Browsing articles from "January, 2018"

Robert Mann, A Founder Of The Juilliard String Quartet, Has Died

Jan 3, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Robert Mann, A Founder Of The Juilliard String Quartet, Has Died

Violinist Robert Mann, accepting a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement award on behalf of the Juilliard String Quartet in Los Angeles in 2011 .

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Violinist Robert Mann, accepting a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement award on behalf of the Juilliard String Quartet in Los Angeles in 2011 .

Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Robert Mann, a violinist and one of the founders of the Juilliard String Quartet, died on Monday at home in Manhattan. He was 97 years old.

When he was a youngster in Portland, Oregon, Mann dreamed of being a forest ranger. But destiny apparently had other plans for him: instead, he became a legendary musician.

Robert Mann went to Juilliard to teach after serving in the Army during World War II, starting his group with other returned GIs in 1946. He told the NPR program Performance Today in 1993 about how he’d talked Juilliard’s then-president, the composer William Schuman, into creating a resident quartet, for which he would play first violin.

“I told him,” Mann recalled, “that I hoped our quartet would play the classical music as if it had been just composed, and the contemporary music as if it were classical.”

And that is just what the Juilliard String Quartet did. The ensemble recorded everything from Bach to the string quartets of Bela Bartok. Along the way, they became one of the world’s premier chamber ensembles, winning four Grammy Awards for their work, plus a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy — the first classical group to win that prize.

For more than 50 years, Robert Mann remained the constant in the Juilliard String Quartet, while other musicians came and went. He was a performer, composer, educator, conductor — and an institution. Mann mentored generations of musicians who followed in his footsteps; among them were the Emerson and Brentano string quartets.

In a 2014 documentary film about him, Mann threw out a rough estimate of how many performances he’d given with his group. “I’ve played only about six thousand concerts with the quartet — six thousand! And you learn not from the people’s praise, but from the people, the critics and the people in the audience’s criticism, you learn over the years what works and what doesn’t work.”

And like the Juilliiard String Quartet itself, Mann became an institution.

Sweeping New Music Law Expedites A $1.6 Billion Lawsuit Against Spotify

Jan 3, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Sweeping New Music Law Expedites A $1.6 Billion Lawsuit Against Spotify

The introduction of the Music Modernization Act had the effect of prompting Wixin, a music publishing company, to file legal action against Spotify before the beginning of the new year.

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The introduction of the Music Modernization Act had the effect of prompting Wixin, a music publishing company, to file legal action against Spotify before the beginning of the new year.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

When it comes to reporting on Spotify and the company’s strained relationship to songwriters and publishers, it’s beginning to sound like a broken… system. But a possible fix is in.

Just two days before New Year’s Eve, the music publishing company Wixin, which manages the compositions of a wide cross section of artists from Neil Young to Rage Against The Machine, filed a lawsuit against Spotify over its failure to properly license those works before making them available to stream.

The new lawsuit is not the first (or the second or the third) brought against the world’s most popular streaming service over compositions, which are legally discrete from recordings and require a separate license (a “mechanical”). In fact, Wixin’s action is directly related to a $43 million settlement that Spotify struck six months ago over a largely identical suit against it that it hoped would sunset further court battles.

“Unfortunately, the Ferrick settlement,” reads Wixin’s complaint, referring to the $43 million agreement struck last year, “is still grossly insufficient to compensate songwriters and publishers for Spotify’s actions, as well as procedurally unjust.” It’s seeking a “total statutory award of at least $1.6 billion.” That language closely mirrors that of another legal action, brought against Spotify one month after the Ferrick settlement was announced.

The timing of the suit is inauspicious for Spotify — today it reportedly filed papers with the SEC for an initial listing on the stock exchange some time in the first half of this year.

While the reason for the suit isn’t new, the reason for its as-late-in-the-year-as-you-can-get filing is. If that settlement didn’t quite protect Spotify against lawsuits like Wixin’s (songwriters and publishers can opt out of the Ferrick deal) then a new piece of legislation will — and it’s the reason the company is going after Spotify now.

On Dec. 21, Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia introduced that new piece of bipartisan legislation, which makes sweeping changes to the labyrinthine licensing system for compositions that has left many songwriters in the lurch and tech companies on the hook. It would also prevent lawsuits like Wixin’s from being filed.

“It’s the Music Modernization Act and the January 1 deadline it imposes forced our clients’ hands,” Daniel Schacht of Donahue Fitzgerald LLP, the firm handling Wixin’s case, tell NPR of the Dec. 29 filing.

“We’ve been working on this now for a little over four-and-a-half years,” Collins said in an interview with NPR conducted on Dec. 20. “We’re trying to provide a way so that [digital services] can provide the music they want to, have a safe haven where they can match the royalties, where the songwriters can also benefit — that they can get fairly compensated. It’s really is a product of a lot of hard work to reach a consensus. I have to admit, there were times during the journey that I would have that I’d just throw up my hands and not find the answer.”

The Music Modernization Act establishes, among many other things, what tech companies, songwriters and publishers have needed but failed to create for some time: a central database that identifies which songwriter and/or publisher controls which composition. (A bill introduced late last summer by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., also attempted to address the database issue, but was not taken seriously by the stakeholders involved.)

That database, while long needed, has never been created (or really even come close), mostly due to its cost and disagreements about control of the proprietary information that would have to be held within it.

“It allows the digital service providers to have a central place to go for not only paying royalties,” Collins says, “but protects songwriters from them using things they shouldn’t be. But also, to give songwriters a place where they can be confident that they’re going to be compensated as well.”

To accomplish this, tech companies would foot the bill for its creation in exchange for a blanket license that would cover the compositions within it, help them pay the songwriters who control those works.

Digital services “will basically be indemnified, where they will not be able to be sued, which is something that songwriters and publishers had to give them — with all these things, it’s all quid pro quo,” Michael Eames, president of the Association of Independent Music Publishers, tells NPR. Eames says that organizations like his, which represent smaller music publishers, could benefit from the bill. “We’re having to monitor and police our data in multiple databases through multiple vendors in order to get paid. It’s difficult, to say the least.”

The bill was drafted after consultation with industry groups that represent the major stakeholders involved, including the National Music Publishers Association, the Digital Media Association (which represents services like Spotify), ASCAP and BMI (the two leading performance-rights organizations) and the Nashville Songwriters Association International, among others. All are support its passage.

However, Songwriters Guild of America President Rick Carnes issued a letter the day of its introduction on his organization’s doubts around the new law. Among his concerns:

… serious fairness, transparency and practical issues related to the proposed processes of setting up the licensing collective, the distributing of unidentified monies on a market share basis and the need to better protect music creator economic rights in that context, the vague nature of any opt-out mechanisms, the granting of relief from statutory damages liability to prior willful infringers, the scope of the musical composition database (including songwriter/composer information), the provisions concerning shortfall and other funding aspects of the collective, the absence of direct distribution of royalties by the collective to songwriters and composers, the vague nature of the audit activities to be optionally conducted by the collective, and the complications in that and other regards raised by obvious conflicts of interest issues.

Spotify declined to comment on both the Music Modernization Act and Wixin’s lawsuit. But considering its forthcoming public listing, it will have to assuage investors’ worries over a seemingly endless parade of litigation. (Apple was sued on Dec. 28 over the same issue.)

Architect John Portman, Famous For Modern Skyscrapers, Dies At 93

Jan 2, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Architect John Portman, Famous For Modern Skyscrapers, Dies At 93

Architect John Portman was famous for building modern skyscrapers with soaring atriums, including Detroit’s Renaissance Center and Atlanta’s Peachtree Center. The structures were often built as part of urban renewal efforts, but many critics say they did little to draw people to struggling downtowns. Portman died Friday at age 93.

Rick Hall, Producer And Songwriter Who Put Muscle Shoals On The Map, Dead At 85

Jan 2, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Rick Hall, Producer And Songwriter Who Put Muscle Shoals On The Map, Dead At 85

Rick Hall in his office at FAME Studios in 1968 in Muscle Shoals, Ala.

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Rick Hall in his office at FAME Studios in 1968 in Muscle Shoals, Ala.

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Rick Hall, a songwriter and record producer known as the “Father of Muscle Shoals Music,” died today at his home in Muscle Shoals, Ala. after a protracted illness. The news was first reported by the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and later confirmed by Judy Hood, chairperson for the Muscle Shoals Music Association and wife of David Hood, a bassist who had worked alongside Hall for decades. He was 85.

Through FAME, his publishing company and studio, Hall made Muscle Shoals synonymous with a sound of soul, RB and country that often featured sparkling, ultra-live percussive sounds and vocal performances that seem simultaneously removed and intimate.

Music Doc Packs 'Muscle' (Plus A Whole Lotta Soul)

Hall was born in Mississippi and raised in Franklin County, Ala., just adjacent to Colbert County, where Muscle Shoals is located.. Hall cited a tough upbringing as focusing him and leading to his eventual success. As he told No Depression:

“My father was a sawmiller; he made 35 cents an hour, which was 10 cents more than anybody else did, because he was so good at what he did and a hard worker. My mother left my father when I was five and my sister was four, and she went to live with my aunt and became a matron in a brothel. My father wound up raising my sister and me. That was all shameful to me. We had no shoes to wear to school, and my father cut my hair, which meant he pulled out chunks of it with rough scissors. I carried that shame throughout my life; it turned me into a rascal of sorts, and I became very hardened and determined. My determination made me a tough businessman and I was very hard to say no to. All of this helped me become a great record producer. I’m the guy who started the Muscle Shoals music industry; everybody in Muscle Shoals is a spinoff of Rick Hall.”

Hall cited Sun Records’ co-founder Sam Phillips — responsible for first recording Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Roy Orbison and many others — as an early mentor. “[Philips] was a terribly big influence on me,” he told the Country Music Hall of Fame. “All the things that Sam did, I wanted to be like him.” The pair, two white record producers from the south, would each have a deep impact on the history of African-American music of the twentieth century.

Roy Orbison’s recording of “Sweet and Innocent,” which Hall had written with Billy Sherrill, led to the pair forming the publishing company Florence Alabama Music Enterprises to administer and oversee song compositions. After that partnership was dissolved, Hall moved FAME to Muscle Shoals, establishing a studio there.

“My first recording session was with Arthur Alexander — a bellhop at the Sheffield Hotel,” Hall said in a group interview with his studio’s house band, the Swampers. That song, “You Better Move On,” became a hit that would finance another studio relocation — this time for good.

From there, Hall began producing some of the most indelible soul and RB recordings of the century: Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” Etta James’ cover of “Tell Mama” (the original version of which was also recorded at FAME), Otis Redding’s “You Left the Water Running” and Wilson Pickett’s cover of “Mustang Sally” among them.

Duane Allman, co-founder of The Allman Brothers, famously camped out near Hall’s studio in the hopes of catching a break — which he did when Hall put him on Wilson Pickett’s album Hey Jude, which drew international attention for Allman.

'The Man From Muscle Shoals' On Shame And FAME

Hall’s fame was resurgent in recent years after he was made the subject of the well-regarded 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals, directed by Greg “Freddy” Camalier. “A lot of people contributed to this incredible story,” Camalier said in an interview about Hall and his film, “but Rick was the impetus for making this happen.”

He was nominated for Best Producer in 1974, his only Grammy Award nomination before the Recording Academy named him a National Trustee — an award given to those who “have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording” — in 2014.

Hall’s death was noted by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who wrote he was “truly a music legend and one of Alabama’s stars. He will surely be missed.”

John Paul White, whom Hall had mentored, wrote that Hall was an “architect of the sound that made me the artist and writer I am today. He took me under his wing and treated me like an equal, when I knew damn well I was not.”

The country star Jason Isbell, whose The Nashville Sound was one of the best albums of the past year, also cited Hall as helping to pave his way to a music career: “Rick Hall and his family gave me my first job in the music business, and nobody in the industry ever worked harder than Rick. Nobody. American music wouldn’t be the same without his contributions. His death is a huge loss to those of us who knew him and those who didn’t.”

Radio Replay: Fresh Starts

Jan 2, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Radio Replay: Fresh Starts

A young Maya Shankar.

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A young Maya Shankar.

Courtesy of Maya Shankar

In 2006, Derek Amato suffered a major concussion from diving into a shallow swimming pool. When he woke up in the hospital, he was different. He discovered he was really good a playing piano.

Derek is one of just a few dozen known “sudden savants” or “accidental geniuses”—people who survive severe head injuries and come out the other side with special gifts for music or math or art. We were skeptical, so we brought Derek into a studio and asked him to play. He can’t read music or even play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” but the music he improvises is beautiful. In this episode, Shankar talks with Derek and two experts to try to understand his musical transformation.

Then, we talk with Maya Shankar. As a young girl, Maya was well on her way to a promising career as a classical violinist. The famed Itzhak Perlman had taken her on as his private student at The Juilliard School at the age of 14, and she was accepted to his prestigious summer program on Shelter Island.

But not long after, she injured her finger while playing a difficult section of Paganini’s Caprice no. 13. She tore a tendon in her hand, putting her musical career to an untimely end.

As an adult, Maya has reached a new pinnacle in an entirely different field. At the age of 30, she was named a senior adviser at the Obama White House, working to create better policy using insights from behavioral science. It’s a new calling, and one she couldn’t have anticipated at Juilliard, where she dreamed of being a concert violinist. What followed in the days after her musical career ended was an incredible sense of loss.

“I was really devastated to lose something that I was completely in love with, and so passionate about, and that had really constituted such a large part of my life and my identity,” she says. “I was first and foremost a violinist.”

On this Radio Replay, we look at turning the page and starting anew.

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, and Renee Klahr. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.

WATCH: Hockey Player Tells Dad He Made The Olympic Team

Jan 2, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on WATCH: Hockey Player Tells Dad He Made The Olympic Team

Bobby Butler during hockey training camp when he played for the Florida Panthers in 2014.

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Bobby Butler during hockey training camp when he played for the Florida Panthers in 2014.

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The U.S. unveiled its roster for the men’s Olympic Hockey team on Monday.

And the joyful, emotional moment when forward Bobby Butler told his dad that he made the team was caught on video.

It shows Butler skating up to the side of the rink as his father walks in. The two men shake hands, then Butler breaks the news. His dad immediately throws his arms around him as his teammates cheer.

Watch, it will probably brighten your day:

The 30-year-old Butler, who hails from Marlborough, Mass., skates for the American Hockey League’s Milwaukee Admirals.

Like 14 of his Olympic teammates, Butler has played on NHL teams. But this is the first Olympics in two decades that no U.S. team members are currently playing for the NHL.

That’s because the NHL announced last April that it wouldn’t pause its regular season to accommodate players who want to compete at the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The NHL stated that the “overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-2018 NHL season.”

NHL Announces It Won't Play Nice With 2018 Winter Olympics

The decision was also about money, as NPR’s Camila Domonoske reported: “The International Olympic Committee has previously paid for players to travel to the Olympics, and covered their insurance costs. But the IOC wasn’t planning to foot the bill for 2018.”

The players on the men’s final roster came from colleges, from Americans playing in Europe and from the American Hockey League. And, as SB Nation wrote, NHL stars are out and “in their place are a bunch of guys you’ve probably never heard of.”

In previous years, “USA Hockey got all its Olympic players from one league: the NHL,” according to SB Nation. “Without that option, management turned to a wide variety of sources, plucking players from leagues around the world to piece together a roster for Pyeongchang.”

IOC Bans 11 More Russian Athletes For Life

The NHL’s decision created a unique opportunity for players who would not have been able to make the team otherwise. Just one member of the team, captain Brian Gionta, has played in the Olympics before.

“We really like our roster,” team general manager Jim Johannson said in a statement. “It’s a group that brings versatility and experience and includes players with a lot of passion about representing our country.”

The roster is perplexing to some hockey observers, such as Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky, who calls it “weird as hell” with little name recognition.

But it may be that the lack of prior fame makes moment like Butler’s all the more poignant.

“I know we’re a little down on the Olympics without the NHL, but these are the kinds of moments that make me so happy for the players selected,” writes ESPN hockey analyst Chris Peters. “You know they’ll battle every day for the crest on that jersey.”

Economic Unrest Sparks Turmoil In Iran

Jan 1, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Economic Unrest Sparks Turmoil In Iran

NPR’s Kelly McEvers speaks with Suzanne Maloney, of the Brookings Institution and editor of Markaz, a blog about Middle East politics, about the protests in Iran.

Questions As U.S. Wood Pellet Makers Expand Production

Jan 1, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Questions As U.S. Wood Pellet Makers Expand Production

The wood pellet fuel industry is growing in the United States. The largest chip mills across the South are gobbling up hardwood forests to meet demand for overseas customers.

Encore: Eddie Izzard Talks About Coming Out

Jan 1, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Encore: Eddie Izzard Talks About Coming Out

Kelly McEvers interviews entertainer Eddie Izzard. This story was originally broadcast on All Things Considered, June 20, 2017.

Eddie Izzard: Coming Out Gave Me The Confidence For Everything Else

New Year’s Resolution Help: NPR Seeks Your Alternatives To Swearing

Jan 1, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on New Year’s Resolution Help: NPR Seeks Your Alternatives To Swearing

Curse words in comment bubble.

Curse words in comment bubble.

Forget losing weight. How about a more achievable New Year’s resolution, like cutting back on swearing?

People curse for a variety of reasons, including social: they want to fit in, or seem cool or accessible. “But largely, people curse for emotional reasons, when we experience strong transcient emotions: anger, fear, surprise, elation, arousal,” said Benjamin Bergen, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego.

One reason it can be hard for people to stop using swear words has to do with the part of the brain that kicks in during super-charged moments. Bergen says most language is processed in the cerebral cortex, but when you’re experiencing a strong emotion, the snail-shaped basal ganglia helps you decide what action to perform. For some people, it’s to use taboo words.

But how to stop?

NPR’s All Things Considered is looking for your ideas about how to curb this habit. Specifically, we need your substitutions for swear words. Do you have some go-to phrases that are just as satisfying – like “Biscuits!” “Butterball!” and “O, Columbo!”?

Send them to NPRcrowdsource@NPR.org.

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