Extra Eclectic

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Danny Elfman

Extra Eclectic: Danny Elfman Writes a Violin Concerto

Danny Elfman has written over 100 film and TV scores, from Tim Burton's Batman to the theme from The Simpsons. He says that from time to time, however, he finds that he has to write orchestral music totally free from the influence of film, in order to "keep my sanity" -- a process he says he finds "incredibly liberating and relieving." His latest is his Violin Concerto, "Eleven Eleven," and it's featured on this week's show. Ward Jacobsen guest hosts.

Mandolinist Avi Avital.

Extra Eclectic: Avi Avital et. al.

Avi Avital is an Israeli mandolinist, best known for his renditions of well-known Baroque and folk music, much of which was originally written for other instruments. Just about all those things are defied however in the work Steve features this week - a new work by David Bruce, called "Cymbeline," in which the composer says the mandolin conveys "the warmth of the sun." Steve also features two works by Steve Reich, as well as pieces by Missy Mazzoli, Colin Stetson, and more.

Composer Christopher Rouse.

Extra Eclectic: Honoring Christopher Rouse

Composer Christopher Rouse died on Saturday at the age of 70 after a battle with cancer. Rouse once said, "I don't think it matters whether a piece is complex or simple, whether it's tonal or atonal or whatever ... That's not nearly as significant as whether it communicates something meaningful to a listener." Steve honors his life and career with an airing of his work, "Supplica." That plus music of John Adams, Toru Takamitsu, and more on this week's program.

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider

Extra Eclectic: The Future is Female

For centuries, and even for most of the 20th, classical music was very much a boy's club. Thankfully that's come to and end, and even though there's still much ground to be gained for women in classical music, female composers are growing in number all the time. Steve Seel features a full two hours of living women composers on this edition of the show, including Sarah Kirkland Snider, Paola Prestini, Laura Cannell, Caroline Mallonee, Shelley Washington, Carmen Braden, and more.

Brian Eno has lots of big ideas.

Extra Eclectic: Eno Old and New

A new setting of Brian Eno's meditative song "By This River" featuring violinist Mari Samuelsen is the centerpiece of the first hour of this week's show - and Steve Seel also replays Eno's classic, experimental "deconstructions" of the Canon by Johann Pachelbel, featuring Gavin Bryars and the Cockpit Ensemble. The second hour showcases works on themes of air and water, from John Adams, Mary Lattimore, Lou Harrison, and more.

Jonny Greenwood

Extra Eclectic: Outsiders Making Inroads

The term "outsider art" usually refers to artists and performers who exist outside the mainstream of their chosen fields, sometimes self-taught, but always unapologetically independent. Steve Seel showcases composers who fit the term, but who also represent today's classical environment in general, where fewer rules apply than ever. You'll hear the vocal music of Meredith Monk, as well as the orchestral movie scoring of rocker and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, and a "mini symphony" by the man who called himself Moondog.

Composer and guitarist Bryce Dessner.

Extra Eclectic: Somber Music for Serious Times

Somber and meditative music makes for a contemplative edition of Extra Eclectic this week. Steve Seel features bracing music by Bryce Dessner, whose Aheym (a Yiddish word meaning "homeword") describes his memories of learning about his Jewish ancestry in his youth. Steve also features powerful works by New York classical innovator Michael Gordon, maverick composer/improviser Ingram Marshall, and much, much more.

composer john luther adams

Extra Eclectic: Rivers and Oceans

A century ago, Debussy showed us that the sea was a subject with infinite possibilities for musical exploration. While in some ways La Mer is still the quintessential piece of music about water, it actually laid the groundwork for many composers to go exploring above and below the waves (and along its shores) in the years since. In conjunction with MPR's observation of Water Month, Steve features water-themed works by John Luther Adams, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Kate Moore, and many others.

Composer John Adams.

Extra Eclectic: American Voices, American Themes

On this eve of Independence Day, contemporary American composers are the focus - with some nods to uniquely American subject matter, too. We'll hear selections including John Adams' opera "Doctor Atomic" about the scientists who worked at Los Alamos on the first atomic bomb, and Stanley Grill's "American Landscapes," which the composer describes as being about the "idealized" America we hold in our imaginations. Plus, works from Missy Mazzoli, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and many others. Valerie Kahler guest hosts.

Brian Eno

Extra Eclectic: Theme, Variations, and an Asteroid Named Eno

It's been a staple of classical music for centuries: writing a set of variations on a theme by another composer. We'll hear some contemporary examples, including Thomas Canning's "Variations on a Hymn Tune by Justin Morgan," Noam Sivan's "Improvisations on Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring," and even a "Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno" by Timo Andres - a timely inclusion given this week's announcement that Eno has had an asteroid named in his honor.

Wisdom of the ages.

Extra Eclectic: Paths to Enlightenment

There are multiple ways humankind finds its path to wisdom and enlightenment - be they physical, philosophical, scientific, or religious means - and Steve explores several of them this week. Michael Torke's "Four Proverbs" takes a trove of Old Testament wisdom and fractures it into an irresistibly bouncy, pulsating work for soprano, winds and strings, while Paul Gibson's "Ritual Dances of the Divine Trinity" echoes the liturgical music of the Benedictine monks he heard at an abbey while growing up in France. The spiritual is balanced by the physical in works such as Nico Muhly's "Fast Dances" and Henrik Schwarz's "Walk Music," and the program culminates with the suite from Johann Johannssen's score to "The Theory of Everything."

Some claim they can "hear" colors.

Extra Eclectic: All the Colors of Sound

"Synesthesia" is name for experiencing one of the five senses as another sense. For example, if you "hear" the color red as sounding a particular way, or conversely, "see" certain sounds as "red." Steve Seel has a sampling of contemporary classical works that describe different colors as music - including Lou Harrison's "Rhymes With Silver," the percussion work "Red" by Marc Mellits, and selections from the "Synesthesia Suite" by Andy Akiho. In the second hour, Steve features works from the cold climate countries of Scandinavia and the Baltic states, including Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Estonia.