The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: NPR explores the music soundtracks for movies that nominated for Academy Awards and could receive an Oscar at tonight’s ceremonies airing on ABC-TV.

March 2, 2014
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By Jacob Stockinger

Oscar would no doubt say that movie soundtracks deserve special attention and serious consideration as art music.

YL Oscar foods statue

Of course purists will probably argue that movie soundtracks are not really classical music – except in certain cases like Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist,” “Shine,” “Amadeus” and such obvious fare.

And it would be hard to disagree with them.

Perhaps some would say that movies are the real operas of our day, except that the music plays a secondary or tertiary role.

Besides, more and more symphony orchestras are turning to concert programs that feature movie soundtracks, perhaps to attract new and younger audiences.

And radio stations seem to be mixing in and playing more and more movie music on their classical programs.

And more and more composers who aspired to be classical composers but who were forced earn a living in Hollywood –- Erich Wolfgang Korngold (below) comes immediately to mind –- are being increasingly programmed for their classical fare as well as their commercial Hollywood work.

erich wolfgang korngold at piano

Besides, “crossover” and “fusion” are the key words of the day in the classical music scene, as you can see with the success of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project (below top) and the “new tangos” by Astor Piazzolla (below bottom), to name but two examples.

Silk Road Ensemble

astor piazzolla

So perhaps it is only natural that, in the run-up to the Academy Awards tonight, NPR and its terrific blog “Deceptive Cadence’ have featured several posts about the music that is featured in nominated movies, especially the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, the late 110-year-old pianist (below, in photo by Yuri Dojc) who survived Auschwitz by playing music, especially the etudes of Frederic Chopin -– and who just died last week. (You can hear her speak and play the piano at the bottom in a popular YouTube video that has almost a million hits.) 

The Ear suspects her story, “The Lady in Number 6,” will win the Oscar for short documentary because she was the oldest survivor of the Holocaust and was a testament to the power of music, and therefore of all art and beauty, over evil and adversity. She embodied hope — a cherished value.

Here is a link to her fascinating and detailed obituary in The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/world/europe/alice-herz-sommer-pianist-who-survived-holocaust-dies-at-110.html

Alice Herz Sommer CR Yuri Dojc

So as you prepare to watch the live broadcast on ABC-TV tonight starting at 6 p.m. CST (it will also be streamed live), here are links to consider when you think about music and films.

Here is the link to a story about music and documentaries:

http://www.npr.org/2014/02/28/283072030/music-takes-center-stage-in-oscar-nominated-documentaries

Here is an overview of several nominees, including William Butler (below) of Arcade Fire, for Best Score:

http://www.npr.org/2014/02/26/283026146/and-the-oscar-goes-to-mr-star-wars-or-arcade-fire

william butler of arcade fire

And here is a link to another story about quiet music — specifically, composer Alexandre Desplat and his score for “Philomena” starring Judi Dench (below) — and how hard it is to compose and perform:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/02/08/273151282/philomena-and-the-power-of-a-quiet-film-score

Judi Dench in %22Philomena%22

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Classical music: Eclectic superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma says that culture and the arts are vital to our society and to education and he has Three Big Ideas about what we can do to help the in America.

April 13, 2013
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By Jacob Stockinger

Classical music organizations of all kinds are wondering what they can do to foster a better appreciation of the arts and to put the performing arts on a more solid financial footing with broader public and political acceptance.

Famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma (below top), who, in addition to his world-wide career as a recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist,  has also been a creative consultant to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and who has performed with the eclectic Silk Road Ensemble (below bottom), thinks he has the answer.

At bottom is a YouTube video of Ma playing a movement of a solo cello suite by J.S. Bach that has had almost 10 million hits:

yo-yo ma

Silk Road Ensemble

And the Harvard-educated Ma, who describes himself as a “venture culturalist”  revealed his view about the need for diversity and his Three Big Ideas recently in the Nancy Hank Lecture on Arts Advocacy Day in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. He linked and emphasized the role of the arts in all education and in economic development.

And as always, NPR’s outstanding classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” was on top of the story.

Here is a link with a story and a video of the complete speech. Spread the word and share it — his remarks deserve it:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/04/09/176681242/can-yo-yo-ma-fix-the-arts

Be sure to read some of the readers’ comments, which I find most enlightening –- especially the story about and quote by Winston Churchill.


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