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Classical Classroom

Nov 24, 2015

Knowing how a piece of classical music came to be is often a bit of a guessing game. What inspired Bach to write the Goldberg Variations, or Beethoven to write his 9th Symphony? Context clues, letters, composers’ notes help us put the story together; we fill in the rest with our imaginations and mythology. But no more! In this episode of Classical Classroom, you’ll hear the entire story of a piece of modern classical music, Music for Wood and Strings, from commission to performance. Even the instruments on which the piece is played didn’t exist before this story began. You’ll meet composer Bryce Dessner (The National), instrument maker Aron Sanchez (Buke and Gase), and the members of So Percussion. You’ll hear a lot of awesome music. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry. Your life will be affirmed. But seriously, it’s a compelling (and thoroughly American) story about ingenuity, modernist music, and most importantly, joy. 

Music in this episode:

  • Music for Wood and Strings. Bryce Dessner. Played by So Percussion.
  • “Don’t Swallow the Cap.” The National, from the album Trouble Will Find Me.
  • Seam Esteem.” Buke and Gase.
  • So-Called Laws of NatureDavid Lang. Played by So Percussion.
  • Appalachian Grove I. Laurie Spiegel.

Audio production by Todd “Tex” Hulslander with giddyups from Dacia Clay and editing by Mark DiClaudio.

For more So Percussion:

For more Bryce Dessner:

For more Aron Sanchez (and great pics of the chordsticks and other instruments he’s made):

Thanks to Emily Motherwell, Stuart Wolferman, Da Camera of Houston, and the people at Brassland for their help with this episode.