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Today's Fredlines

Signing off, for now

Posted at 5:11 PM on January 4, 2010 (0 Comments)

PT fans and friends,

Writing a blog has been a blast, thanks for all your thoughtful comments and responses to Fredlines.

We're trying an experiment -- we're moving these online discussions of classical music news and ideas (and entertaining trivia!) to the PT Facebook page. If you're already on Facebook, become a fan, and join the conversation. (Or lurk to your heart's content, of course.) If you're not on Facebook yet, joining is a snap.

If you'd rather see this continue here on the PT page...let me know, we'll see how this experiment goes. Always glad to hear your feedback about Performance Today through this site. Click on the "Contact" button in the upper right hand corner of the PT homepage, or call the toll-free PT listener line: 866-943-4450.

And you can peruse the Fredlines archives here.

In the meantime...as long as we're on the subject of classical music and technology...here's what Marc-Andre Hamelin plays when a cell-phone rings in the audience.


Fred Child Host of Performance Today

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Music and Silence

Posted at 9:25 PM on August 31, 2009 (5 Comments)

Robert Fripp: "Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence."

Aldous Huxley: "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."

Marcel Marceau: "Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music."

Leopold Stokowski (to an audience not providing enough silence): "A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. We provide the music, and you provide the silence."

Former pianist, now anonymous monk: "Silence is my music now."

Edith Sitwell: "My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence."

Music theorist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis: "The same acoustic silence, embedded in two different excerpts, can be perceived dramatically differently."

John Cage, on reaction to his 'silent' piece 4'33": "They missed the point. There's no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn't know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began patterning the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out."
Quoted by Richard Kostelanetz in his 2003 book, "Conversing with John Cage."

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Respighi's Inspiration

Posted at 7:00 PM on August 26, 2009 (1 Comments)

Ottorino Respighi composed his "Three Botticelli Pictures" with these paintings by Sandro Botticelli in mind.
(Click on images to enlarge.)



Adoration of the Magi:


Birth of Venus:


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Served in the green room: tuna

Posted at 11:03 AM on August 25, 2009 (4 Comments)


Nora lives in Cherry Hills, New Jersey. One of her human companions (Betsy Alexander) is a pianist and composer. According to Nora's online autobiography, she's been playing piano for several years now:

I jumped up on the bench of the big black piano and put my paws on the keys...I discovered I could make beautiful music, just like the humans. It was easy...

Nora's first youtube video has been viewed about 15 million times. Which led to sequels, a full product line, and even licensing availabilities. None too surprising these days...but then this happened in June. Lithuanian conductor Mindaugas Piecaitis wrote a 4-minute orchestral piece around recordings of Nora at the piano. And at a concert by the Klaipeda Chamber Orchestra in Lithuania, he projected videos of Nora overhead while the orchestra played. This made the viral rounds in June, but if you haven't seen it yet...

The result takes the cute-cuddly-cat-video genre into a completely new realm. All at once, I find myself wondering "what is Nora thinking while she plays, what is she really DOING?", appreciating the use of video at a "classical" concert, loving the carefully-timed combination of technology and acoustic orchestra (tango at 2:16, key change at 2:49, flute answers Nora at 2:54!), secretly wishing *I'd* thought of this first, saying "ooooo, that's so cuuuuute"...and enjoying the music as music.

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Aspen Music Festival: I don't want to go home

Posted at 12:00 AM on August 21, 2009 (1 Comments)

Suzanne Schaffer is the features producer for Performance Today and coordinates the in-studio performances with musicians. She went to the Aspen Music Festival in July on behalf of PT and is stepping into Fred's blogging shoes this week to share some of her experiences there.

This Sunday night I imagine there will a lot of tears in the eyes of the audience members and performers at the Aspen Music Festival's final concert of the summer. The students and their teachers will pack up their instruments, their cameras, their hiking gear and head home to the real world.

Chris Carroll practices by Castle Creek

In talking with the music students in Aspen I was struck by what a sense of belonging they feel at "camp" as some of them call it. aspen_21_02.jpgIn Aspen these young adults make friends that share the same passion for music so they're excited to talk about music, to play for each other, and maybe to compete a little, pushing each other to improve their technique. It was as if many of these students were trying to bottle up this creative energy so that when they go home and the rest of their friends are involved in sports or art or drama, they can ration out a little of this musical energy all year long until refueling at next year's Aspen Music Festival.

Pianist David Mamedov is not homesick

I had a great time touring the Aspen Music Festival campus with shuttle driver Dick Miller.

Listen to my bus tour of Aspen

See pictures of the tour

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I'll take fried chicken with my concerto, please

Posted at 12:00 AM on August 20, 2009

Suzanne Schaffer is the features producer for Performance Today and coordinates the in-studio performances with musicians. She went to the Aspen Music Festival in July on behalf of PT and is stepping into Fred's blogging shoes this week to share some of her experiences there.

The Aspen Music Festival has one of the coolest concert venues: the Benedict Music Tent (quite fitting for a state as outdoorsy as Colorado). Sure, you can sit inside the theater is assigned concert seats with a great view of the orchestra and soloist, but lots of people prefer to sit outside on the lawn. You can still hear the music pretty well and volunteer "shushers" walk around to keep kids, pets and candy wrappers relatively quiet. It's a beautiful way to spend an evening, unless the savory smell of fried chicken wafting to you from two blankets over creates a distraction from listening to the music. See images.

Listen to our interviews with listeners on the lawn

Multi-talented Musicians at Aspen

Posted at 9:00 AM on August 19, 2009 (1 Comments)

Suzanne Schaffer is the features producer for Performance Today and coordinates the in-studio performances with musicians. She went to the Aspen Music Festival in July on behalf of PT and is stepping into Fred's blogging shoes this week to share some of her experiences there.


On today's program you'll hear a snippet of a conversation I recorded between Fred and the Aspen Music Festival Music Director David Zinman about his musical interests that go beyond the concert hall. Fred had just finished the interview, covering a range of topics from the role of the conductor to Mahler, when I asked Zinman about the Aspen iPhone application (this is in addition to the Aspen Music twitter feed). I was truly flabbergasted when Zinman whipped out his very own iPhone and started scrolling through the music applications. Fred shot me a look without saying, "are you recording this?" I was and I kept going.

Listen to the iPhone Rumble between David Zinman and Fred Child.

That's one of the great things about the Aspen Music Festival and School: In a community the size of Aspen you can't help but run into musicians you may have just seen perform a concerto at a restaurant across the street. You find out about their other musical and non-musical interests.

One of the best conversations I had during my reporting trip to the festival was with violinist Cho-Liang Lin, or Jimmy Lin to his friends. The night before I met up with him, I had seen Lin perform a new piece by Lalo Schifrin called Tangos Concertantes. It was an electrifying concerto full of pyrotechnics written just for Lin. I was delighted to discover the next day during our interview that this Taiwanese-born violinist who teaches in Texas when he's not performing around the world loves the Argentine tango above all else.

Listen to my interview with tanguero Jimmy Lin

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Music and life lessons at the Aspen Music Festival

Posted at 7:50 AM on August 18, 2009

Suzanne Schaffer is the features producer for Performance Today and coordinates the in-studio performances with musicians. She went to the Aspen Music Festival in July on behalf of PT and is stepping into Fred's blogging shoes this week to share some of her experiences there.

I can't imagine anything much more intimidating than having a one-on-one music lesson with someone you greatly admire. You want the teacher to be impressed with your sound, but you're bracing yourself for the constructive criticism that will, in the end, make you a better musician but in the short term may jar your confidence a bit. One of the biggest lessons taught at the Aspen Music Festival and School seems to be how to overcome fear and find confidence.


Clarinetist Adele Mayne handled the lesson with grace. She was at the Aspen Festival this summer studying with Burt Hara, principal clarinetist with the Minnesota Orchestra. I happened to sit in on her last private lesson with Hara that was scheduled just a few hours before a big audition with the New World Symphony to be on their substitute clarinet list. At one point, I think Mayne was getting a little overwhelmed with all of Hara's suggestions and realized that she could have been a lot more prepared for that afternoon's audition. Hara could see those nerves creep in and said point blank, "There's only so much you fix right now. After that you just have to go in with confidence and let them hear how you hear the music."

It was a great moment of teaching. Hara told Mayne how to be much more prepared for the next audition, but in the meantime, she needed to be confident with where she was at. And guess what? She was selected to be on call in case the New World Symphony needs another clarinetist.

Listen to Burt Hara talk about teaching and hear highlights from Adele Mayne's lesson


One lesson we didn't have time to broadcast was a piano masterclass led by pianist Orli Shaham. She worked with three students on finding the climax of a phrase, bringing on the middle voices of a chord and their posture. The last student to perform, Fan-Ya Lin, played Chopin's Ballade No. 4 in f minor. When I closed my eyes I could have easily believed that I was at a recital of a professional, touring musician. Even with a musician so mature in her expression and restraint, Shaham helped Lin put even more soul into the performance with stunning results.


Listen to my interview with pianist Orli Shaham

Listen to my interview with Fan-Ya Lin

Performance Today goes to the Aspen Music Festival

Posted at 2:00 PM on August 17, 2009 (1 Comments)

This is Suzanne, features producer for Performance Today. I went to the Aspen Music Festival in July on behalf of PT and I'm stepping into Fred's blogging shoes this week to share with you some of my experiences there. I had never been to Aspen before so everything was a discovery and, truth be told, this was my favorite one: music on a mountain.


First of all, I loved the originality of having the concert at the top of the mountain. Secondly, I appreciated the reminder that music is about adventure. Here were five young musicians going to extreme lengths, or heights, to get other people as excited about music as they were. "Feel free to clap whenever you feel like it," they said. "Go ahead and walk around, take pictures while we play," they said. But I took their message to say music isn't stuffy, it's fun. Go ahead and enjoy it. See more images.

Listen to Music on the Mountain

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Roberto Plano's toy Piano

Posted at 3:25 PM on July 7, 2009


Roberto Plano is a fine young Italian pianist, and a sweet soul. He cherishes living in a small town in Italy, rather than in a big musical capital like Vienna or New York. He's impeccably polite, soft-spoken, articulate, charmingly shy. But when he sits at the piano, he unleashes a cascade of sound, and a torrent of emotion.

You can hear my conversation with Plano, and his wild performances in our studios...part one is here, with Liszt's hair-raising Transcendental Etude No. 11, and part two is here, with more Liszt and a Piazzolla tango.

Plano's first instrument was a tiny red and white toy piano. His parents knew nothing about classical music, the piano was a gift from his godfather. Plano taught himself to play, plunking out melodies with one finger.


Blog archives

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About the author

Fred Child is the host of American Public Media's Performance Today, the most-listened-to classical music radio show in America. Fred is also the commentator and announcer for Live from Lincoln Center, the only live performing arts series on television.


The Piano Puzzler®

Test your ears as Bruce Adolphe takes a popular tune and transforms it into something that sounds like it was composed by one of the greats. Guess the great and the song. Then listen to a piece by the composer in question. The Piano Puzzler® with Bruce Adolphe is available for download and as a podcast.