Category Archives: Classical

York High violinist tours with Ballroom Thieves and Maine Youth Rock Orchestra

A teen violinist from York will soon hit the road with a youth orchestra as part of a tour with the folk band The Ballroom Thieves.The Ballroom Thieves and Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, a group of about 25 students ages 12-18, are joining forces on a national tour, the first of its kind.“No national touring band has ever taken a youth orchestra out on tour, so this is a first for everyone. They have joined us for a couple songs, but we’ve never done a full set and a full tour, so it

Source: York High violinist tours with Ballroom Thieves and MYRO

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Filed under Classical, Folk, Folk Rock, Indie folk, Local music, My work with Edge Magazine, News

Ring in 2016 with Bach’s ‘Cantata 147’ on a giant wooden xylophone

It’s not often that a story combines trees and music into something amazing.

Bach’s “Cantata 147” has taken on new life — through a giant wooden xylophone 50 yards long.

The rectilinear xylophone was actually created for a commercial for a Japanese touch phone, highlighting its wooden backplate. But by the end of the video though, shot in the forest, you could care less that you’ve just watched an advertisement. The beauty of the wooden instrument steals the show.


The rubber ball bounces through the air as it strikes the next slim panel of wood, which gently guides the ball down, all while playing the Cantata nearly perfectly. Sometimes you hear the sounds of the forest, like a babbling stream and various animals, and sometimes the forest is silenced, and you hear only Bach’s notes, made unpretentious somehow, and the echo the ball makes as it plops down to the next panel.


According to the story at, an earthquake hit Japan the day the commercial was filmed, illustrating rather beautifully that the Earth can be a terrifying and pristine place at the same time.

This “forest xylophone” can be found at the Daisetsu Mor-no Garden, part of the Hokkaido Garden Show in Japan.


This video was posted in 2011 and by this time, more than 13 million people have watched it. So it’s nothing new, but no less incredible to watch. But maybe yet another blog post will help spread the word about this sound garden a bit further.

Read more about the xylophone at and, which includes exacting details on how it was designed.





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Filed under Classical, Uncategorized, VIdeos

Joanna Newsom’s “Divers” a breathtaking journey through time

Harpist, singer and composer Joanna Newsom is not everyone’s cup of tea. On much of her catalog, you may have to pause and look up a word just to glimpse her plane of thought.

But that’s just part of what Newsom is so good at: She transports you to another time, puts you in a breathless reverie and sweeps you up into her stories of lost love and vast, desolate landscapes.

There are layers of meaning packed tightly within each song on her new album, “Divers,” and when you think you’ve figured it out, further research will only unravel more secrets.

But deciphering the whole of “Divers” is an endeavor far greater than can be squeezed into a review; suffice to say, “Divers” is an emotional celebration of the sanctity of life and death and all of its regrets, described through shockingly vibrant imagery Newsom’s created amid often-delicate pastoral scenes. It’s an incredible album.

newsom landscape

Those who are already fans of Newsom’s complex work are familiar with her use of polyrhythms and classical instruments – she knew she wanted to learn the harp when she was 4 and hasn’t looked back.

Newsom often changes tempo and time signatures within lengthy songs, and her use of traditional instruments — pedal harp, harpsichord and flute — all lend to her classical style. She never sticks with that genre though, and is most well known as an indie/folk artist.

“Divers,” her fourth album, sees Newsom adding physical drums to her repertoire, along with violins, fiddles, electric guitar and flute. She also blends soulful blues notes, psychedelic pop, Appalachian and country, classical, ephemeral, and period-piece music into “Divers,” sometimes all in one song, but she’s just as comfortable letting her solitary voice and a bare piano or pedal harp do the work.

Although her songs are deeply woven, it’s still easy to fall into the album’s natural pace and its trance.

Songs like “Goose Eggs” and “Waltz of the 101st Lightborne” have a country bent to them, whether it’s slide guitar, or a slow rolling melody, or hints of fiddle.

joanna newsom_leaving_city pic

On “Goose Eggs” in particular, Newsom delves into more conventional pop/country/ chamber-pop music, even mixing in ‘60s psychedelic organ, displaying her broad musical agility.

Throughout “Divers,” Newsom weeps for the loss of time, and of mortality, then in the next measure will sing joyfully of transient life and its delicate beauty.

On “The Things I Say,” she laments how people keep their life “like a deck of cards,” keeping it safely packed away to use for a day that never actually comes.

On “Time, As a Symptom,” Newsom continues to speak of those “bleeding out their days in the river of time,” but through the chorus, reinforces the “nullifying, defeating, negating, repeating joy of life.”

Joanna Newsom harp

“Why is the pain of birth lighter borne than the pain of death?” Newsom asks on the title track, a heartbreaking ancient sea tale of a woman waiting for true love and knowing she might die without fulfilling that need. “I’ll hunt the pearl of death to the bottom of my life,” she sings resignedly.

On “A Pin-Light Bent,” Newsom romanticizes the story of a flight attendant’s fall from the sky, and the beauty she would have seen as she fell to earth. With the song composing only her voice and the tense, repeating notes of her harp, deeply personal lyrics of the briefness and fragility of life are revealed.

“My life came and went/My life came and went /Short flight, free descent,” she sings sadly. Comparing tiny, lit homes seen from high above to a mass of honeycomb is somehow gorgeous to imagine.

There are so many things about “Divers” that’s open to personal interpretation. Much of the time, it’s well enough to just let Newsom’s elegant language, the slow pace of each song, and her wondering voice wash over you.

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Filed under Classical, Indie folk, Indie pop, Psychedelic folk, Psychedelic rock, Review

Joanna Newsom’s “Divers” streaming now for two days

Joanna Newsom‘s long-awaited album “Divers” is streaming for 48 hours at NPR Music‘s First Listen and CBC Music‘s First Play. “Divers” drops Friday, and she heads out on tour at the end of October.

And watch the video for the playful first single off “Divers”: “Sapokanikan”:

Newsom recently made waves when she spoke out about streaming services such as Spotify, which she calls the “banana of the music industry,” saying it’s just another way to avoid paying music artists. Read the story, including Spotify’s response to Newsom, at Pitchfork.

“Divers” is on Drag City.

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Filed under Classical, New Music, VIdeos

Joanna Newsom announces North American tour dates


Harpist and singer Joanna Newsom has announced a series of theatrical-only screenings of her music video for the title track of “Divers” between Oct. 16 and 22 at specific theaters. The video was shot at Kim Keever’s studio — Keever’s artwork is used throughout the artwork of Divers.

Joanna Newsom “Divers” Theatrical Screenings Oct. 16-22 (check theaters’ sites for details):
New York, NY @ IFC Center [ INFO ]
Yonkers, NY@ Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers [ INFO ]
Huntington, NY@ Cinema Arts Centre [ INFO ]
Los Angeles, CA @ The Cinefamily [ INFO ]
Los Angeles, CA @ Ahrya Fine Arts [ INFO ]
Pasadena, CA @ Laemmie Playouse 7 [ INFO ]
San Jose, CA @ Camera Cinemas [ INFO ]
San Francisco, CA @ Castro Theatre [ INFO ]
San Luis Obispo, CA @ Palm Theatre [ INFO ]
Grass Valley, CA @ Sutton Cinema [ INFO ]
Grass Valley, CA @ Sierra Cinemas [ INFO ]
Grass Valley, CA @ Del Oro Theatre [ INFO ]
Nevada City, CA @ Magic Theatrea [ INFO ]
Tucson, AZ @ Loft Cinema [ INFO ]
Denver, CO @ Alamo Drafthouse Littleton [ INFO ]
Boulder, CO @ International Film Series, UC Boulder [ INFO ]
Miami, FL @ O-Cinema  [ INFO ]
Boston, MA @ Coolidge Corner [ INFO ]
Seattle, WA @ SIFF – Egyptian Theater [ INFO ]
Bellingham, WA @ Pickford Film Center[ INFO ]
Portland, OR @ Cinema 21 [ INFO ]
Eugene, OR @ Bijou Cinemas [ INFO ]
Pittsburgh, PA @ Regency Square Theater [ INFO ]
Ashburn, VA @ Alamo Drafthouse One Loudon [ INFO ]
Winchester, VA @ Alamo Drafthouse Winchester [ INFO ]
Austin, TX@ Alamo Drafthouse Ritz [ INFO ]
Austin, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline [ INFO ]
Austin, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Village [ INFO ]
Austin, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane [ INFO ]
Austin, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar [ INFO ]
Dallas, TX @ Texas Theatre [ INFO ]
Dallas, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Richardson [ INFO ]
Houston, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park [ INFO ]
Houston, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park [ INFO ]
Laredo, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Laredo [ INFO ]
Lubbock, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Lubbock [ INFO ]
New Braunfels, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Marketplace [ INFO ]
San Antonio, TX@ Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes [ INFO ]
San Antonio, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Park North [ INFO ]
San Antonio, TX @ Alamo Drafthouse Stone Oak [ INFO ]
Kansas City, MO @ Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet [ INFO ]
Ann Arbor, MI @ Michigan Theater [ INFO ]
Kalamazoo, MI @Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo [ INFO ]
Columbia, SC @Nickelodeon Theatre [ INFO ]
Nashville, TN @ Belcourt Theatre [ INFO ]
Salt Lake City, UT @Salt Lake Film Society[ INFO ]
Tulsa, OK @ Circle Cinema [ INFO ]
Scottsbluff, NE @ Midwest Theater [ INFO ]
Raleigh, NC @ Colony Theater [ INFO ]
Winston-Salem, NC @ a/perture Cinema [ INFO ]
Columbus, OH @ Gateway Film Center [ INFO ]
Chicago, IL @ Music Box Theatre [INFO]
Champaign, IL @ Art Theatre Co-Op [ INFO ]
Paducah, KY @ Maiden Alley Cinema [ INFO ]
Arhus, Denmark @ Øst For Paradis [ INFO ]
London, UK @ Rio Cinema [ INFO ]
Munich, Germany @ Monopol [ INFO ]

Joanna Newsom “Divers” Theatrical Screenings Oct. 27:
London, UK @ Clapham Picturehouse [ INFO ]
London, UK @ East Dulwich Picturehouse and Cafe [ INFO ]
London, UK @Greenwich Picturehouse [ INFO ]
London, UK @ Hackney Picturehouse [ INFO ]
London, UK @ Picturehouse Central [ INFO ]
London, UK @ Ritzy Brixton [ INFO ]
London, UK @ Stratford East Picturehouse [ INFO ]
Bath, UK @ The Little Theatre Cinema [ INFO ]
Bradford, UK @ Picturehouse at National Media Museum [INFO ]
Brighton, UK @ Duke’s at Komedia [ INFO ]
Edinburgh, UK @ Cameo [ INFO ]
Exeter, UK @ Exeter Picturehouse [ INFO ]
Henley, UK @ Regal Picturehouse [ INFO ]
Norwich, UK @ Cinema City [ INFO ]
Liverpool, UK @ Picturehouse at FACT [ INFO ]
Oxford, UK @ Phoenix Picturehouse [ INFO ]
Southampton, UK @ Harbour Lights Picturehouse [ INFO ]
Stratford-upon-Avon, UK @ Stratford-Upon-Avon Picturehouse [ INFO ]
York, UK @ City Screen [ INFO ]

joanna newsom_leaving_city pic

Ahead of Newsom’s much-anticipated album, she’s also announced some North American tour dates, her first in five years. They’re in bold below.

Divers is out Oct. 23 on Drag City.

Sat. Oct. 31 – Manchester, UK @ Albert Hall
Sun. Nov. 1 – Brighton, UK @ Dome
Wed. Nov. 4 – Barcelona, ES @ Barts
Thu. Nov. 5 – Berlin, DE @ Admiralspalast
Fri. Nov. 6 – Cologne, DE @ Kulturkirche
Sat. Nov. 7 – Utrecht, NL @ Tivoli
Sun. Nov. 8 – Paris, FR @ Salle Gaveau
Mon. Nov. 9 – London, UK @ Eventim Apollo
Sun. Dec. 6 – Boston, MA @ Orpheum Theatre*
Mon. Dec. 7 – Brooklyn, NY @ Kings Theatre*
Wed. Dec. 9 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer*
Thu. Dec. 10 – Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre*
Sat. Dec. 12 – Munhall, PA @ Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall*
Sun. Dec. 13 – Buffalo, NY @ Asbury Hall @ Babeville*
Mon. Dec. 14 – Toronto, ON @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre*
Tue. Dec. 15 – Royal Oak, MI @ Royal Oak Music Theatre*
Wed. Dec. 16 – Chicago, IL @ Chicago Theatre*
Thu. Dec. 17 – St. Paul, MN @ The Fitzgerald Theater*
Fri. Dec. 18 – Madison, WI @ Orpheum Theatre*
* = with Alela Diane & Ryan Francesconi

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Hear Joanna Newsom’s faraway tome “Leaving the City”

joanna newsom_leaving_city pic

From the first delicate notes of Joanna Newsom’s harp on her latest single “Leaving the City,” you’re spellbound. Part of Newsom’s continuing allure is the dramatic and beautiful way she uses a classical instrument like the Marxophone or the oft-campy Mellotron.

But even more dramatic is Newsom’s voice, which sounds like it’s from another dimension — one that would fit quite neatly in the time of Chaucer — in its whimsicality and individuality. Like Newsom, you’re transported to a more reflective era.  “Do you believe in me?” she asks.

Listen to “Leaving the City”:

Check out her recent video, “Saponikan,” also from the new album.

By the sounds of both of these singles, the rest of “Divers” could be phenomenal. It’s out Oct. 23 on Drag City Records. The amazing cover art is below:


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Filed under Classical, New Music

Joanna Newsom is back with whimsical video, new album “Divers”

It’s been five years since Newsom’s latest music, but she’s back, with a whimsical video and new music on the way.

Watch her new video for “Sapokanikan,” below, which was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. She practically hops and skips along city streets, day and night, her quirky and enunciated vocals hearken to fairy-tale lands.

Photo by Annabel Mehran

Photo by Annabel Mehran

Newsom’s classical background and playful piano melodies lends a mythical air to her music. It’s no wonder the news of an upcoming record would get fans aflutter.

“Divers” will be out Oct. 23 on Drag City.

Divers Track Listing:
01. Anecdotes
02. Sapokanikan
03. Leaving the City
04. Goose Eggs
05. Waltz of the 101st Lightborne
06. The Things I Say
07. Divers
08. Same Old Man
09. You Will Not Take My Heart Alive
10. A Pin-Light Bent
11. Time, As A Symptom

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Filed under Classical, New Music, VIdeos

Newly minted octobass premiers at Norway music fest

octobass3There are only seven octobasses in the world.

To even play the giant instrument, levers are installed on the side, which you use to help take care of the fretting your fingers would normally do. Standing on a stepstool is also required to play it. The sound an octobass can make is so low that it’s below the register of human hearing.

Andy Battaglia from Red Bull Music Academy Daily ran a story about the octobass, recently which made its appearance at the Only Connect Festival of Sound music festival in Norway.

The story explains that the first one was made in 1850. Considering that it’s now 2015 and only seven have been made, demand doesn’t seem too high.

octobass2This seventh one (above) is tremendous: It’s more than 12.5 feet tall. According to the story, the guts from about 12 sheep were used to make the strings. To further give you an idea of its size, “the tuning pegs are roughly the size of small salad plates.” This one is supported partially by the stool people use to play it.

The photo above also serves to successfully shrink the tall man standing next to it — at least he used to be tall.

During the festival, the octobass was used during an ensemble performance, which included a piccoletto violin, which creates extremely high sounds.

To hear its sound, check out this 2010 video from the Arizona Republic of a man playing an octobass at a museum. The vibrations caused by the bow visibly make the strings vibrate so deeply it looks like a slithering snake.

Visit Red Bull Music Academy on Twitter for more.


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Filed under Classical, Odd instruments, VIdeos

The angelic hush of GABI’s debut “Sympathy” is streaming in full

GABI Fleece remix

One way to describe GABI’s voice is that she sounds like Enya, but with a purity and gracefulness that’s ratcheted up 50 times in its intensity and rawness, from the first notes on “Koo Koo,” to the manic vocal hiccups running alongside her steady, angelic voice on “Falling.”

“Sympathy” was born out of GABI‘s classical training and her solo work with a dual-track loop pedal. The album is sonically vibrant and free, not bound to conventional standards.

Listen for yourself: GABI’s debut, “Sympathy,” is streaming in full on Soundcloud.

GABI has a live show at Rough Trade NYC on Monday, and a record-release show at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. “Sympathy” is out Tuesday on Software Recording Co.

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Filed under avante garde, Classical

“Downton Abbey” fans, and Diddy, may rejoice in new Christmas CD

Christmas at Downton Abbey

On Nov. 17, Warner Brothers released a 45-track “Christmas at Downton Abbey” double CD, a collection of carols and hymns that also features music by Elizabeth McGovern, Abbey’s Countess of Grantham. McGovern also performs with the band Sadie and the Hotheads.

Christmas carols like “O Holy Night,”Silent Night” and “Twelve Days of Christmas” are included on “Christmas at Downton Abbey”; some music on the double CD is recorded by the Budapest City Orchestra and the Budapest Choral Voices.

This classical/holiday release gets a mention because, believe it or not, there are some unlikely musicians out there who are also “Downton Abbey” freaks.

Papermag in 2012 compiled a list of random celebrities who are not-so-closet fans of the British World War I-era drama. Among them: Katy Perry, Courtney Love and Aimee Mann.


Courtney Love — Live through this Downton Abbey cliffhanger

Noticeably missing from the list, and quite possibly the biggest “DA” fan out there: Diddy.

In 2013, the rapper and self-professed “Abbey head,” created a character for himself in the drama through a series of hilarious scenes on Funny or Die.


PBS reps at the time had to deny Diddy’s claims he was the first black cast member to join “Downton Abbey.”

Puff Daddy loves “Downton Abbey” so much, he made a little montage of it which he dubbed “Downtown Abbey,” his “favorite show of all time.”

In the montage, Combs meets the Crawley clan, takes his Ciroc with a spot of tea, and dabbles in the fine art of post-Edwardian love triangles.

diddy ciroc

Product placement that expands beyond the generations.

Fans have been patiently waiting for this year’s installment of the drama’s Christmas special. The details about when that airs is still under wraps. Thankfully, the “Christmas at Downton Abbey” CD is out now.

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Filed under Classical, Covers, Holiday music, News