.” In 1975, Tom Waits set the seductive hyperbole of American sales language over a swinging bass line in the song “Step Right Up.”

Art and commerce merge, and everything old becomes new again. Tune in for a remarkable performance of Orlando Gibbons’ “Street Cries of London” from a concert three weeks ago in London, Friday on APM’s Performance Today.