Arts

Arts and culture

For this most American of holidays, how do we define our music? What makes it uniquely American?

In 1929 George Gershwin wrote that it's "something deeply rooted in our soil." Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Director Marin Alsop said, "It's highly energized, rhythmic music derived from the blurring of lines between popular and serious styles."

Carl Nelson

He's baaack -- with a beer in one hand and an iPhone in the other, getting an earful of political opinions.

The band Winger is perhaps best remembered for its late 1980s rock anthems, like "Seventeen." Its musicians could play. They wrote catchy songs, and of course, they had the hair. MTV viewers ate it up.

"Me being the Peter Pan of rock that I was, doing double pirouettes with my bass and you know, a real ham in the camera, it took off," says Kip Winger, the group's lead singer and bassist, who formed the band after touring with Alice Cooper in the late '80s.

Jeff Bossert / Illinois Public Radio

One of the biggest show business names to come out of Illinois is back home for a couple days with hopes of nurturing more talent, and making sure he always has a place to call home. 

In his first return home in 12 years, Van Dyke rolled up in a replica of the car he drove in the 1968 movie musical, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” The 90-year-old entertainer was welcomed by the Danville High School show choir, which will be performing with him Friday night.

Aaron Sitze's new book will not help you pass a course in U.S. History. In fact, you'll fail if Sitze's book is the only one you read. But The Andrew Jackson Stories provides an entertaining lesson in Newtonian physics, among other things, and encourages you to keep talking to your plants.

We'll get to those items in a bit. First, Sitze explains his fascination with Andrew Jackson and other famous presidents.

Amy Newman's latest collection of poetry imagines scenes in the lives of seven poets who emerged in the mid-20th Century: Sylvia Plath, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Theodore Roethke, Delmore Schwartz and Anne Sexton.

Many critics identify these poets as writing in the Confessional style, often in the first person and including then-taboo subjects such as sexual abuse and mental illness.

The practice of lulling a child to sleep through music must be about the oldest tradition imaginable. All parents have wanted their children to sleep at some point, if only to have a little peace and quiet — and to plot strategies for getting their own shuteye.

Pianist Alessio Bax knows all about sleep — and lack thereof. He's a first-time parent, and his 22-month-old daughter Mila is, like any child that age, a handful, not to mention impossibly cute.

In 1970, a young business school grad — and failed opera singer — named David Gockley landed a job as business manager of the Houston Grand Opera. After two years, at age 27, he moved up to general director.

Over the next 30 years, Gockley transformed the company into a hothouse for new and revived American opera. During his tenure in Houston, Gockley presented 35 world premieres, including John Adams' Nixon in China, Stewart Wallace's Harvey Milk, Leonard Bernstein's A Quiet Place, Mark Adamo's Little Women and three operas by Carlisle Floyd.

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