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Verdi's 'La Forza,' Born Under A Bad Sign

Nov 10, 2012

One hundred fifty years ago today, Giuseppe Verdi first mounted his opera La Forza del Destino ("The Force of Destiny") on a stage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Today, La Forza is considered one of Verdi's masterpieces, but it wasn't always that way. The story of Don Alvaro, whose love for the aristocratic Leonora incurs the wrath of her family, is violent and chaotic, and it flopped on its first run.

Love To Hate Nickelback? Joke's On You

Nov 10, 2012

Nickelback. The name itself is musical shorthand for everything music aficionados love to hate about modern rock.

But with more than 50 million record sales worldwide and a lead singer who earns $10 million a year, the band is laughing all the way to the bank — as reporter Ben Paynter describes in Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine.

When you reach a certain age, big life surprises tend to come few and far between, unless you're Harold Van Heuvelen. Van, as everyone calls him, has had a blockbuster week full of dreams fulfilled. The story of his dream starts more than 70 years ago, on Dec. 7, 1941.

Van Heuvelen enlisted in the Army after Pearl Harbor. He was posted to a base in New Orleans as an instructor for recruits. He spent the war stateside, training men who were being shipped out to Europe and the South Pacific.

  • Elegies poured in this week for composer Elliott Carter, who died Monday, a month shy of his 104th birthday. My colleague Tom Cole: "He saw his music go from derision to international acclaim.

The Secret Genius Of Taylor Swift

Nov 9, 2012

Taylor Swift's new album, Red, sold more 1.2 million copies in its first week — the highest first-week sales total for an album in over a decade. She did it partly by answering a surprisingly complicated question: What's the best way to sell an album?

There are so many ways to release your music these days. You can sell it at Amazon, iTunes, Wal-Mart, and Starbucks. You can release it to streaming sites like Spotify. You can go on tour.

As we near the end of another year, the music industry has a few reasons to be optimistic. Digital music sales are expected to reach record highs this year, and legal streaming services continue to gain in popularity. But unauthorized music file sharing is still going strong.

This week tour dates and flights and meetings were rescheduled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and music writers in the Northeast have been preoccupied. And even though the mood is darker, the show did go on; here are three stories to divert and edify you while we all try to get back to normal.


One Man Metal

This past week has been filled with some truly tragic stories of loss and devastation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. There are also a few stories of near misses and disasters averted. Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, fortunately has one of the latter.

At the archives of Radio Tanzania, more than 15,000 reel-to-reel tapes are stacked in floor-to-ceiling shelves. Each band, musician and recording date is painstakingly notated. The tapes reside inside three musty rooms of the Tanzania Broadcasting Corp., which occupies the old brick-and-concrete BBC building in Dar es Salaam.

Radio Tanzania was the country's only station from its birth in 1951 until the mid-1990s, when competing stations came on the air and state-controlled radio became irrelevant.

Go See The Old Guys

Nov 1, 2012

Neil Young made me write this. Before last Thursday, when ol' Shakey and his golden garage band Crazy Horse stomped through my local amphitheater, the last thing I'd thought I'd be excited about was a bunch of guys hovering around 70, playing loud rock and roll into the night.

Bill Dees, who kicked off the creative process that produced one of rock 'n' roll's greatest songsOh Pretty Woman — has died. He was 73.

It's 4:30 in the morning in Washington, D.C., and dank pools of sweat are collecting on the dance floor beneath a dripping basement ceiling. I can see Sonny Moore's heart beating through his shirt. The 24-year-old DJ, whose producing alias, Skrillex, is a major keyword for the new wave of American dance music, just wrapped up an intimate surprise show at U Street Music Hall (my local gateway to electronic music and a place where I also DJ from time to time).

There's a new development in the British investigation into the allegations of child sex abuse against a late BBC television host: U.K. media, including the BBC, are reporting that police Sunday arrested rocker and convicted sex offender Gary Glitter on suspicion of sex offenses.

This week, we learned how the TV show Nashville fits into the long tradition of the country duet, why Meshell Ndegeocello covering Nina Simone makes all the sense in the world, and how Gary Clark, Jr.

An announcement: The end-of-the-week recap, formerly "Around The Jazz Internet" or "The Friday Link Dump," has a new name. Musicians will know that a "lead sheet" is a melodic sketch with chord changes, a reference guide for when you don't know the tune by heart. Here's what you ought to read from this week:

  • Uff da: Along with the Minnesota Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has also locked out its musicians, leaving the Twin Cities bereft for now. "Players at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra did not vote on an offer from management, and the board of directors shut the doors and canceled concerts through Nov. 4 ... So for the first time since the SPCO launched in 1959, neither orchestra will be playing for at least the next two weeks."

Nina Simone haunts. Meshell Ndegeocello hypnotizes. This difference is as subtle as it is crucial and is on full display in Ndegeocello's latest album, Pour Une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone, which came out earlier this month. In the past few weeks, she's been performing songs from Simone's vast repertoire during a small and intimate tour.

Twenty-five years ago today, Houston Grand Opera mounted the world premiere of Nixon in China, the first opera by a young composer named John Adams. Two days later, The New York Times described it as a "coy and insubstantial work" and "hardly a strong candidate for the standard repertory."

This week, we've been watching reports from the CMJ Music Marathon spill out of clubs in New York and onto the Internet, wondering who the next big band will be, even as we kept our eye on news that Beyonce would be performing on a much bigger stage in February and mourned the death of saxophonist David S.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

While Radio Liberty struggles to reinvent itself, this week brought a big announcement from a group that has dominated the radio for half a century.

Everywhere you look right now, it seems like American symphony orchestras are fighting for their lives — strikes, lockouts, bankruptcy. Perhaps the biggest example is the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, which is just coming out of its own bankruptcy. Tonight, its new 37-year-old music director takes the podium as the venerable orchestra begins a reboot.

Jason Lytle is the man behind the Modesto, Calif., band Grandaddy. The band released its debut in 1997, but it was Grandaddy's second album — The Sophtware Slump — that broke through with critics and fans. Even David Bowie called himself a fan when he approached the band members after seeing them play.

Around The Jazz Internet: Oct. 12, 2012

Oct 12, 2012

More recommended reading:

  • New York Philharmonic Music Director Emeritus Kurt Masur, 85, has announced that he has been living with Parkinson's disease for several years: "I have had the fortune of receiving great medical care since the diagnosis, enabling me to continue my conducting activities. These recent events have served as a good opportunity to make a return to the podium with a greater sense of purpose and awareness."

Gangnam Style is, among other things, a high-tech, sophisticated export.

Yes, the video is totally crazy and awesome. But this is not some viral fluke. South Korea has been building up to this moment for 20 years.

Here are three reasons South Korean pop music is taking over the world:

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