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Music

9 Stories

There are hundreds of musicians, good and bad, tooting and strumming and bowing and belting in the New York subway system, but Mr. Spoons is sui generis. Not only is he fantastic at playing the spoons, he has an outsize character to match. I spent some serious time with him, and filed this report for VOA.

There are zillions of ways to sing and play Auld Lang Syne. Here I had fun melding some of them.

A look at the beautiful and diverse spiritual musical traditions of Hawaii, from chanting to slack-key guitar to unaccompanied a capella singing. Interviews and music recorded at the Folklife Festival in Washington DC for the late and much lamented Radio Smithsonian.

A survey look at what being Irish is all about deep down – from the “fairy faith” to its music, to Celtic myth, to sean nos and storytelling. Collected entirely in the West of Ireland down some very very back roads.

See also “Visions and Beliefs in the West Ireland,” which focuses on the spirituality and folkways of the Irish Gaeltacht.

Forty years after Woodstock, the iconic music festival still looms large in the public mind as the high point — or, some say, the death knell — of America’s 1960s’ counterculture. What was it like to be there for “veteran” audience members and performers, and what is the legacy of this unique cultural happening? Adam went tripping for some answers.

Avant-garde musical artists have always liked to stretch the limits of what traditional musical instruments can do. But some artists have gone even farther and explored the less orthodox music of familiar objects. This story explores the experimental music written especially for toys as performed in a concert in hipster Brooklyn. Features toy piano virtuouso Margaret Leng Tan, a balloon composer and instrumentalist, and Isabel Negron, among others.

A collection of music produced by Yo-Yo Ma in connection with the winter holiday season, which exemplifies his wide-ranging and talented musical family – including traditional and modern and world music arrangements from the USA, Brazil, medieval Ireland and closer to home. Yo-Yo Ma is his normal charming, charismatic and virtuosic self.

Pamelia Kursten is the 21st century’s greatest theremin virtuosa, who has turned an instrument most associate with creepy sci-fi “woo-woo” music into an art form. Hear what she has to say and how she does it in this sound-rich piece, originally produced for the Voice of America’s “Our World” science program.

Adam went down to the coal-rich mountains of the southern Appalachian mountains, where “hillbillies” are presumed to live. Through on-site interviews and a survey look at American pop culture, he examines the hillbilly stereotype, its roots and impact.

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