Thursday, May 15, 2014

Video: Here's How to Make a Violin from Human Hair

Hairy situation: Tadas Maksimovas transforms his hair into violin stringsTo show that anyone can make music, with an instrument or an unusual coiffure, the London-based artist Tadas Maksimovas has used his hip-length hair as the medium in a violin performance project.
Called "Hair Music: The Experiment," Maksimovas conceived the project for Street Music Day, an annual outdoor festival in Lithuania in which anyone can participate regardless of their musical skill level. Watch the video below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.  more

Top Five Drug-Inspired Classical Pieces

The Colorado Symphony's planned "Classically Cannabis" fundraising concerts have sparked a bit of controversy, but mostly amusement in the press and late-night shows. The orchestra announced on Tuesday that the three concerts will be invitation only in an attempt to address concerns by Denver city officials that audiences would be breaking the law by smoking weed in public.

We aren't so na├»ve to believe that drugs don’t have a place in classical music; in fact, they've played significant roles in several pieces. Here are the top five: 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The First African-American Piano Manufacturer

At the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in February, one couldn't help but notice the striking new grand piano on the main stage, emblazoned with the name SHADD. When the many accomplished pianists that wee­­kend sat down to strike those keys, it was equally easy to spot their delight in the instrument.

That piano was the product of a trailblazer in his field. The Shadd in question is jazz drummer Warren Shadd, the first African-American piano manufacturer. That makes him the first large-scale commercial African-American instrument manufacturer, period.

For Shadd, piano making is part of his birthright. His grandparents were musicians: His grandmother was a ragtime pianist in the South in the '30s, and his grandfather invented (and performed on) a collapsible drum set. (He never patented it, a lesson his grandson learned.) Shadd's father was himself a piano technician, restorer, builder and performer — as well as a trombonist. And Shadd's aunt was the NEA Jazz Master pianist and vocalist Shirley Horn. A child prodigy, young Warren made his own concert debut at age 4.  more

Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber 'Devastated' Over End of Career

The cellist Julian Lloyd Webber said on Monday that he is being forced to retire from performing due to a herniated disc in his neck, which has impacted his ability to use his right arm.

Lloyd Webber, the 63-year-old brother of Andrew Lloyd Webber, made the announcement on his website. He is expected to perform on Friday with the English Chamber Orchestra and with his wife, cellist Jiaxin Lloyd Webber. After that, he said, "my cello will fall silent."

“I am devastated," said Lloyd Webber. "There were so many exciting plans that cannot now come to fruition. I have had an immensely fulfilling career and feel privileged to have worked with so many great musicians and orchestras but now I have to move on." more

R. Nathaniel Dett's Oratorio to be Heard, Uninterrupted

When WQXR and NPR Music present the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus's performance of R. Nathaniel Dett's The Ordering of Moses at Carnegie Hall Friday, there will be one significant difference from its first airing: it should be free of interruptions.

Just why the 50-minute oratorio was not heard in full on NBC radio in 1937 is a story steeped in allegations of racial censorship. Dett (1882-1943) was a black Canadian-born American composer who earned degrees at the Oberlin Conservatory and the Eastman School of Music. He later studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, the revered teacher of composers from Aaron Copland to Philip Glass. Dett called his mission "the emancipation of Negro music" and cited Dvorak's promotion of black spirituals and folk songs as a strong influence on his own works. more