hug a tree, save a guitar

Musicwood production still© 2013 Helpman Productions.

“When you cut down a tree and make it into a thousand different guitars all that means is that tree is singing in a thousand different voices.”

So begins the film Musicwood, a documentary that tells the story of one brilliant move by the often-reviled environmentalist organization Greenpeace to pit capitalist against capitalist in the fight to save the ancient spruce trees of the Tongass National Forest.

And what is my interest in this film?

Instruments. Specifically the acoustic guitar which is made of threatened and endangered woods. The lovely face of a guitar is made of spruce, a tree that grows is abundance in Alaska. But the indigenous corporation Sealaska control a huge swath of the forest and feel it’s their right — and some say their responsibility — to harvest the forest.

musicwood3web.jpg© 2013 Helpman Productions.

But their clear-cutting methods are at such a fast pace, some say only stumps and dirt will remain of this pristine wilderness in 10 years.

Mostly the wood is sent to Asia, with just a small percentage going to build musical instruments. And this is the group targeted.

Three of the world’s most renowned guitar makers — Gibson, Taylor and Martin, all competitors in the world of business — were convinced to come together in a coalition they named Musicwood to work as advocates for changing the process of clear cutting the forest, and hopefully to save the very product they need to survive.

“There are beautiful trees up there that you could kneel down and say a prayer underneath and probably shed a tear doing it. But these guitars are made out of that. There has to be a win-win,” says one maker as he tramps through the forest full of wonder and amazement dressed head-to-toe in rain gear.

It’s a film of stunning beauty — both musically and visually — and, for me, stunning sorrow since to this day, no agreements have been officially reached and only questions are left.

The film will be released in New York City and on iTunes/DVD on Friday, Nov. 1.

View the trailer:

The mistake that came back 15 years later

Here’s a story that’s made the internet rounds in a big way in the last few days.. The wonderful Portuguese pianist Maria Joao Pires is about to play a Mozart concerto–only to realize, when the orchestra begins playing, that the concerto they’re playing is a different one than she was expecting. The reactions captured on video—uncertainty, collegial support, and finally, total professionalism–are worth savoring.

Here’s commentary from The Telegraph–and reaction from pianist and blogger Stephen Hough.

But here’s the thing. It looks as though the event that provoked all this commentary actually happened in 1998.

But maybe the power of the internet to recycle and retell stories from the past has made this timely, all over again?

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Minnesota Youth Symphony.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Music with Minnesotans: Twin Cities luthier John Waddell.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: Teacher Spotlight: School Spotlight: Minnesota Youth Symphony.

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Flutist Paula Gudmunson and pianist Tracy Lipke-Perry, from a recital at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Thursday, 7 pm: Top 5 Creepy Classics.

Friday, 8 pm: The National Lutheran Choir performs Bach’s B Minor Mass.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Outside the Box.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: Gustavo Dudamel leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Master Chorale in Brahms’s German Requiem.

Monday, noon: Learning to Listen.

Monday, 8 pm: The St. Thomas Choir of Leipzig (Thomanerchor), live in Minneapolis.

Tuesday, 7:15 am: Teacher Spotlight.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: Teacher Spotlight.

Helping youth give voice to music

Manny Laureano, co-artistic director of Minnesota Youth Symphonies (MYS) and principal trumpet of the Minnesota Orchestra, originally submitted this audio in written form to be included as part of the today’s School Spotlight feature on MYS.

But when I read it, I realized that I couldn’t mix it in with my feature; it clearly stood on its own and deserved to be given special treatment.

Listen to Manny tell this powerful story of how he found a way, in an MYS Symphony Orchestra dress rehearsal, to help his students go from making good music to incredible music. Even he was surprised at how the experience triggered a profound emotional reaction in him. You’ll see why this story needed its own blog post.

[apmaudio id=minnesota/classical/features/2013/10/28/manny_laureano_conducting_20131028_128]Featured Audio[/apmaudio]

Video: Composer Conversations – John Harbison

The Composer Conversation Series is for music lovers of all stripes, and features some of today’s most original, prominent and prestigious voices in composition.

The events are free, but the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Matt Thueson records them and puts them on YouTube.

Here is video of the first Conversation in the series, in which I talk with composer John Harbison about his music and career. It was magnificent to learn so much about him and his music. Enjoy!

On the Air This Week

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Oct. 22 to 29

Tuesday, 7:15 am: Teacher Spotlight: Jon Larson of Moorhead picks a favorite piece.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Writer and volunteer Maddie Wild Crea.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: Teacher Spotlight: Jon Larson of Moorhead picks a favorite piece.

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Minnesota Sinfonia plays music by Ted Unseth.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: On Middle Ground.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: Mozart’s Requiem, with the Dresden State Orchestra and Opera Chorus.

Monday, noon: Learning to Listen: Danse Macabre, and beyond.

Monday, 8 pm: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra: Music of Honegger, St.-Saëns, and Holliger. Thomas Zehetmair conducts.

Tuesday, 7:15 am: School Spotlight: Minnesota Youth Symphony: Capriccio Espagnol, by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Tuesday, 5:30 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Twin Cities luthier John Waddell.

Tuesday, 7:15 pm: School Spotlight: Minnesota Youth Symphony: The Rite of Spring, by Stravinsky.

The latest in a busy flute player's life


I’m jealous. I admit it.

She makes music, teaches young flutists and gives lectures on how to deal with stage fright to Fortune 500 companies while all the time never having one strand of her beautiful blond locks out of place.

Meet Mcknight Fellow and flautist extraordinaire Linda Chatterton.

And just this past year Linda teamed up with an old friend ­Ensemble

61 cellist Joel Salvo ­and a new one ­ fresh-to-the-cities harpist and

composer Rachel Brandwein – to create the Matisse Trio which will soon

embark on a nine-state concert tour.

You can hear them in a warm-up concert Friday, October 25 at 8:00 at

the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Minneapolis.

Listen on-line to a chat and performance from a few years back just as

Linda released her fifth CD.

The treble clef gets me every time

From an array of computer-controlled set of water nozzles, you can create just about anything. So it’s unsurprising to see logos, hearts, and musical notes emerge from some of Germany’s Watergraphics fountains.

But then this animated gif came along. The quarter notes and eighth notes are great, but there’s something about the treble clef, with its intricate swirls and lines — it ought to be impossible to create as a fountain — but there it is, precise, and temporary and… gorgeous.

Just look at that thing.

For more on the capabilities of these types of fountains, look no further than this demo reel: