Arts and culture

WNIJ fans know this is the place to learn about literature from northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. And you know we maintain a growing archive of author interviews and readings.

But if you're a hard-core listener, a true WNIJ nerd, you'll want even more information to satisfy your craving for content.

This post is for you.

This week, WNIJ begins airing promos for the Winter Book Series. You can take a sneak "listen" by clicking the three audio links below:

Why do Beethoven's symphonies remain so appealing? It's a question we put to Simon Rattle a few years ago after he had finished conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in all nine of them.

"There's nothing harder," Rattle said, "and at the end of it all, nothing more rewarding. This is one of the great monuments of Western art." Those performances were recorded for a set released in 2003.

On a long drive, Itzhak Perlman will sometimes listen to classical music on the radio and try to guess who's playing.

"There is always a question mark," he says. "If it's good, boy, I hope it's me. If it's bad, I hope it's not me."

The journey a film score takes, from the composer's brain to what comes out of the speakers at your local theater, is a long and complicated process. In the case of the new Pixar film The Good Dinosaur, the work began seven months ago. Audiences will hear it for the first time on Thanksgiving Day.

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

The DeKalb Festival Chorus launches its 44th season this weekend with an all American program.   The choir is about music – and community.

This is the 44th year for the chorus, but Paul Marchese’s first as its leader.  A native of Sycamore, Marchese returned to the area several years ago after graduate school and settled in DeKalb.  He’s directed several church choirs and teaches in the Chicago suburbs.  But he was really interested in the DeKalb Festival Chorus, and what it represented.

When the opera Appomattox premiered in 2007, it put on stage a piece of history that was more than 140 years old.

But creators Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton recently decided the story wasn't over.

When the Washington National Opera wanted to stage the opera, Glass said it needed a rewrite — to reflect what's happened in the U.S. since the premiere.

"In the last seven or eight years there have been profound and really horrific changes in the way this country understands itself," Glass says.

All composers have obsessions. For John Adams, a composer who decidedly broke with the past, that obsession is Beethoven, as heard in the new album Absolute Jest.

The Brazilians call it saudade. It's an elusive, almost intoxicating mix of emotions suffused with longing, loss and memory, best evoked in music. Perhaps Ukrainians have their own word for it. But if not, it can surely be heard in Valentin Silvestrov's Nostalghia, a solo piano work from 2001 that may just leave you a little lightheaded and yearning for something inexplicable.

Next month, WNIJ will feature four books that belong on your shelf or e-reader. Three of them are by Illinois authors. One was written by an Iowa resident who used to work for Northern Public Radio.

The Winter Book Series will air Mondays in December during Morning Edition, and appear in our Book Series archive.