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Modern Notebook

Each week, Tyler Kline journeys into new territory and demystifies the music of living composers on Modern Notebook. Listen for a wide variety of exciting music that engages and inspires, along with the stories behind each piece and the latest releases from today’s contemporary classical artists. Discover what’s in store on Modern Notebook, every Sunday night from 8 to 10 on Classical WSMR.
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    Photo credit: Xiao Nan (Elle China).
    On this week’s Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline: “Black Iris” by Reena Esmail was composed at the height of the “Me Too” movement, and she says that when writing this piece she was “filled with rage, seeing the injustices that plagued even the strongest, most powerful women among us.” It’s a work in which Esmail seeks to use her platform to start real, honest discussions about how each one of us can contribute to a better future for everyone.Then: individuals affected by “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome often report feeling that different parts of their body are disproportionate in size and proximity, and that their overall surroundings are “warped.” This syndrome is, in part, the inspiration for Du Yun’s piece titled “i am my own achilles’ heel.” It’s a work which seeks to address mental health, and also explore her own fascinations with fantastical worlds.
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    Photo courtesy of the aritst.
    Coming up on the next Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline: Composer Asha Srinivasan says the piano is an extremely adept instrument when it comes to changing moods suddenly: in one moment, it can be dominating and terrifying, and in the next, delicate and docile.Tune in for her work “Mercurial Reveries” which explores these contrasts against a backdrop of a traditional Indian music pitch language and Bartok inspirations.Plus, “The Moons Symphony” by Amanda Lee Falkenberg is music inspired by the beauty and majesty of the moons in our solar system. It’s also music that quite literally merges music and science, composed in collaboration with scientists from NASA, ESA, and others.
  • On this week’s Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline: Jessie Montgomery’s “Coincident Dances” is music she says is inspired by the sounds found in New York City’s various cultures, and fuses together the sound-worlds of English consort, samba, techno, and more.Then, we’ll hear a minimalist work by Julius Eastman titled “Joy Boy;” the string quartet Brooklyn Rider performs a work by Matana Roberts; and the Violin Concerto No. 1 by Eleanor Alberga.
  • On the next Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline: Charleston, South Carolina poet laureate Marcus Amaker’s haunting poem “The Rain” is the text source for Shawn Okpebholo’s work of the same name - a work which offers a metaphor on racism and the weight of systemic oppression.Then, we’ll hear a work by Pamela Z called “The Unraveling,” that draws on her love of sampling, layering, looping, and fragmentation - but also, her love of the music of folk artists like Joni Mitchell and Peter, Paul, and Mary.
  • On this week’s Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline: “The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.” This quote from philosopher Prasad Mahes is the inspiration for this piece by Kevin Day titled Unquiet Waters, a work for saxophone and piano which is cast in 3 movements.Then, James Lee III’s Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet is music inspired by historical aspects of indigenous Americans, and also draws on the music of early-20th Century Black American composers like Nathaniel Dett and William Dawson.
  • On this week’s Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline, we are headed tp the Grammys! Tune in for a lineup full of Grammy-nominated music, including a moment from Kevin Puts’ “Contact,” a work by Caroline Shaw for string quartet titled “Three Essays,” and an arrangement of a traditional spiritual by Shawn Okpebholo.We’ll also hear Andy Akiho’s “LIgNEouS I,” music for tenor and orchestra by Nico Muhly, and the “Philharmonia Fantastique” by Mason Bates, which explores the instruments of the orchestra.
  • On the next Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline: Chen Yi’s work “Ge Xu” perfectly fuses the sounds of traditional Chinese music with a Western orchestra by utilizing traditional and non-traditional sounds. It’s also music that is meant to evoke the celebrations by Southern China’s Zhuang minority during the Chinese Lunar New Year or mid-autumn festival.We’ll hear that work just in time for the Lunar New Year, plus a work by Bright Sheng titled “Spring Dreams.” Composed for solo violin with an orchestra made up of traditional Chinese instruments, it also draws inspiration from a well-known Beijing Opera from the Early-20th Century.
  • On the next Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline: Composer Valerie Coleman grew up in West Louisville in Kentucky in what is often called a “Shot Gun House,” a type of house she describes as “a symbol of poverty throughout the South.” We’ll hear a piece by Coleman titled “Shot Gun Houses,” which was composed as an homage to the great Muhammed Ali - who also grew up in a shotgun house in West Louisville.Then: music by J. Kimo Williams inspired by Beethoven and dedicated to the great civil rights leader John Lewis. It’s titled “With Malice Toward None,” and he says it’s music that seeks to speak to our current social and cultural climate that we face.
  • Binna Kim’s work “Stacked Emotions” is music that imagines a conversation - at times, an argument, other times, an agreement - between two individuals, such as a married couple. And she enhances the music by setting the text of 19th-Century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.And, we’ll hear music by Nico Muhly that draws upon and blends together English and Latin texts from the 12th to 18th centuries. It’s titled “Hymns for Private Use,” and it’s a collection of five spiritual songs for voice and wind quintet.
  • “Cuates” formally means “fraternal twins” in Spanish, and it is the title of this work by Nicolas Lell Benavides that is inspired by his twin sisters. It’s a work for two violins where each part shares a lot of material with the other, yet they rarely exactly align or agree on what they should do with that material - kind of like twins.You can hear that work on the next Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline, plus: Viet Cuong composed his “Tuba Concerto” as a way to celebrate the tuba, and one way he achieves this is by writing music that constantly rises and grows from the lowest notes in the ensemble.
  • This week’s Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline is a special mix of new works for the holiday season, including three new carols by Reena Esmail titled “A Winter Breviary;” Dai Fujikura’s “Ghost of Christmas,” inspired by his own memories of Christmastime; and new string quartet music by Caroline Shaw, “The Evergreen.”Then, it’s music inspired by peace, light, and the Advent: we’ll hear A Little Suite for Christmas by George Crumb; Owain Park’s setting of O Magnum Mysterium; and a vocal work by Sungji Hong, “Missa Lumen de Lumine,” or “Light from Light Mass.”
  • The Winter Solstice is upon us, and this week’s Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline is a celebration of the longest night of the year. We’ll hear multiple works inspired by and titled “Solstice,” including a work for orchestra by Lou Harrison; one for piano and marimba by Hilary Tann; and Melissa Hui’s “Solstice,” which unfolds across time as a singular musical gesture.Then, we’ll hear Kitty Xiao’s “Solstice I” and the first movement of Akemi Naito’s “Winter Shadow.” And a piece simply titled “Winter” by Stuart Saunders Smith… It is an aleatoric work for unspecified percussion instruments and winds which he describes as “music of co-existence.”
  • Then: we continue our journey through the night with Dai Fujikura’s “Star Compass” for solo viola, an ensemble work by Helen Grime titled “Near Midnight,” and Emma O’Halloran’s “Constellations,” which blends the sounds of manipulated 90s pop music with an acoustic ensemble.On the next Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline: as the nights grow longer, we continue celebrating the winter season by looking upwards to the night sky with new works inspired by stars and darkness. Hear Jessie Montgomery’s exciting “Starburst,” two movements from David Liptak’s “Constellations,” and a Night Triptych for two guitars by Golfam Khayam.
  • This week’s Modern Notebook with Tyler Kline kicks off a a special series of programs celebrating the winter season: hear a mix of contemporary music about wintry weather, such as Elena Langer’s “Snow,” Shuying Li’s “Canton Snowstorm,” and “Dreams Grow Like Slow Ice” by Jay Batzner. Plus, we settle into stillness with a work by Anna Thorvaldsdottir titled “Ró,” which is named for the Icelandic word for “serenity,”Then, a work for violin and percussion orchestra by Jarkko Hartikainen titled “ICE Concerto;” Jonathan Hannau“Snowfall,” from his new collection of works, “Pieces I Wrote on a Cold Winter Night;” and a frigid piece by Sebastian Fagerlund titled “Breathe,” which explores the timbres of clarinet, accordion, and cello through musical inhales and exhales.