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Music is Music

Join Music is Music host Ria Misra for revealing conversations with unexpected musicians. Featuring new compositions, surprising collaborations -- and a refreshing take on the sounds around us.

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Music is Music: Julia Holter + Spektral Quartet

Alex Temple's new composition Behind the Wallpaper was specifically written with singer/songwriter Julia Holter and the Spektral Quartet. The piece combines Spektral Quartet's brand of accessibility and playfulness with the neo-renaissance vocal stylings Holter likes to hint at in her own work. Spektral Quartet is one of the gems of the Chicago music scene. The group is just as comfortable performing in a concert hall as it is at a bar. Case in point: this installment of Music is Music, where the artists converge on Chicago's Lake View neighborhood for a show at Constellation. Familiar tropes shake hands with found sounds and new tones in this performance of Alex Temple's Behind the Wallpaper.


1 Oct 2015

Rank #1

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Music is Music: Anenon

Drivers in Los Angeles begin to feel their jaws tighten at the mere mention of traffic. One lifelong resident, however, used that hum of urban din to make music. Taking a cue from John Cage, composer and self-taught saxophonist Brian Allen Simon heard melody in everyday noise. He records under the name Anenon. His latest release is Petrol, which is where you'll find the song: Machines. From car horns to the underground parking garage at Walt Disney Concert Hall, this album takes you places (without ever having to step foot in a car). Your questions and comments are always welcome: @marcjsanchez


13 May 2016

Rank #2

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Music is Music: Shannon Hayden

Cellist Shannon Hayden installed the solar panels that power the recording studio that's housed in the farm that she built with her bare hands (with the help of her dad). Oh, and she also imitates the guitar sounds of noise-punk band Melt Banana with her cello... aaaaand she was once set on fire for being a better cellist than a boy. Yup. On her latest album, You See the World, Shannon channels her love of noise, traditional classical and textured drones into songs full of tension and release. Listen for yourself on the track "Accelerator." This episode of Music is Music is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


5 Aug 2016

Rank #3

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Music is Music: Conrad Tao

To those who knew him, especially his piano students, Emilio del Rosario will always be Mr. D. He had a knack for helping budding, young pianists grow into confident, concert pianist. Case in point: 21-year-old Conrad Tao. Tao was introduced to Mr. D at age five and only studied with him until he was nine. But if you think about those specific years in a young person's life, that's when you learn your habits. That's where your convictions take root. That's when the encouragement of teachers can bring exponential confidence. And as Tao puts it, even though four years isn't that long, "when you're nine, that's basically half your life." In 2010, Tao was on a trajectory to becoming the world-renown composer and concert pianist he is today. That's also the year that Mr. D passed away. On this episode of Music is Music, Conrad Tao talks about his composition "A Walk (for Emilio)," a piece that imagines what it would be like to have a conversation with Mr. D if he were alive today.


18 Feb 2016

Rank #4

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Music is Music: Goldmund

Composer Keith Kenniff has a knack for writing music that inspires. Keith Kenniff has many aliases. There's his electronic project, Helios. Mint Juliep is the band he and his wife formed -- that's a more drums with distorted guitars affair. Then there's Goldmund, where he plays delicate, sparse piano and adds subtle sound flourishes. None of these bands or monikers, however, hold a candle to the audiences Kenniff reaches in his other bands... or I should say brands. Facebook, Apple, Google, Starbucks, Coke, HBO, NBC, ABC, CBS. The list is MUCH longer. You've probably heard a piece that Kenniff has written on one of your various screens. If you've ever been sucked into a commercial with heart-warming visuals and a compelling story of someone beating the odds or baring their soul, there's a good chance that Keith Kenniff wrote the music. He seems to be the go-to guy for inspirational music. The 2015 Goldmund album Sometimes is full of subdued meditations. It has the calm sense of someone looking inward and, not necessarily being sad, but being okay with sadness. A great example is on the track "Getting Lighter." Kenniff recalls writing it on a whim, after working on another "rush job" piece of music for an advertisement. He had a little time to kill and, being a composer, decided to improvise on the piano. To hear (and see) more of Keith Kenniff's work, including that time Barack Obama used some of his music in the introduction video to his 2016 DNC speech, check out Keith's website: Unseen-Music.com.


19 Aug 2016

Rank #5

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Music is Music: Melody Parker

Melody Parker loves to dance. When she wrote the music for her album "Archipelago," she didn't start with a catchy tune, or harmonies, or rhythm. She started with movement. On this episode of Music is Music, Melody Parker tells us all about her love of dance and movement. And we'll hear about the acoustic worlds she creates, both in her music and elsewhere. Have a listen, and hear the music that Parker describes as "chamber pop," chamber music with a catchy, pop feel. To find out more about Melody Parker, head over to her website, http://www.soundsmelodious.com/. Music is Music is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


30 Sep 2016

Rank #6

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Music is Music: The Greatest Hoax

The path to becoming a Washington D.C. advisor on climate science and global warming is easy. First study piano and double bass. Then, get a degree in composition. Next thing you know, you're a climate scientist. At least, this is how it happened for Taylor Jordan. Jordan records under the name The Greatest Hoax, a name he borrowed from Senator James Inhofe's (R-OK) 2012 book. The book is a shot across the bow of mainstream science and claims of global warming. So it's fair to say Jordan, a climate scientist who advises members of Congress on climate science, has a bit of a cheeky streak. The name of his 2015 album, "Enso," has ties to Jordan's day job too. It's the acronym for El Nino Southern Oscillation, commonly shortened to El Nino. Now that you've learned something, why not have a listen? Check out The Greatest Hoax on this episode of Music is Music. To find out more about what Taylor Jordan is up to, head over to his Bandcamp page. https://vimeo.com/163992792 Music is Music is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


9 Sep 2016

Rank #7

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Music is Music: Ozere

Ozere is a group of musicians that Canadian violinist Jessica Deutsch put together back in 2012. It's also the culmination of Deutsch's world travels. And if you're wondering, the band's name (pronounced: oh-ZER-uh) is Yiddish for "lake," but that's a whole other story. Deutsch grew up playing classical violin. But even before her instrument ever came into the picture, she was blessed with perfect pitch -- her mother tells the story of toddler Jessica climbing up the family piano to always land on middle C. Deutsch began violin lessons at age 4 and continued until she was 17, when she went off to college in Vancouver. At that point, she decided that she needed a break. No more violin. No more music... until one evening. A local pub was hosting an ad-hoc group of musicians playing Celtic music. Deutsch stopped in and was immediately smitten with the freedom and joy she witnessed in the group's improvisational renditions of folk tunes. She wound up joining in a few nights later and many more followed. The violin was back in her life; although, it had turned into a fiddle. It was through these jam sessions that she learned about improvisation. And, as it turns out, having perfect pitch really helps when you want to jump in on a tune you've never heard before. From there, Deutsch set off to discover and devour new music from all over the world. She went straight to the source and traveled to countries where the music intrigued her. And it was easy to meet people as long as she had her violin in tow. When Deutsch landed back in Canada, that improvisational spirit and breadth of music from all over the world were key elements for the band she wanted to put together. Mandolin (Adrian Gross), upright bass (Bret Higgins) and cello (Lydia Munchinsky) all accompany Deutsch's violin in Ozere. Another key element, and one she hadn't planned on when looking for musicians, is voice. Turns out an old classmate of Deutsch (Emily Rockarts) was a perfect pairing. Being open to new ideas even like vocals led Deutsch to try out singing herself. So, she added vocal harmony to her bag of tricks. Ozere showcases Jessica Deutch's compositions -- a mix of written and improvised pieces. The band is equally at ease reading the notes she's written out as they are hopping in and making it up on the spot. Why not take a listen for yourself? This edition of Music is Music features the Ozere song "Anyplace." It's off the band's 2015 album: Finding Anyplace.


8 Jan 2016

Rank #8

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Music is Music: Helado Negro

Roberto Lange grew up in South Florida, or as he calls it, "the capital of Latin America." It's a landing place for so many Spanish-speaking cultures -- think Columbia, Trinidad, Ecuador, and of course Cuba. Lange ingested the flavors of these cultures, then mixed them with the inescapable sounds of Miami bass music. The result is a project he calls Helado Negro. Until recently concocting Helado Negro songs was largely the job of Lange programing beats, playing keyboards and crooning (in English and Spanish). Occasionally he'd have a friend or two help out and give input and add an instrument or two, but it was mostly a solo affair. He recently decided to pull out all the stops and orchestrate a one-night-only Helado Negro performance as part of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music series. 17 musicians gathered on stage to reinterpret Lange's compositions. Guest singers and acoustic instruments brought out new textures, some of which were remixed and reprocessed live, onstage. Lange called the event his "Island Universe Story (Cuentos del Universo Solitario). In this installment of Music is Music, Roberto Lange talks about the background and collaborations that went into making this special event. Check out the entire concert and an interview with Lange.

1hr 25mins

1 Oct 2015

Rank #9

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Music is Music: Floating Points

From a young age, Sam Shepherd has rejected the idea of neat, tidy musical categories. He studied classical piano growing up, but felt confined by what he calls the "dots on a page." It wasn't until he heard a performer really making a classical piece his own, breaking out of strictly classical feel, that he was hooked. Now, Shepherd writes music under the alias "Floating Points." Influences of classical, jazz, electronica, pop, and world music all blend to create a sound that doesn't fit squarely into any one style. This episode features a piece titled "Peroration Six," which Shepherd describes as careening towards and then falling into a black hole. To find out more about the music of "Floating Points," check out the website floatingpoints.co.uk. Music is Music is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


28 Oct 2016

Rank #10