If you don't know Taken by Trees, the solo project of Swedish singer Victoria Bergsman, then perhaps you're new to All Songs Considered. In 2009, Taken by Trees' made my year end top 10 list and then seemed to vanish. The album, East of Eden, was made in Pakistan but embodied American popular music in the way only a Scandinavian could do (as in so many cases, that meant "better").
Originally published on Tue July 10, 2012 11:25 am
Facing Bach's St. Matthew Passion, I often feel a combination of anticipation and dread. It's a great work, profound in its humanity and spirituality, with sublimely beautiful music. But it's a long haul, and if it's not a good performance, well, I'm stuck. And it can be not-good in various ways: either too solemnly pious or too much an exercise in musical style rather than emotional drama. A new DVD recorded in 2010 at Berlin's great concert hall, the Philharmonie, would be of major interest under any circumstances.
The late-night talk show format hasn't changed much since the 1950s. There's the opening monologue, a comedy bit, two celebrity interviews, and a musical guest. So it felt a bit odd to see Frank Ocean — a young man who embodies a particular changing of the guard in pop music — on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last night. I was in the audience at Late Night, and actually, "waiting" to see Ocean would be more accurate, because that's what most of Monday's show entailed for the studio audience.
Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 2:10 pm
To honor Philip Glass' 75th birthday this year, we here at NPR Music commissioned Glass to create a short work that would be great fun for amateur and professional singers alike. A big part of what we do is to try to make all kinds of music engaging and accessible — and wouldn't it be great to invite anyone who wanted to come and sing in a world premiere by one of the most celebrated composers of our time?
For the last 18 years, the Essence Music Festival has been the go-to event for African-Americans, especially African-American women. For three days in New Orleans, hundreds of thousands show up for R&B and gospel concerts and panels on politics, financial planning and parenting.
If it's a party, as creator George Wein describes it, it's a party with a purpose.
"New Orleans is a party city and they party," Wein says. "People party here. If you go to the hotels — 40-floor hotels — [there's] like 40 floors of parties."
Langhorne Slim was born Sean Scolnick, and hails from his pseudonym-sake: the borough of Langhorne, Penn. After graduating college, Slim moved to New York City, where he began his slow climb into the American musical consciousness by touring with the sweetly arty Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players.
Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 10:07 am
The career of Brazilian singer and songwriter Tim Maia was defined by two periods of exile that contribute to a story so crazy that nearly overwhelms his notable career. Round-faced and diminutive (a press release says he was five feet, seven inches tall, "6' with the Afro"), Maia released his first album in 1971. It was a huge hit. He died in 1998 at the age of 55, but Maia would have been 70 on Sept. 28. On Oct. 2, Luaka Bop will release Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia.