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April 2015
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3D Printing Brings Science to the Symphony Hall


With the advent of 3D printing, designers, musicians, and engineers have been able to create instruments that just years ago, no one could have ever dreamed up.

MONAD Studios has just unveiled their piezoelectric violin, an instrument with two strings, but which the designers claim still sounds and plays like a traditional violin.

Piezoelectricity, which passes naturally through substances such as quartz, has been used for decades.

Gramophones, for example, use piezoelectricity to recognize sounds when a needle presses against vinyl records, which then converts that pressure into electrical currents, and ultimately into sounds.

MONAD’s violin is one of several instruments they bring to the 3D print design show in New York, alongside a cello and two sizes of didgeridoo.

Designer Eric Goldemberg described why he wanted to create the piezoelectric violin in a recent interview with the BBC:

“Our desire to create unusual instruments emerged when we realised the aesthetic and technical issues we were facing as architects did not differ much from those of musicians and composers.”

“With each of our original instruments, a certain functionality and ergonomic structure is preserved: this is why we can call our violin a violin, our cello, a cello, and so forth.” He added, “There is a certain physical standard of componentry which must be maintained.”

Goldemberg said that he and the co-creators of the instrument are working to achieve a “balancing act of paying homage to history and tradition while at the same time looking forward boldly into the future.”


INTERVIEW: Guggenheim Fellow Rudresh Mahanthappa On Creating Music that Defies Genre


Musicians today work across genres to create sounds that defy categorization, yet listeners crave categories.

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, whose many awards and honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, has created sounds that defy categorization for his latest project, Song of the Jasmine, an interdisciplinary collaboration with Ragamala Dance that comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago this weekend.

Manhathappa was born in Italy to Indian parents, but grew up in the United States, earning degrees in music from Berklee College of Music and DePaul University.  After living in Brooklyn for 15 years and many travels to India, he now lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

“Making music and expressing my identity and being true to my heritage has been a journey that has been concerned with trying to avoid exoticism and bring these forms down to their fundamental elements and bringing them back together in a way that defies genre.”

In Song of the Jasmine, Manhathappa’s ensemble includes himself on saxophone, Rez Abbasi on electric guitar, Raman Kalyan on the Carnatic flute, Rajna Swaminathan on Carnatic percussion, and Anjna Swaminathan on the Carnatic violin.

The music they created for this new work taps into, he says, “some very deep concepts of South Indian music, and in other ways it’s not that much different than Duke Ellington.” He cites John Coltrane and Charlie Parker as some of his influences and adds, “of course there’s a whole slew of Carnatic musicians that have influenced me as well.”

India boasts traditions of classical music and improvisation that are thousands of years old. In fact, much of the music theory and even some of the instruments, such as the violin and plucked strings, that form the basis of Western music is indebted heavily to the music of India. If it weren’t for Indian music, “you wouldn’t have a tonal system, actually,” he quipped. “Everything comes from Egypt and India really.”

Mahanthappa traveled to India several times, including during his Guggenheim Fellowship, in order to find ways that Carnatic music could inspire his work as a jazz musician. “I wanted to learn Indian music like I learned jazz, which meant listening to a lot of records and learning people’s solos. And with a lot of these instruments like the flute and violin and certainly with the voice you can slide around and do this beautiful ornamentation that seemed almost impossible on the saxophone.”

He had an awakening when he, “heard an album by Kadri Gopalnath, who was the guy who brought the saxophone to Indian classical music. So suddenly, I could address things technically too. There’s nothing like hearing something played on your own instrument to clarify things. And then we went on to make an album together years later.”

Though Indian music and Western jazz enjoyed a close relationship throughout the middle of the twentieth century, the sounds India’s vibrant jazz scene during the early and mid 20th century have only recently been explored.

“I hadn’t really heard some of that [early Indian jazz] until years ago when all of that was being unearthed, because my friend Naresh [Fernandez] wrote a book,” Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age,” and there was a documentary made about a great jazz guitarist from Calcutta.”

But, to label Manhathappa’s music simply as a fusion between Carnatic music and jazz would be reductive. If, anything, Mahanthappa  says, his score represents, “the beautiful multicultural state of affairs of the United States right now.”


“Today music is so diverse and undefinable,” he reiterated. “If you can leave your notions of what is ‘Indian’ and what is ‘jazz’ at the door you’re going to have a richer experience, instead of being preoccupied with where the ancient traditions and modern traditions intersect. Because otherwise you’re being distracted what’s at the core of the piece.”

Though Mahanthappa is a seasoned musician who has performed on some of the world’s great stages, including at Carnegie Hall, and who has appeared at some of the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals in Chicago and Montréal, Song of the Jasmine marks his first collaboration with dancers.

“It’s been interesting to see how non-musicians hear music,” he mused. Though, he continued to explain, “The Indian dance tradition [of Bharatanatyam] is very tied to the music, and we deal with a lot of the same elements rhythmically and melodically. The way they deal with rhythm is just as deep and complex as an Indian percussionist.”

One challenge in creating music for this piece, he explains, was working with a group of instruments that is, “very top heavy, there’s not a strong of bass frequency coming through. So, how do you create a fullness within the sound of that band?”

“Bass is very important to me in my own music, everything is coming from the bass. I really think bass actually triggers a very visceral response in us neurochemically. Bass is what makes us want to dance.”


In creating music for Song of the Jasmine, Mahanthappa had , “to work with the lower pitched head of the drum and some sort of bass element of the guitar. Otherwise it all resonates very high.” The doubled headed drum called the mridangam is especially important in Indian dance since its sound, as pitched percussion, is so evocative of the feet.

Though the particular dance tradition in which Ragamala Dance specializes, Bharatanatyam, typically includes sung poetry, as does much Carnatic music, the artists have decided to let the music speak and dance speak for themselves in Song of the Jasmine.

“I’m a saxophonist. I’m a singer. Creating imagery without music is something I’ve been doing for 20 years.”

The dancers of Ragamala are perhaps the perfect collaborators for a musician like Mahanthappa. The name of the company, directed by the mother-daughter team of Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, is derived from a special series of Ragamala paintings that are all about music.

Aparna explained that the paintings, “bring together poetry, music, visual art, the idea of personification, all synthesized in one piece of art. It’s impossible to separate the different forms. It all comes together in this really beautiful holistic way. And that’s our intention with the work we create.”

fy15ragamala21-975x753In working with Ragamala Dance, Mahanthappa  says that he has become even more sensitive to how, “Bharatanatyam dancers can break up rhythm in as much of a sophisticated and beautifully complex way as any instrumentalist.”

Both Manhanthappa and the Ramaswamys are excited by how the work has grown in the last year, and by the unique ways that have expanded their own understanding of each others’ art forms while remaining true to their own.

“Everyone has stretched their boundaries,” Manhanthappa said. “Everyone is willing to go beyond what they usually do, and really stretch their minds.”

Click here for more information about the performances of Song of the Jasmine at the MCA this weekend.


Win a subscription to Lyric Opera’s 15-16 season!


Want to win a subscription to the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 15-16 opera season?

Lyric is partnering with WFMT during the Spring Membership Drive to offer listeners the chance to receive a subscription Lyric’s upcoming opera season.

Two tickets to six operas – Cinderella, Le nozze di Figaro, Wozzeck, The Merry Widow, Nabucco and Der Rosenkavalier – could be yours!

To be entered, simply call the station at (773) 279-2100 or pledge your support online before the end of the pledge day, when a winner will be randomly selected and announced on the air.

To learn more about the upcoming season from Lyric Creative Consultant and star soprano Renée Fleming, watch the video below:

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Lyric Opera also invites WFMT listeners to attend an all-star production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel with a special discount! Use promo WFMTCSL and receive 20% off any Monday-Friday performance.

To purchase tickets, visit, select your date from the calendar, and enter WFMTCSL in the upper right corner. Select your seats and proceed to checkout!

Offer is subject to availability, is non-transferable, and is not valid on previously purchased tickets or in combination with another offer. Exchanges may be possible but are not guaranteed/discount may not carryover to exchanged date, fees may apply.



Sibelius Scores Found on a Sheep Farm in Finland


Two works by Jean Sibelius were recently discovered on a sheep farm in Finland, both of which will have their premieres this Saturday, April 11, 2015 with performances by the YL Male Choir.

Sibelius originally gave the music to A.E. Rautavaara (later H. Rautavaara), an author of Finland’s declaration of independence, who kept them in a notebook of vocal music that he passed down to his daughter, Kerttuli Nari.

The music was stored in the Nari home along with the family piano, and eventually Kerttuli Nari passed both down to her son Mikko Nari.

He did not realize that he had two previously unknown Sibelius works in his possession until a friend and professional soprano, Nina Fogelberg, visited him and noticed that the scores were something special.

Fogelberg contacted noted Sibelius scholar Sakari Ylivuorelle, who identified the two works as authentic.

The first piece is Full Moon, a choral work that existed in two versions, a long version which the composer had copied into parts for the original performers, as well as a shortened arrangement he prepared at a later date.

The second work discovered in Nari’s home is Suomenmaa (1898), which served as the basis for the composer’s later Op. 28.


Win a Violin Signed by Hilary Hahn and Tickets to Hear Her Live



Want to win a full-size Mendini violin signed by renowned violinist Hilary Hahn and a pair of tickets to see her LIVE in concert?

When you call WFMT at (773) 279-2100 or make a gift online at between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. today, you’ll be entered into a drawing to receive the signed violin and tickets to her concert on April 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm at Symphony Center in Chicago.

Show your support for WFMT and add your name to the golden drum of luck!

Violin and tickets are generously provided by in conjunction with Deutsche Grammophon.


Attention Francophiles! Exciting Offers from Alliance Française


Attention Francophiles! Want to snag some exciting offers from the Alliance Française?

Alliance Française de Chicago has teamed up with WFMT during our Spring Membership Drive to offer our supporters special offers including French language classes, French cooking classes, and Alliance Française Family Memberships.

Pledge your support for WFMT by calling (773) 279-2100 or making an online gift at for a chance to enjoy these fantastic gifts. More details below.

Language Classes

Alliance Française offers small class sizes to provide both group interaction and one-on-one attention, classes for all learners of all levels from beginners to those who are proficient. All classes are taught  using Alliance Française French-American Educational Standards (AF FRAMES), Adapted from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF), used in many European countries American universities. Upcoming Spring Session: April 18 – June 15

French Cooking Lessons

Cooking classes at Chez Madelaine taught by Madelaine Bullwinkel, who has been teaching French cooking techniques there for over 30 years. Upcoming classes include:

  • Meet the Croque-Monsieur Family: Saturday, April 18 from 10am – 1pm
  • Spring Souffles: Saturday, May 9 from 10am – 1pm
  • Who’s Afraid of Hollandiaise: Saturday, May 30 from 10am – 1pm
  • Salmon Encore: Saturday, June 13 from 10am – 1pm

Family Membership

Allows families to be part of a Chicago-based community of French language, culture and education. Membership, valid for one year, offers a variety of activities, events, and resources for all ages, including:

  • Access to Brown Médiathèque, the largest non-university library of French language media materials in the Midwest, including borrowing privileges and access to the French e-Library with unlimited access from your personal computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Free or reduced admission to cultural programs and events on diverse topics such as art, opera, tourism, cuisine, cinema, music, literature & theater
  • Reduced class tuition (including Chez Kids Academy) and admission to cooking demonstrations
  • Free participation in all discussion cafés including Café Conversation and Café Littérature.
  • Session Brochures highlighting AF programs (sent 5 times a year)
  • Viewing of TV5 Monde French Language Television
  • Specific discounts proposed through our network of partners

Chime in: Tell us your favorite piece(s) of music

Please share with us your favorite piece(s) of music and we’ll broadcast a day of WFMT Listener Favorites on Monday, April 27.

First Woman to Direct Vienna’s Largest Conservatory in its 198 Year History

Staatliche Hochschule fuer Musik und darstellende Kunst Stuttgart

The University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien), one of the largest institutions of its kind in the world, recently appointed its first female Rector, Regula Rapp (53), in its 198 year history.

Previously, Rapp served as director of the Hochschule für Alte Musik, Basle and the Stuttgart Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. She has also served as the director of drama and a member of the management team of the Deutsche Staasoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, and as a dramaturg at the Zurich Opera House and the Salzburg Festival.

Founded in 1817, the institution began as the Vienna Conservatory, and Antonio Salieri served as its first director. Some of its most famous students include Gustav Mahler, Hugo Wolf, Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, and Zubin Mehta.

Now known as the University of Music and Performing Arts, the renowned academy underwent many changes in the years surrounding World War II. One thing that had not changed, however, was that men continued to direct the University.

Perhaps now with Rapp at the helm, the list of the University’s esteemed list of past and present faculty and students won’t read so much like a boys’ club.


Spring Membership Drive Starts Today!

The WFMT shows off their new WFMT t-shirts on the first day of the Spring Membership Drive.

The WFMT shows off their new WFMT t-shirts on the first day of the Spring Membership Drive.

Because of your support, WFMT is able to bring you the music you love every day. Today, we begin our Spring Membership Drive, and in celebration you can receive our brand new WFMT t-shirt as a bonus thank you gift when you make a tax-deductible donation of $40 or more!

WFMT has a wide range of gifts, from WFMT gear to newly-released albums, as well as other exciting bonus gifts and giveaways, including tickets to performances at some of your favorite Chicago-area venues.

Tune in and check online to see what exciting promotions we are offering our Members each day throughout the drive.

Come, join the fun, and help us close out the fiscal year in fine form! Thanks for your support.

WATCH: Sneak Peek at World Premiere Work by Agnieszka Stulginska


Composer Agnieszka Stulginska shares a sneak peek at her world-premiere piece Dance with My Breath, the 2015 Composer Alive commission for Access Contemporary Music’s Palomar EnsembleDance with My Breath was developed and recorded in three installments between January and March 2015.

The world-premiere will be unveiled in an upcoming concert at the Copernicus Center in Chicago on Friday, April 10, 7:00 pm. Agnieszka and her new composition will be featured on WFMT’s Relevant Tones with Seth Boustead Saturday, May 23, at 5:00 pm.

Read Agnieszka’s notes about the work and check out the video below to sample her piece as she was developing it with Palomar earlier this year.

When I start working on a new piece, I come up with a concept and sketch. I study instruments, meet with performers to look for new possibilities. Then it’s time to write down the notes. This period is a part of my life and everything that happens in it affects the narration of the piece. The creation process often goes beyond my initial concepts and I enter new and previously unknown areas.

The starting point for my piece Dance with My Breath was a return to my roots, which are in the Kurpie region [of Poland]. While traveling around the villages I found the old people who still naturally sing and dance in traditional, unchanged ways.

In the first part of the composition I focused on the voice, its special color, power, detuning and tuning in the singing group, accents, white voice.  I decided to concentrate on everything but the melody (no melody) and express it by the instruments.

In the second part the number of defined pitch sounds has been even further reduced in favor of the new exploration of color. When searching for color I discovered this special effect which is created by circular movements of a bow when playing the cello.  The sound reminds me of the old analogue record after a finished song. This effect combines again with my concept of cyclical waves and passing, depth and wisdom in all things old and good. These effects are also used in the first and third part.

For the third part, I had only the words of an old traditional Polish folk-religious song to work with, especially the following text: “Oh sweet healing for my troubled heart.” I found the words in the notebook of an old man from the village. I was desperately trying to find somebody who could sing this song for me. Unfortunately, there was nobody who could remember the melody. Although the melody has been lost, it still works as the central idea of my piece.  Keep in mind that a “lost melody” has a universal meaning.

In composing this piece, I also realized that each region of the world perceives the rhythm a bit differently. I decided to focus on the search for differences and similarities. At the same time I was trying to find what makes each person unique and find the characteristics common to all. As a result the factor combining the whole piece has become a breath, pulse, and heart rate as well as internal tides and the cyclical nature of life.