Arts and culture

Putting It All Together ...

Aug 19, 2015

A little groan rumbles out of me when I unwrap gifts that require assembly. 

There are always instructions, that I tend to call "destructions."

My poor wife knows she cannot be in the house (or the neighborhood) when I force myself to spread out a project and begin to decipher the "instructions."

I am a guy. I am supposed to be good at putting things together. I should enjoy doing things with my hands. But usually what I want to do with my hands involves someone else's throat.

After I begin the simple task of assembly, here is what will happen:

The list of its faculty and students is a who's who of 20th-century music: Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, John Adams, Augusta Read Thomas.

'Summertime' In Hanoi

Aug 11, 2015

Summer might be winding down, but you couldn't tell by the steamy temperatures, not only in much of the U.S. but also in Hanoi, where Vietnamese performer and composer Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ grew up — and where it should top out around 92 degrees today.

The denouement of a 35-year drama takes place Thursday at the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. And I trust that my father, virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, who died three years ago, will be watching from somewhere.

For decades he played his beloved Stradivarius violin all over the world. And then one day, he turned around and it was gone. Stolen.

While he was greeting well-wishers after a concert, it was snatched from his office at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass.

It's a story that could have been taken from a breaking news report: A soldier, gravely wounded in a brutal battle, flees the fighting to try and make his way home. Only this story is set during the Civil War.

When Gustav Mahler said a symphony "must be like the world. It must embrace everything," I suppose he meant embracing accordions, too.

Gustav Mahler's sprawling Ninth Symphony is a 90-minute journey brimming with the joys of life, haunted by death and with a lot happening along the way. Accordionist William Schimmel has squeezed this immense musical canvas down to just 6 1/2 minutes. That takes some guts.

Joan Cheuse / via NPR

Alan Cheuse, the novelist, teacher and longtime literary commentator for NPR, has died at the age of 75. His daughter, Sonya, confirmed that he died Friday of injuries sustained in a car accident in California two weeks ago.

"On behalf of the family, we are in deep grief at the loss of our beloved father, husband and grandfather," Sonya Cheuse told NPR. "He was the brightest light in our family. He will always remain in our hearts. We thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support."

Calling all design geeks and fans of cool album art! Check out this thing we made.

It tells the story of graphic designer Denise Burt and her album covers. Read about her process, see the art — and hear the music that inspired her.

Shortly after Burt moved to Copenhagen in 2000, she landed a job creating album covers for Denmark's Dacapo Records. Trouble was, she didn't know a thing about the contemporary classical music the label specialized in.