What does a medieval music technique have to do with Lorde's high school band?

Pop music fans have been buzzing about a recently-discovered album by And They Were Masked, a New Zealand high school band that formerly featured vocals by the young woman who’s become known worldwide as Lorde. According to the band’s Facebook page, their interests include brapping and hockets. Huh?

Well, brapping is simply riding a motorbike off-road. Hockets, on the other hand, are a musical technique dating back to medieval times. In a hocket, a melody is shared among two or more instruments or voices, which alternate notes. Here’s Ensemble Scholastica demonstrating the technique with a 13th century quadruple motet.

“Hocketing” was rediscovered in the 1960s when Wendy Carlos used the technique in her groovy electronic project Switched-On Bach.

Today, the technique is used by musicians across a range of disciplines. Here, indie-rock band the Dirty Projectors demonstrate hocketing, as it’s used in their music, at the Walker Art Center in 2009. (“They did it in 13th century, like, monk music.”)

Good luck finding hockets in the music of And They Were Masked — but it’s good luck for all of us that they’ve drawn our attention to a clever musical technique that’s been making melodies more memorable for the past several centuries.

Met Labor Dispute: Writers Weigh In

The labor situation at the Metropolitan Opera continues to be tense and uncertain. Last week, it seemed as though a lock-out might be coming any day. That did not come to pass–so far at least–but the disputes between management and unions about budgets, salaries, and decision-making are anything but settled.

Here’s one take on things, from Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times. (And among the reader comments, there’s one from a Saint Paul writer, who identifies himself as Garrison Keillor.)

Video: A piano concerto — with a cat on piano

Watch Nora the Cat in her soloist role in this piano concerto (YouTube).

Given the popularity of cat videos on the Internet, I suppose it was inevitable a cat would perform a piano concerto. Lithuanian conductor, composer and artist Mindaugas Piecaitis composed and directed the “Catcerto” — as it’s called — for Nora The Piano Cat and orchestra, where Nora, the soloist, was brought in via video.

On the Music Through the Night Facebook page, we like to share fun finds with the audience, and this video really caught fire. Among my favorite comments from listeners:

Brian T Georgopoolos: “Sounds like something the Floyd woulda recorded in the early days”

Joris van der Kamp: “It must be my heatstroke, but this actually made me cry.”

Joann Roszman: “I wish mine were that talented. They just eat and sleep.”

Join us on the Music Through the Night Facebook page each night for more fun finds and other witty discoveries.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from August 5 to 12

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans: Katie Sisneros.

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: The Normandale Lutheran Church, from their recent summer tour of Ireland.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: A Syracuse Organ Book.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: Switzerland’s Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich at the 2014 BBC Proms.

Monday, noon: Learning to Listen.

Tuesday, 5 pm: Music with Minnesotans.

Click on Classical: Oil and water; fulfilling a lifelong ambition; and a plot worthy of an opera itself

Every Monday morning at 9:15, Jay Gabler visits the Classical MPR studio to talk about some of the stories we’re featuring on our website. With Jay on vacation, Luke Taylor fills in, talking to Steve Staruch (who’s filling in for the vacationing John Birge).

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Most of us think of oil and water as two things that don’t mix, but for writer Taylor Brorby, who works in North Dakota’s oil country as a communications consultant for the Dakota Resource Council, water music is the perfect palliative for a landscape of fire. Given the arid land found west of the 100th meridian and a scenery dotted by the flares and fires of oil rigs, Brorby describes the music that soothes his soul. Check out Brorby’s playlist for North Dakota’s Bakken formation.

One of the towns in North Dakota’s oil country is Watford City, a town whose name etymology can eventually be traced to a town and borough in the Home Counties surrounding London. And it’s in London that Rex Levang, Classical MPR’s music director, was able to fulfill a lifelong ambition. Just a couple weeks ago, Rex got to attend his first BBC Prom — this one was Prom 6, a performance of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. As we know, Der Rosenkavalier is an opera, and Rex describes the clever staging that was employed in the vast, elliptical interior space of the Royal Albert Hall. He also describes a memorable tailgating party that he stumbled upon during one of two intermissions.

And speaking of opera, we’ve also been keeping a close eye on the labor dispute that’s currently going on at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. A work stoppage, which may happen of negotiations reach an impasse, is something that could have an effect on Classical MPR’s programming once the Met Opera season is set to begin. NPR Music reporter Tom Huizenga runs down a list of the various people and organizations involved, and it’s a list as lengthy as the dramatis personae in any major opera.

You can follow Classical MPR on Twitter and like Classical MPR on Facebook to receive updates on all of our latest on-air and online programming and stories.

Album covers of orchestral Beatles' music

Paul McCartney is playing a concert in Minneapolis on Saturday, Aug. 2. Given the ubiquity and universal appeal of the Beatles’ music, it’s not surprising there are a number of orchestral settings of Beatles’ tunes.

Here are some orchestral Beatles album covers from Classical MPR’s music library:

The Best of Beatles Baroque, Les Boréades

According to the liner notes, Les Boréades were recording an album of 17th-century Italian music when they all started riffing on Baroque settings of Beatles music. Producer Johanne Goyette had to promise Les Boréades they could record this album of Beatles tunes only if they focused on getting the Italian album finished first. Les Boréades got that done, then went on to record three albums of Beatles Baroque, of which this CD is a “best of” compilation.

Here, There and Everywhere: The Beatles for Guitar, Göran Söllsher

Guitar virtuoso Göran Söllsher’s collection features 17 Beatles tunes arranged for classical guitar. The liner notes feature an introduction written by George Martin.

“These are beautifully played transcriptions of many of the Beatles’ most beloved tunes,” says Jennifer Anderson, Classical MPR’s assistant music director.

Working Classical: Orchestra and chamber music by Paul McCartney, London Symphony Orchestra, Loma Mar Quartet

Inspired by McCartney’s use of classical-music instrumentation in such Beatles tunes as “Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby,” this album by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Loma Mar Quartet blends orchestral and chamber music across 14 tracks, including such recognizable McCartney songs as “My Love” and “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

“This is one of McCartney’s most interesting classical discs, with inventive original compositions and lovely orchestral re-workings of some of his most popular songs,” Anderson says.

Ecce Cor Meum, Paul McCartney

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, this is Paul McCartney’s own collection of classical-music compositions. The title means, “Behold My Heart” and the musicians include the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, soprano Kate Royal, the Boys of Magdalen College Choir, Oxford and the Boys of King’s College Choir, Cambridge.

“This is McCartney’s second oratorio, the first being Liverpool Oratorio,” Anderson says. “Ecce Cor Meum echoes the great British choral masterworks by Elgar and his contemporaries.”

(Incidentally, is the designer of the album art in any way a fan of Rangers FC…?)

Here are some other fun finds from the Internet; this is just a start and is by no means an exhaustive search:

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So how does it all sound? Have a listen, then share your thoughts in the comments section below:

Do you have any orchestral recordings of Beatles music in your collection?