Meet The Composer Meet the Composer is a Peabody Award-winning podcast that takes listeners into the minds of the composers making some of the most innovative and breathtakingly beautiful music today.
Meet The Composer

Meet The Composer

From WQXR Radio

Meet the Composer is a Peabody Award-winning podcast that takes listeners into the minds of the composers making some of the most innovative and breathtakingly beautiful music today.

Most Recent Episodes

Episode 17 - Paul Simon's Curious Mind

Paul Simon has always been attracted to new kinds of sounds. From his early band Simon & Garfunkel in the 1960s through solo albums like Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints in the '80s and '90s, up through his recent albums So Beautiful or So What and Stranger to Stranger, Simon has made music that does what the very best art can do: it resonates with our experience, re-frames it, and introduces new timbres and ideas. Recently, Simon's curious mind has brought him into the world of contemporary classical music, mining the microtonal sound world of Harry Partch for his last record, and, just last month, collaborating with 10 composers and the ensemble yMusic on a set at the Eaux Claires music festival. On this episode, we hear Simon's perspective on his career and his most recent projects, as well as exclusive audio from the festival collaboration itself. Heard a piece of music that you loved? Discover it here! 0:18—Andrew Norman: Music in Circles | Listen 2:23—Paul Simon: Insomniac's Lullaby | Listen 5:04—Simon & Garfunkel: Mrs. Robinson | Listen 6:09—The Penguins: Earth Angel | Listen 7:05—Tom & Jerry: Hey Schoolgirl | Listen 7:48—Simon & Garfunkel: Sound of Silence | Listen 8:13—Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water | Listen 8:48—Paul Simon: Still Crazy After All These Years | Listen 9:09—Paul Simon: Hearts and Bones | Listen 10:00—Boyoyo Boys: Son Op | Listen 10:41—Paul Simon: Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes | Listen 11:03—Paul Simon: Boy in the Bubble | Listen 11:30—Paul Simon: Homeless | Listen 11:58—Paul Simon: Graceland | Listen 12:53—Ladysmith Black Mambazo: The Alphabet | Watch 13:22—Paul Simon: Under African Skies | Listen 14:50—Paul Simon: Crazy Love, Vol. II | Listen 15:38—Eddie Palmieri: Ay Que Rico | Listen 15:53—Various Artists: Hausa Street Music | Listen 16:06—Various Artists: Oru Para Todos Los Santos | Listen 16:12—Various Artists: Songhay Gulu Drummers | Listen 16:24—Paul Simon: Further to Fly | Listen 17:08—Paul Simon: Obvious Child | Listen 18:58—Marcos Balter: Bladed Stance | Listen 20:56—Timo Andres: Safe Travels | Listen 23:40—Harry Partch: Cloud-Chamber Bowls | Listen 24:33—Harry Partch: The Bewitched, Scene One | Listen 25:14—Paul Simon: Insomniac's Lullaby | Listen 26:27—Vincenzo Bellini: Casta Diva, from Norma | Listen 27:58—Sergei Prokofiev: Cello Sonata in C major, op. 119 | Listen 29:15—Paul Simon: Another Galaxy | Listen 31:44—Paul Simon: Kathy's Song | Listen 32:14—Paul Simon: Train in the Distance | Listen 32:44—Paul Simon: Train in the Distance [acoustic demo] | Listen 35:08—Bob Dylan: The Ballad of a Thin Man | Listen 35:34—Gabriel Kahane: Veda (1 Pierce Dr.) | Listen 36:10—Paul Simon [arr. Gabriel Kahane]: Train in the Distance 37:32—Danny Brown: Ain't It Funny | Listen 40:14—Paul Simon [arr. Robert Sirota]: America 42:32—Simon & Garfunkel: Sound of Silence | Listen 44:17—Simon & Garfunkel: America | Listen 46:15—Paul Simon [arr. Rob Moose]: Sound of Silence

Bonus Track - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's 'Clouds Forming Over Mount Baker'

We began last week's episode digging into the music of one particular electronic musician - the synthesist, producer and composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Today we're thrilled to bring you a song that you won't hear on any of Kaitlyn's albums. Clouds Forming Over Mount Baker was commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania's Arthur Ross Gallery to accompany a landscape photograph by Eliot Porter. It's a fitting collaboration, as Kaitlyn grew up on Orcas Island, where Mt. Baker is a visible feature. Join us for this rich, synthesized soundscape, bringing sonic life to Porter's beautiful photograph. Clouds Forming over Mt. Baker (Eliot Porter)

Episode 16 - The Producer

What happens when a composer writes music without pen and paper, using machines? How does that change the creative process? How does it morph the art itself? Today on Meet the Composer, our producer Alex Overington — usually behind the studio glass — takes us on a road trip to unravel the creative process of those composers who write without a score. We meet the synthesists, the samplers, the electronic musicians, and dive deep into the tools they've adopted to define their craft. Join us as we uncover what it means to be a composer who sculpts directly with sound, through conversations with such artists as Matmos, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Tyondai Braxton, Laurie Anderson, Morton Subotnick and more. Heard a piece of music you loved? Discover it here! 0:21—Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Rare Things Grow | Listen 2:27—Terry Riley: A Rainbow in Curved Air | Listen 3:16—Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor | Listen 4:03—Gustave Mahler: Symphony No. 4, IV. Adagietto | Listen 4:33—Oneohtrix Point Never: Problem Areas | Listen 6:02—Matmos: Ultimate Care II | Listen 6:30—Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: First Flight | Listen 7:41—Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Envelop | Listen 11:29—Matmos: Mister Mouth | Listen 12:59—Morton Subotnick: Silver Apples of the Moon | Listen 13:48—The Vogues: Five O'Clock World | Listen 14:42—Arthur Smith: Banjo Boogie | Listen 15:26—Morton Subotnick: Silver Apples of the Moon | Listen 15:51—Stephen Foster: Camptown Races | Watch 16:04—Johannes Pachabel: Canon in D | Listen 16:55—Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Sundry | Listen 18:25—Morton Subotnick: Silver Apples of the Moon | Listen 20:28—Tyondai Braxton: Opening Bell | Listen 20:56—Tyondai Braxton: Gracka | Listen 22:43—Tyondai Braxton: Scout1 | Listen 24:39—Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Wetlands | Listen 28:30—Pierre Schaeffer & Pierre Henry: Orphée 53 | Listen 29:25—Mistinguett: Mitsou | Listen 29:38—Pierre Schaeffer & Pierre Henry: Orphée 53 | Listen 29:57—The Sugarhill Gang: Apache [Jump On It] | Listen 30:20—Kanye West: A "Dope Ass Beat" | Watch 30:39—Matmos: Very Large Green Triangles | Listen 31:26—Matmos: Ur Tchan Tan Tse Qi | Listen 32:49—Jingle Cats: Jingle Bells | Listen 33:22—Matmos: California Rhinoplasty | Listen 34:28—Matmos: Lipostudio... And So On | Listen 34:37—Matmos: L.A.S.I.K. | Listen 35:20—Matmos: L.A.S.I.K. | Listen 37:27—Matmos: You | Listen 39:14—Matmos & So Percussion: Aluminum | Listen 40:50—Matmos: Ultimate Care II | Listen 47:46—Matmos: Ultimate Care II | Listen 49:14—Laurie Anderson: Another Day in America | Listen 53:04—Laurie Anderson: Sharkey's Day | Listen 53:59—Edward Grieg: Lyric Pieces for the Piano, op. 43, "Butterfly" | Listen 54:27—Laurie Anderson: My Right Eye | Listen 55:31—Laurie Anderson: Another Day in America | Listen 57:35—Laurie Anderson: The Lake [Instrumental] | Listen

Bonus Track - Bryce Dessner's 'Wires'

For today's Bonus Track, we're thrilled to bring you the world-premiere recording of Bryce Dessner's Wires, performed by Ensemble Intercontemporain! Last week, we dug into a particularly contentious moment in classical music's history. This week, however, we're looking at where we are NOW, a place of, well... niceness. "I think right now is a really good time to be a composer," says composer John Adams. "And I tell young composers that. They don't believe me, but they don't know how difficult it was back when I was in my 20s and 30s." We'll hear how David Lang's group Bang on a Can helped to shape a newfound culture of support and generosity, and how the next generation of composers - including Bryce Dessner - can find creative freedom in this new landscape. Finally, we hear from Bryce what it's like to write for "the Rolls Royce ... of New Music," with his new piece, Wires, for Ensemble Intercontemporian, led by Matthias Pintscher. Bryce Dessner's Wires is provided courtesy of Chester Music, part of the Music Sales Group, Ensemble Intercontemportain and SPEDIDAM (Société de Perception et de Répartition des Droits des Artistes-Interprètes.)

Episode 15 - New Music Fight Club

It was composer pitted against composer: uptown vs. downtown, tonal vs. atonal, left brain vs right brain, and these musicians were NOT pulling any punches. Composers were antagonizing each other, questioning each other's validity, and bad-mouthing one another; it was like the second half of the 20th century was when Western Music went through middle school, and it was brutal! "If you weren't being a constructivist composer, if the music wasn't indeed about its own structure, and its own structure wasn't complicated, then you were a pariah, you were rejected. You didn't get tenure. You didn't get a job." That's Robert Sirota - Nadia's Dad - one of many composers who came of age in the midst of this feud and struggled - for years - to find a voice. On this episode of Meet the Composer, we unravel one of the most contentious periods in classical music's history. How did this fight begin? How did it play out? Who were the contenders? We hear from composers on both sides of this battle, and discover how, on all ends of the aesthetic spectrum, we can find value in differences.

Bonus Track - Henry Threadgill's Zooid, Live at the Village Vanguard

Henry Threadgill's music and community can't be separated; there is no boundary: challenge and failure and growth in music are the same as challenge and failure and growth in life. This Meet the Composer bonus track shares an exclusive performance by Henry Threadgill's Zooid ensemble of I Never, recorded live by Q2 Music at the Village Vanguard on Oct. 2, 2016. Throughout his career, Threadgill has led countless ensembles with diverse instrumentations and personalities. And in each of them, he finds a way to unearth a type of asymmetry – a blend of unease and transcendence that comes across in his remarkably structured compositions. He unites musicians in the same way as he composes: with affection for the mysterious, embrace of the unexpected, and spontaneity guided by a rigorous intellect. As Threadgill has said, "Improvisation is a way to live your life and solve problems." Music is one outlet, one way to activate this philosophy, which is something we hear echoed often from his collaborators. In this recording, we hear the 2016 Pulitzer Prize laureate leading his longest standing chamber ensemble, Zooid, in a live performance inside the legendary New York City underground jazz venue, the Village Vanguard. Performers: Henry Threadgill, alto sax Liberty Ellman, tres Christopher Hoffman, cello José Davila, tuba Elliot Humberto Kavee, drums, percussion This live recording was produced by Curtis Macdonald and engineered by Edward Haber (technical director and remix), Irene Trudel, Duke Markos, Bill Moss and Curtis Macdonald.

Henry Threadgill: Dirt, and More Dirt

1967, Fort Riley, Kansas. Henry Threadgill is 23 years old. Knowing he's going to be drafted into the military, he joins the Army Concert Band, hoping to focus on his passion: writing music. As he surrounds himself with new ideas, he works his influences into the music that he's arranging. Then one day, the band plays one of his arrangements of a patriotic song for an inauguration of big-wigs, and from the calm of a quietly confused crowd comes a cry from a cardinal in attendance: "Blasphemy!" One day later, he's told to gather his things. Thirty days later, he's on his way to Vietnam. Fifty years later, he wins the Pulitzer Prize for music composition. This is only the beginning of the story of how the energy, hunger and curiosity of Henry Threadgill have influenced and changed the people around him. In spite of the failure and rejection he's faced, Threadgill is perpetually driven toward new ideas, new challenges and new opportunities to pursue and grow stronger in his improvisational creative vision. His music is the product of the community he builds in the moment. This is the story of Henry Threadgill, told by the people whose lives he has touched. --- About the podcast: Meet the Composer is a Peabody Award-winning podcast that takes listeners into the minds and creative processes of the composers making some of the most innovative, compelling, and breathtakingly beautiful music today. Follow Meet the Composer on Twitter: @MeettheComposer Like Meet the Composer on Facebook: --- Q2 Music is WQXR, New York's multi-platform home for dynamic modern music. Discover countless new artists via our 24/7 music stream – hand-crafted daily to reward your curiosity – and surprise your imagination with a world of exhilarating new music. Produced by Q2 Music. Follow Q2 Music on Twitter: @Q2Music Like Q2 Music on Facebook:

Bonus Track - John Adams' 'Coast,' Unplugged

Today's bonus track is an exclusive arrangement of a nutso, sci-fi-y electronic piece John Adams wrote in 1993. Originally part of a larger work, Hoodoo Zephyr, Coast was never intended to be performed live. However, the 20-person chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound has often been tempted by electronic works. Violinist, composer, and Alarm Will Sound member Caleb Burhans, who cut his teeth arranging works by Aphex Twin for the group, adapted Adams' work. While Alarm Will Sound has performed this piece several times, we're proud to bring this you exclusive recording!

Episode 13 - Splitting Adams: John Adams' Chamber Symphonies

What happens when the composer shows up to the first rehearsal of his brand-new piece? Would a living Beethoven sue for intellectual property? Are you the hit, or are you in the hole? For this episode, we collaborated with the 20-member chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound and its conductor Alan Pierson – with whom we're partnering on the upcoming podcast album Splitting Adams (out April 21 on Cantaloupe Music) – to take a close look at the music of John Adams, specifically his two insanely difficult chamber symphonies. This episode offers unprecedented access to not only to the creative process, but the weird, woolly procedure of putting these massive pieces together. Heard a piece of music you loved? Discover it here! 1:48—John Adams: Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 2:12—Arnold Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire, Mondestrunken | Listen | Buy 2:29—Richard Strauss: Five Piano Pieces, op. 3: IV, allegro molto | Listen | Buy 3:08—Ray Noble: The Midnight, The Stars and You | Listen | Buy 3:13—Busby Berkeley: Hooray for Hollywood | Listen | Buy 3:55—Louis Armstrong: You're Lucky to Me | Listen | Buy 4:37—George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue | Listen | Buy 5:20—John Adams: Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 5:58—John Adams: The Death of Klinghoffer | Buy 7:30—Arnold Schoenberg: Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 8:53—John Adams: Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 19:10—John Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 20:46—Danny Elfman: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, The Breakfast Machine | Listen | Buy 21:10—John Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 22:19—John Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 24:25—Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, mvt. I | Listen | Buy 24:51—Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, mvt. II | Listen | Buy 25:00—John Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 26:01—Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, mvt. II | Listen | Buy 26:28—John Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 31:33—John Adams: Fellow Traveler | Listen | Buy 31:42—John Adams: Nixon in China | Listen | Buy 31:56—John Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy 32:24—John Adams: Fellow Traveler | Listen | Buy 32:33—John Adams: Son of Chamber Symphony | Listen | Buy

Bonus Track - Pauline Oliveros' 'Tuning Meditation'

Today's Meet the Composer Bonus Track is an extended cut of Pauline Oliveros' Tuning Meditation, recorded live at the Fuentidueña Chapel at the Met Cloisters on Jan. 20, 2017. Recorded in 3D-sounding binaural audio, it's an immersive experience in which we would love you to think about participating while listening. For optimal audio quality, please listen with headphones!