Watch a montage of movie villains who love classical music

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Sure, Huey Lewis got his in American Psycho — but as any regular filmgoer has noticed, filmmakers absolutely love to make their villains aficionados of classical music.

There’s something irresistible about giving characters with brutal impulses a taste for the sophisticated pleasures of Beethoven (a particular favorite), Mozart, or Grieg; and setting horrendous acts to the music of the great composers creates a frisson that filmmakers seem to find hard to resist. It also creates the chilling suggestion that you never know where the killer lurks: you might put your guard up when you pass a bunch of tattooed bruisers on their way to a death metal show, but it’s the Chopin virtuoso who will stab you in the back — at least, according to the movies.

Slate has assembled a montage that demonstrates just how prevalent the villain-listening-to-classical-music meme has remained throughout the history of film. WARNING: This montage contains villains using obscene language, committing violent acts, and generally being the sort of people scary movies are made about.

Improving your life with Mozart (and rap)

Kansas city-based rapper (and one time Rhymesayers recording artist) Mac Lethal catapulted into the spotlight with his incredibly popular, video singing/rapping “Look at Me Now” while making pancakes. That viral hit earned Mac Lethal press from The Washington Post and an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres’s show … and a massive following on YouTube, which he encourages to email him with questions and comments.

His latest video may put him in the spotlight one more time. Mac Lethal posted this video on August 25th, 2014, responding to a letter he says he received from a teacher.

Dear Mr. Mac Lethal,

My name is Mrs. Francine, I’m a 53-year-old high-school music teacher, and I love your YouTube videos. The problem is I can’t play them for my students because they contain too many bad words. Would you consider making a fast rap video for my students, to inspire them to be great? With no bad words?


Mrs. Francine

p.s. Do you like Mozart?

In response, Mac Lethal made this guide to life’s best practices to the tune of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11, commonly known as the “Turkish March.” See if you can keep up:

Mrs. Francine saw the video and wrote back that she and her students were “flattered beyond belief.”

If you want to see what Classical MPR is doing to make classical music relevant to kids, please check out Music for Learning, our education site.

Watch: Maria Callas accepts the Ice Bucket Challenge


It’s unclear who nominated legendary soprano Maria Callas (1923-1977) to posthumously participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge — that is, to be doused with ice water to raise money and awareness to fight the disease ALS — but she has now done so, courtesy of Warner Classics, the label issuing a deluxe remastered edition of her recordings on Sept. 22.

Update 9/2: The video has since been removed from YouTube.

At the end of the video, the Callas cutout nominates “opera fans worldwide” to meet the challenge themselves, so you may officially consider yourself on the hook.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from August 26 to September 2

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Teresa Root.

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: The Jasper String Quartet plays Haydn in St. Cloud.

Friday, 2 pm: The Copper Street Brass Quintet, live from the State Fair.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Telling Tales.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: From the 2014 BBC Proms, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus perform an all-Russian program.

Monday, noon: Learning to Listen: Music for Wind Band.

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans.

Steve Reich soundtracks Rick Rubin's Ice Bucket Challenge

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Minimalist composer Steve Reich hasn’t yet taken the Ice Bucket Challenge — that is, splashing himself with ice water to raise funds and awareness for the fight against the disease ALS — but in a sense he’s done his part.

When music producer Rick Rubin shared a video of himself dunking into a bathtub of ice water (above), he soundtracked the video with a sound loop made famous in Reich’s 1965 piece “It’s Gonna Rain.” Reich’s 18-minute tape piece is based on a recording made by the composer the previous year in San Francisco as a Pentecostal street preacher held forth. The phrase “It’s Gonna Rain,” looped again and again in Reich’s piece, became iconic.

Rubin isn’t the only musician bathing in ice water for a good cause: Minnesota singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith did so as a (successful) challenge to the Current’s program director Jim McGuinn.

Video: Is this little listener America's next great conductor?

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“Just a quick note to thank you VERY much for playing Korsakov for our little Alex on Friday,” writes Classical MPR listener Susana Perez. “We thought you’d enjoy seeing the results… :-)”

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We sure did! Thanks for sharing, Susana and Carlos; please keep us posted on Alex’s conducting career.

Click on Classical: Music to relax…or, to go on a violent vigilante spree through Chicago

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Every Monday morning, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about a few of the stories we’re featuring on our website. Here are the stories we’ll be discussing today.

When she finishes her coursework for the day, says Concordia College music major Emily Feld, she turns on some classical music — but not the music you might expect. “What I look for is not something that will help me tune out and turn my brain off,” she writes. “I need something that rekindles my passion for music, something that pulls me off the couch and back to the piano.” Here are the pieces that keep Emily inspired.

Other classical musicians, when they close their instrument cases, like to get out into the wild. Gwen Hoberg asked some of her fellow musicians what they like to do to relax; their answers included yoga, knitting, running, and shooting.

We’re also starting to feature some stories and interviews related to video game music — which is covered by Emily Reese in her Top Score podcast. This week, Garrett Tiedemann interviewed composer Brian Reitzell, who explained why writing video game music is like being a short-order cook.

VocalEssence Asia Pacific Tour Social Media Highlights

VE-Ensemble-Singers-2011.jpgThe VocalEssence Ensemble Singers just completed a performing tour throughout Korea and China. This group was one of 4 American choral ensembles invited to participate in the 10th World Symposium on Choral Music. Here is the view of that tour through the VocalEssence Social Media Lens.

A Clip of the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers “Singin’ in Seoul”

Tenor, Mike Fairnbairn and VocalEssence artistic director, Philip Brunelle enjoying a meal

The VocalEssence Ensemble Singers cruisin’ around Korea

Seth Keeton (Bass Extraordinaire) enjoying some tourist time

Tenors trying to keep cool

Dinner in Shanghai

Nanjing and Minnesota find out that they have a common friend in Gustavus Adolphus

Papa Philip feeding his flock before their flight home

Click on Classical: Musical brain surgery, a horn story, and a conductor swimsuit competition


Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories we’re featuring on our website. Here are the stories we’ll be discussing today.

This week the Internet was buzzing — again — about video of Minnesota Orchestra Roger Frisch receiving brain surgery while playing. It’s a strange but true story — and most amazingly, the surgery was a complete success. Read the story, and watch the video, here.

Dale Clevenger is an acclaimed horn player — he played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 47 years — who’s also an experienced teacher, and quick with a witty remark. This week we shared an anecdote about one of his more amusing quips.

There​’s still time to enter the first-ever opera conductor swimsuit competition, and things are heating up — Maestro Bill Eddins of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra has already posted a video submission. Watch the video on our site​.