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The Musical Universe

 

The summer of 1968 looked like the summer of 2020. Americans were in the streets protesting racism, among other things. And a high school student in Palo Alto, Calif., got in on the action by enlisting the help of a jazz legend. Danny Scher came up with the idea to book Thelonious Monk to play his school's auditorium and now, a professional recording of this concert will be released publicly for the first time on July 31. The album is called Palo Alto.

Benny The Butcher: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

Jun 19, 2020

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Meg Remy's musical roots are in the DIY punk world, and when she first started making music as U.S. Girls more than a decade ago, she played everything herself. But over time, the sound and lineup of evolved. The new U.S. Girls album, Heavy Light, features up to 20 musicians recording in the studio at the same time.

The University of Georgia marching band has bade farewell to Gone with the Wind.

The Redcoat Band's acting director, Brett Bawcum, told members that going forward, their repertoire will no longer include "Tara's Theme" from the controversial 1939 film.

"Though the tradition has been under discussion for months within the band, the current social climate has highlighted the urgency of addressing it and made me conscious of the message that could be interpreted by delay," Bawcum said in a letter dated Wednesday.

British singer Vera Lynn, whose touching ballads helped sustain the spirits of Britons during WWII, died today, according to a statement from the Dame Vera Lynn Children's Charity. She was 103 years old.

Bandcamp, the online music marketplace used by tens of thousands of independent artists and labels, has once again announced plans to donate its cut of one day's sales to a progressive cause, this time adding an annual commitment. On this and every subsequent Juneteenth — the June 19 holiday commemorating the end of African American slavery — the platform intends to direct its usual revenue share to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Phoebe Bridgers is the first to admit that she's not reinventing herself on her new album. "There's nothing avant-garde about it," she says of Punisher, her second solo record and fourth major musical project in the last three years. Even so, there's a quiet, assertive power to Punisher.

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On Thursday, June 18, Bob Boilen hosted the second episode of Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf, a weekly livestream series featuring the Contest judges' favorite entries.

Our Daily Breather was a daily series where we asked writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helped them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. The series concluded on June 13, 2020. Here, we've collected some of the stories about the creative hobbies and practices that artists have shared with us throughout the series.

British Singer Dame Vera Lynn Dies At 103

Jun 18, 2020

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

The British singer Dame Vera Lynn has died at the age of 103. Her voice lifted the spirits of British troops fighting overseas during World War II.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER")

Terence Blanchard is a jazz trumpeter, composer and music educator. His most recent work is the score for the 2020 film Da 5 Bloods, his latest of many collaborations with director Spike Lee.

First, a pandemic, then economic collapse and now there are mass demonstrations over police brutality and racism.

In times of upheaval like this, music can be an escape. Maybe a way to reflect or try to make sense of things. This is what led to a new series we're launching today. For the Morning Edition Song Project, we've been asking musicians to write and perform an original song for us.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Now, About The Bad Name I Gave My Band

Jun 17, 2020

What kind of a*****e would name his band Drive-By Truckers? A valid question, if you ask me. I'm the person responsible for it.

Love In Abundance: A Guide To Women's Music

Jun 17, 2020

If the first time you ever heard the phrase "women's music" was during the episode of the Amazon Original show Transparent in which the main character, a transgender woman, attends a music festival and finds herself enmeshed in a debate about gender and the right to inclusion, you know something about one aspect of a larger story. Women's music is its own genre, with a history that goes back more than 50 years.

Our Daily Breather was a daily series where we asked writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helped them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. The series concluded on June 13, 2020. Many writers and artists suggested running, working out and other physical activties; here, we've collected some of their recommendations.


Black Belt Eagle Scout's Walk In The Woods

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. On cable this month, Turner Classic Movies is presenting a series of movies with jazz connections. As it happens, our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a new book about movies that tell jazz stories. Here's his defense of a much maligned film genre - the jazz biopic, screened biographies of jazz musicians.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BENNY GOODMAN STORY")

STEVE ALLEN: (As Benny Goodman) All right. Let's get to work.

SHEP MENKEN: (As Harry Goodman) I got only one suggestion to make, Benny.

Music is canonizing this moment in history at rapid speed. Across rap, R&B and avant-garde soul, we're hearing the creative juices flowing, giving reason and song to racing thoughts. Some artists remain on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement. Others turn inward to journal their time in isolation. And some commit to album roll-outs that show their maturation even in the mayhem.

Whether it's a trap anthem for the protests or a tale of petty deceit, this week's Heat Check considers the bigger picture during a period of time that we're never going to forget.

Our Daily Breather was a daily series where we asked writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helped them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. The series concluded on June 13, 2020. Many writers and artists suggested spending time with particular films, TV shows and books; here, we've collected some of their recommendations.

Six weeks ago, we launched this video series to give us a glimpse of some fabulous creative partnerships manifesting in isolation. But at this moment, as America slowly opens up, our nation has found itself in the midst of a vital discussion on race and equality.

Queer As Punk: A Guide To LGBTQIA+ Punk

Jun 15, 2020

Punk rock has 101 origin stories, and most of them are true. After all, punk rock springs from a myriad of local scenes, and is as much about the music as it is about the venues where it is performed, the audiences and listeners who participate in its performance, clothes and style, politics and approaches to the world.

Is This The End For 'Urban' Music?

Jun 15, 2020

Imagine this: you're a participant in a televised game show, and you've made it all the way to the final round. After you spin your wheel or choose your letters or pick your question, the only thing standing between you and all the money of your dreams is a simple task — define the term "urban contemporary."

Could you do it? Would you win that money?

Our Daily Breather was a daily series where we asked writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helped them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. The series concluded on June 13, 2020. Many writers and artists told us they were spending time in the kitchen. Here, we've collected some of the recipes they shared with us throughout the series.


Hanif Abdurraqib On Finding Comfort In Baking

Mia Gargaret is a record that gives far more than it asks of you. Often wordlessly, Chicago-based singer-songwriter Gia Margaret paints her interior world with wide strokes of optimism and honesty. Still present is her gift for instrumental compositions, which she demonstrated on her debut There's Always Glimmer, where drowsy electronic flourishes peeked around the edges of her arrangements, but the absence of Margaret's whisper-warm voice and tenderly concise lyricism on Mia Gargaret was by necessity.

Alicia Keys: Tiny Desk Concert

Jun 15, 2020

On a brisk February morning, Alicia Keys, full of effervescence, entered NPR through the loading dock wearing a canary yellow faux fur coat. During our ride to the fourth floor, she joked about how she hadn't been invited to play at the Tiny Desk. That, of course, wasn't exactly true. We worked on and off for years to make this moment happen, and I can say wholeheartedly that it was worth the wait.

When Beyoncé deems your music "flawless," you know you've probably made it. That's more or less what happened to the sister R&B duo, Chloe x Halle, when they passed their latest album, Ungodly Hour, to Beyoncé for feedback.

"We love Beyoncé so much and we value her opinion so very much, so whenever we can get her feedback on something, it's very much appreciated," Halle Bailey says. "But for this album, we only heard positive things and that she loved it. So that really made us happy and feel proud."

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. This entry concludes our series; look out next week for some roundups of favorite practices that emerged over three months of asking artists and writers how they've been coping.

Who: Bobby Bare
Where: Hendersonville, Tenn.
Recommendation: Taking it day by day

When RMR enters our virtual meeting, he looks the only way the world knows him: eyes popping through a gold-embroidered balaclava, gilded grills gleaming.

Mano Sundaresan, NPR Music: You're wearing the mask right now. Do you wear the mask in every public moment?

RMR: Yeah.

What does it mean to you?

"Say their names," the signs read in the streets of America. In 2020, one reckoning shares an unstable boundary with another as protesters masked against the coronavirus expose a different kind of deep debilitation: the racism that permeates American history and the present day, resulting in sudden deaths now recorded and shared on social media, but always present within history, from the arrival of enslaved Africans on the Virginia Coast in 1619 onward.

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